From Service to Civilian: Four Career Challenges Veterans Face
By Lida Citroën
You served your country. You fought the fight. You returned home from
military service, put together a resume, and began the transition into a
civilian career. What no one told you, however, is the challenges in making
the transition will not come from the experience and expertise you bring, it
will be because you have not been taught how to promote yourself – veterans
don’t know how to market their personal brand - your reputation, what others
use to assign you value and relevance. Below are four unique challenges
veterans face and tips on how to overcome them:
1. Speaking about personal successes and accomplishments
Your personal brand is how you will articulate your value to a prospect.
It is not about boasting or bragging. I recognize that during your military
service the word “I” was not endorsed or supported. In the civilian world,
individuals have become accustomed to being able to deliver a clarified
message from employees and colleagues to recruit relevant talent, develop
strong corporate culture, and run a business effectively and efficiently.
A clear personal brand enables you to concisely articulate your value
proposition (“Why me?”) to a future employer, gives you a lens to evaluate
opportunity (“Does this a company support my vision?”), and provides a map
for your career, not just a job (“Will this opportunity fulfill my passion
to collaborate and bring dialog to disparate parties?”).
By uncovering your personal brand assets and promoting yourself
consistently across social media, networking with peers and new contacts,
and developing marketing materials, you can promote a set of values and an
offer to a future employer that is meaningful and focused.
2. Determining value to potential employers
Why would recruiters want you to spell out your uniqueness? Because most
job candidates spend too much time formatting their resume when they should
be making it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to see what makes them
valuable, and a perfect fit for the position.
As a veteran, you know the importance of building alliances and creating
strong teams. You have worked under pressure, where your ability to think
and respond quickly was not only appreciated, but crucial. Are you
explaining this to the hiring managers? Are you listing this on your resume?
If so, be sure to be succinct and clear in your descriptions.
Hiring managers are looking for some aspect of who you are that is
unique. What is it about you that will make your application stand apart
from the thousands of others they might be reviewing – all listing the same
depth of expertise and skills?
While in active military service, relationships and contacts are
established primarily by proximity (geography), rank, and role. There is not
as much “networking” in the same sense that we network on the civilian side.
I understand that one of the biggest challenges is that you network with the
same types of people, so everyone else’s networks all look the same. It is
critical to start building a diverse network of contacts (military and
civilian) long before you step away from the military.
A network of viable contacts is critical in today’s competitive business
climate. Your network serves not only as lead sources for new business but
also as a sounding board, support system, and news source. It is the “circle
of influence” that will guide you through your career, if carefully planned
Some networking tips to remember:
Write down the names of people you have worked closely with, while active
or after you transitioned. Stay in touch with your network, and let them
know the kinds of jobs you are pursuing.
Networking is not just about being social and outgoing. Make it your job
to meet people. Set a goal of how many people you will meet and stick to it.
This gives your networking a sense of purpose and direction.
Ask open-ended questions. Instead of “nice party, huh?” ask, “What did
you think of the boss’ presentation?” or “What type of work are you in?” You
are seeking to start a conversation, not conduct an interrogation.
Be yourself. Authenticity is the most attractive feature in people. When
we feel someone is genuine, we feel most at ease in their presence.
4. Understanding future employers
While you might be evaluating future employers based on their ability to
pay you a desired salary, offer work you are able to perform, and are
geographically desirable, consider that designing your career means
understanding your employer more significantly. Those employers who will
find you compelling must first be able to find you; then they must find your
offer to be relevant and differentiated. We call this branding and
competitive differentiation. For these target audiences, your personal brand
and reputation are very important. When these employers perceive that you
share their values, will contribute to their vision and are of significance
to them, they are more likely to want to engage you for a great opportunity.
Lida Citroën is the author of Your Next Mission: A personal branding
guide for the military-to-civilian transition and Principal of LIDA360,
a consulting firm that helps corporations and executives create effective
market positioning through the use of brand strategies. She regularly
presents at conferences, events and programs, teaching transitioning
veterans how to understand their unique value and market them to future
Citroën is an active member of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
(ESGR) and works closely with General Peter Pace’s program in Philadelphia,
Wall Street Warfighters Foundation (WSWF). For more information, please
www.yournextmissionbook.com and connect with her on twitter, @LIDA360.