by Jo Weech
Last week, I was interviewed by Karen Hunter on SiriusXM Urban View about tips for veteran job seekers, in honor of Military Appreciation Month. Afterward, the responses from veterans in all corners of CONUS was overwhelming! That response has prompted this article.
Some context: I grew up in/around the military for the bulk of my life, and have worked on post and on base. Currently, I enjoy sharing monthly at our local SFL-TAP classes on how to leverage social media for your job search. At #HIREconf NYC this year, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel about military recruitment.
What follows are my top suggestions for your transition from military service to civilian employment.
This is NOT anything like what you have to fill out for USAJOBS, where they require the number of hours worked, salary for each position, etc. What is the purpose of a first date? To get a second date. What is the purpose of the resume? To get the interview!
Recruiters are going to spend a whopping 6 seconds viewing your resume, so you need to capture their attention in the “top fold”. Please refer to my blogpost on ClearedJobs.net called, “Before You Hit Apply For This Job”. http://blog.clearedjobs.net/before-you-hit-apply-for-this-job/ It is a “how to” on formatting your resume.
I often see every duty station listed, and points that read like a job description. All that you need to do is to put the start date of when you went into the service, and the ETS date, or “present” if you are still on terminal leave or about to start. Then, in that one entry, only highlight the positions you held that are commensurate with the civilian position you are seeking. Do not put in each task performed. Just share about 3-5 bullet points of successes and achievements/accomplishments, and put them in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. Basically, what you did, how you did it, and the quantifiable result. Remember, you are not trying to sell yourself for the position, you are simply giving us tidbits to entice us to schedule the phone interview!
Another thing I see is the home address being put in the contact information line. Please protect you/your family and leave this out. We do not need to know where you are physically located at this juncture. Also, if you are stationed at Ft. Meade but are going to PCS to Austin, TX, put “Austin, TX” as your location on your resume. Most civilians do not know that your final move will be paid for, and you could be eliminated from consideration by an unknowledgeable recruiter who does not have a relo budget for that position.
Additionally, do not list any jobs you had pre-military, unless they are pertinent to the position you are seeking. Most veteran resumes I have reviewed show a MOS that took them into a different direction from what transpired up until enlistment. If you entered as an officer, no need to put your pizza delivery jobs from high school!
The civilianization of your resume: have a civilian review your verbiage, or a recruiter trained in the art of deciphering military lingo. Do not use the word “ammunition” or “ammo”. State “supplies” or “inventory”. Do not use the word “deployed”. Say “overseas assignment”. Why? Although you cannot be legally discriminated against for your veteran status, you also cannot erase people’s internal biases. Neutralize any words that conjure up images of “war”. Why? Because the person looking at it may be seeing images in their mind of the last war movie they saw where armed military personnel shot innocents in a remote village. Seemingly all but gone are the days of “Proud to be an American”. Your resume needs to most probably get past a millennial whose parents did not serve in the military, and may not know what this entails, nor what it means. You are not hiding your service nor being ashamed of it. You are simply highlighting your experiences and skill sets in a way in which the reader can relate and understand.
Your LinkedIn Profile
Many have said to me that because their positions are in SIGINT or HUMINT or Cyber or they have poly clearances, they are not permitted to be on LinkedIn. All you need to do is look up some of your buddies and see that they are all on there! How to know what you can/cannot post up? Get your resume through pre-pub first, and then you will know what verbiage can be shared. A seasoned or well-trained recruiter knows how to “read between the lines” if they are recruiting in the intel community for federal contractors.
Your profile pic should not be of you in uniform. Why? You are auditioning for a civilian role, so your costume needs to match that role. LinkedIn profile photographers are fairly unanimous in stating that the best colors to wear are a white blouse or shirt, and navy blazer, with or without a tie, depending on the position sought. Do not be faced squarely toward the camera. Put one shoulder slightly in front, dip it just a bit, lean forward ever so slightly, and please SMILE FOR THE CAMERA! This is not your military ID card. So many LI photos look like mug shots. Companies want to hire people who look pleasant to work with, so project that positivity!
The Summary Section is the ONE place you can use the personal pronouns of I, me, and my. Do not simply iterate your skills and abilities. This is the place to shine! What problems do you love solving? What is it about the roles/responsibilities you are seeking that excite you most? Is it mission? Is it complex problems? Let your passions shine through so we know what enthuses you, and what you will be happiest doing. Cultural fit is just as important as matching skill sets. I know it has been instilled in you to not brag or to draw personal attention. This is not about “bragging”. It is about truthfully stating your stellar achievements. What seems like “no big deal” to you is actually impressive and needs to be clearly communicated.
