Guest post by Josh Combs, UW-W alumni and Military Liason for Aerotek.
As the overall unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 9.3%, a significant decrease from November 2011, it is still astonishing to look at the unemployment rates for the National Guard (Army and Air) and the Reserve components, reaching as high as a staggering 17%. Now I’m not naive to think that all 17% of these individuals are hard charging, readily employable people, but I would like to think at the very least half of them are.
As service members in the Guard and Reserve see these statistics they are rightfully woeful in looking at the job market. And what these trepidations have done for some is something that I am embarrassed about as an employer and enraged about as a veteran – individuals are excluding their military experience from their resumes and are not bringing it up during an interview. Guard and Reserve service members are worried that a potential activation or a deployment will deter companies from hiring them.
As an employer, let me clearly say that you should make your military experience a prominent part of your resume and speak about it during your interviews.
Every member of the military, through their own free will or by situation necessity, has led at some point. If you are an NCO (a non-commissioned officer), one of the main responsibilities entrusted in you is to develop and mentor those you lead. As a Senior NCO it is your responsibility to ensure mission success at all cost. Even as a junior enlisted you must always be aware of what your fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine is doing around you, as your life and your mission depends on it.
If you are among the commissioned ranks, you’ve had 5,000-5,500 people looking at you for leadership. This leadership is not only wanted in the civilian job market, it is absolutely needed. Be sure to explain your leadership roles in the military in your resume.
Performance Under Pressure
Every day, CONUS or OCONUS (Continential United States or Outside Continential United States) service members are under pressure to accomplish a mission or task. The pressure comes in a variety of ways, from pressure above you in the chain of command, to pressure from the enemy, as well as the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed. In the “real world” the pressure may be coming from your boss, your direct reports, or your clients. Employers want and need to know that the individuals they choose to lead their organization into the future can handle the day-to-day pressures of the job.
Critical Thinking and Decision Making
We have all been faced with decisions in the military that can have a major impact on our mission. The decisions that we make not only affect ourselves, but also those who look to us in a time of distress. Our training and our ethos allow us to make these decisions with pinpoint accuracy to ensure that we stay on task and on target. As a civilian employee, you will be forced to make business decisions every day that will impact the people in your organizations. Your employer will need to know that you can make these decisions while thinking not only of your own well-being, but that of your employees, company, and clients.
These three traits just scratch the surface of what has been developed in every veteran and each of these traits are directly transferable to the civilian job market. Do not hide these abilities; be prepared to speak about them in specific detail. Do not think of your experience as something that will hinder your job search, rather, think of your experience as enriching, and something that will lead you to a fulfilling career.
You are among a very exclusive group. You have answered the call to serve your country, and you have written a check to the people of this country payable up to and including the ultimate sacrifice. Highlight this when seeking the next challenge in your life. And if you find yourself in front of somebody questioning the values that you bring with you background, ask yourself “Is this the right place for me?” Be proud to be a veteran. You have earned the title.
Josh Combs is a 2006 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication. He currently works as Military Liaison for Aerotek, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm. His job is to help service members make the transition from the military to the civilian workforce successfully. Josh lives and works in the Chicago suburbs and travels across the country in this effort. He has served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, 115th Fighter Wing since 1999. He has deployed multiple times in support of OIF and continues to serve to date.