Most of all, make sure that whatever is in your resume matches what you put on your LinkedIn profile! #truestory
Networking for the Next Job
It is well quoted that 72% of all jobs, industry-wide, are filled by networking and referral. You have spent the last 3 or 30 years networking almost exclusively with military personnel. So, how do you network for that next position? Start by making a list of all the companies in your target city that have jobs that are of interest to you. See if you are connected to anyone in those companies. If not, are you 2nd connected? Then ask your shared connections if they are comfortable connecting you to that person. Invite them out for coffee. (Pay for the coffee!) If you have miles between you, schedule a Google Hangout, or phone call. Ask questions about the company, what they like about their positions, what are the challenges that company is tackling, how is the culture, and do they have opportunities for growth? Note: I did not say to ask them about how to get a job there, or to connect you with a specific hiring manager. This is important! This is what is called an informational interview. It is to glean information. When you find a position that rocks your socks, send your contact an email identifying the job title and number. Let this person know that you are going to submit your application online on Friday (it is now Tuesday), but if they have an employee referral program and he/she is comfortable referring you, the resume and cover letter are attached. If not, you will be submitting the application online. No harm, no foul.
These cover the most pertinent questions/comments I received. If there are additional questions you would like to see covered, let me know! Send me a connection request. And, thank you for your service. Not just a cultural saying, but stated with the sincerest of sentiments. #Respect #Admiration #Veterans #JobSearchTips #MilitaryTransition
by Jo Weech
In federal contracting, there is a term called “Req Recruiting.” A recruiter receives a requisition to place a potential person in a position in a particular program. Said recruiter, if indeed a sourcing sorcerer, employs many magical methods to find and vet the perfect person to present to the program manager. “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing…where I stand with you?” Great lyrics by The Young Rascals, and a question that job seekers everywhere are asking.
How are you going to make sure that you are going to be found by beautiful, Boolean search strings? How can you keep a recruiter’s attention for more than 4 nano-seconds once your resume surfaces? Inquiring minds want to know, and, since this is not the stuff of “secret sauce,” the simple solutions follow.
First of all, the most important information recruiters need should be in the “top third to half” of page one of your resume. There is advice currently circulating that you should just have a one-page resume. Please make it at least two, but no more than three — two is ideal.
Remember, the resume is just the ticket to try to get the interview, not to get the job. Also, some university career centers — check how old the school is, and some of the advice may date back that far — who tell you to put your Education last, on the very last page. Please do not put your education at the end of your resume. You paid a lot for that degree. It needs to go on Page One!
This is the format that can best showcase info that is needed by the recruiter, and in that precious real estate of the top half of your resume. I will add comments after each section.
NAME, IN BOLD
314-555-1212 | firstname.lastname@example.org | LinkedIn address
This is your header. Do not put “home” or “cell” or “phone #.” Just put the actual digits, like 202-555-1212. Note: I highly recommend that you get a Google number. This way, you can screen your calls, and your personal number does not go into cyberspace.
Next, your email address. Please get a gmail address. Please do not say you are a highly skilled software engineer, who uses Splunk, but you have a Hotmail email address. Or AOL. Or worse, Juno or Erols. And please make sure it is not FunkySocks90210@wherever.com. Your email address should have as much of your real name as is possible. Recruiters do joke about this. You do not want to be the brunt of these jokes!
Why the LinkedIn address? Because over 90% of all recruiters industry-wide say that they use it at some point in the process. If your name is John Smith, you want to make sure it is the real you, and not some fake profile that was created to make it seem like it is you. #FakeProfilesAreReal.
Did you notice that I didn’t put city/state? If you are in Baltimore and are willing to commute anywhere in the DMV, it isn’t necessary. If you want to work in Austin, because you are moving there of your own accord, there is no reason to put your actual geographic location. It is then helpful to put the city/state in which you wish to work into that second line of your header. Also, please do not put your home address. No one needs to mail anything to you in this decade.
TITLE OF POSITION, LIKE PROGRAM MANAGER
I get this question all the time when I am doing resume reviews at career transition groups: “What if I want to apply for both a Logistics and an Administrative position?” If you put both, a recruiter or hiring manager will not know what you want to be when you grow up. If you put NO TITLE, then we have to try to figure this out by hunting through your resume, and we do not have time to do this. Have an industry-specific resume for each industry, and only document the skills/transferable skills commensurate with the position to which you are applying.
That said, please use wordle.net or worditout.com or tagcrowd.com. Copy/paste the entire position description along with the required skills into one of those sites. The most important words will be revealed. If you have a synonym on your resume, change it to that exact word. If it is really important, make sure you use it at least 3-4 times in your resume. Why? So your resume will make it through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and turn up in Boolean searches.
Rabbit hole comment here: Please do not use colors or fancy fonts or unusual symbols or creative formatting. ATSs do not like that, not one little bit. Arial is another safe font to use. Do not get me started on Comic Sans. And please, no smaller than size 11!
(NO HEADING HERE, JUST YOUR SUMMARY OF GREATNESS)
So, right after the title of the position for which you are applying, you may write 3-5 attributes that scream, “I am THE ONE!” Do not use the first person I, me or my, nor the third person “Mr. Emerson excels in….” or “He has achieved….” There are no complete sentences being used in the example below.
Over eight years of experience in full lifestyle projects utilizing Agile/Scrum methodologies in diverse environments. Ability to quickly and efficiently design, rapid-prototype, and integrate software solutions within pre-existing infrastructures. Skilled in collaborating with junior engineers in pair programming, and leading cross-functional teams located in different time zones.
CLEARANCE: TS/SCI with FSP, active (or current) (ONLY IF APPLICABLE)
Please do not list your clearance if it has expired. It’s as though you never had it. Also, please do not say “clearable.” If the position requires the clearance, that means you have to have one that is active, or has been active less than 24 months ago (current).
MS, COMPUTER SCIENCE, MIT
BS, MATHEMATICS, UCLA
Don’t include the graduation date or the address of the college.
Cloudera Hadoop, 2014
Certified Scrumaster, 2010
If applicable. Please list software, hardware, databases, operating systems, tools, software applications, etc. Please put the number of years experience after each skill, like Java (6 years). It is also helpful to put the list in alphabetical order. You do not need to state MS Office products unless the position description states a particular level of proficiency needed, such as “Advanced Excel.”
KEY QUALIFICATIONS (or) CORE COMPETENCIES
Here is where you can highlight the top six points, using normal bullet points:
Also, please do not waste valuable space here by saying that you are a hard worker, team player, organized, problem-solver, etc. If you held any viable position for any length of time, we assume all of these attributes to be a given.
Finally, your Professional Experience. Recruiters are persnickety about certain things. So, please lay out your experience like this:
ABC Company 04/13- present
What is most important is the title of the position, and the dates should be all the way to the right. Repeat: dates should be all the way to the right! If you have worked in different roles in the same company, still put the start and end dates and show the differences like this:
ABC Company 04/13- present
Software Engineer, 06/14-present
Jr. Software Engineer, 04/13-06/14
So, about those bullet points in your professional experience. Many global companies rate candidates by the “STAR” method. Situation, task, action, result. So, in your 3-5 bullet points per position, do not list out your duties. Instead, state: what was accomplished, how it was done, what tools/methods were used, and the brilliant result. In the result, put a quantifiable number or percentage, if possible. Increased sales by 26% Q3-Q4. Successfully managed 28 people on 4 teams in 5 countries. Here is where you showcase your achievements, and not just copy/paste your job descriptions.
The professional experience should go back about 10 years, unless you are applying for a job that requires more experience. If it calls for 20, just put 20+ years, rather than 34.
Start your summary like this: Software Engineer with 8+ years experience in… It will be truly helpful to know the years of experience at the get-go, since the number of years needed will vary across contracts. Please do not include your lawn mowing business from middle school, no matter how entrepreneurial you think it makes you look. It does not look good on your resume. Again, something else that recruiters joke about. So, for those of you who have many more years of experience, you can simply list the titles in “Other Relevant Experience”.
Lastly, there should be a list of professional organizations, volunteer groups, and if you won an award that wasn’t from your high school home ec department but is highly relevant to the position you are seeking, please include that here.
To summarize, the reason that your clearance, your education and your key skills need to be up top is that those are the most important things needed in order to match up your qualifications to an existing req.
Finally, from Jimmy Eat World – The Middle:
Don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don’t you worry
Jo Weech is a career coach and technical recruiter in the defense and intelligence communities.
by Jo Weech
Here are some tried and true tips for attending job fairs, but first, the burning questions you might be asking yourself:
Inquiring minds want to know. So, I will share what I have learned from both recruiters and job seekers alike.
One purpose for many companies to participate in job fairs is name recognition/branding. Job fairs assist with being able to connect brand and culture with interested candidates. It isn’t often that a candidate walks in and is a perfect fit for an open position. So, why do recruiters go? It is a wonderful opportunity to meet great folks who may not fit a particular position at this point in time, but who is worth keeping in touch with and fostering a relationship. For me, it is about making friends. I work in a small-knit community.
Here is the twist. I am a firm believer of the pay-it-forward, kharma, give of yourself way of living. Strike up conversations with other job seekers while you are waiting. It can start out as a simple, “Hey, have you used Wordle or Word It Out? I have found that it helps me to know which synonyms to use on my resume so it makes it past the Applicant Tracking System.” Share a tip! Ask the other person what industry they are in and what sort of position they are seeking. Ask for their target companies. Know anyone you can refer them to? Maybe you know recruiting companies that are sourcing for someone like them. Offer to get them connected. What if you go through the whole fair and have only been giving out great info and no one has offered anything to you? It is still okay! You may have inspired others to do the same at the next job fair, and you could then be the recipient of new tips and connections!
by Jo Weech
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” –Langston Hughes
I had this quote up on my wall during high school. Here are other “dream” quotes:
I know. If we are gonna dream, let’s dream big. But when it comes to job searching, I have heard too many people who have passed up good opportunities because it wasn’t their “dream job” or who are just waiting for their “dream job” to find them.
So here are a few ideas I have encountered for transitioning out of “Dream World” and into “Reality World” without killing the dream.
There is a lot that can be learned about the dream job you want (and the companies that have those positions) by networking with people who do what you want to do, and work where you want to work.
So, do we stop dreaming? No. But do we start making plans to transform that dream job into a real job? Yes. Dream jobs can be taken out of “dream world” by taking the necessary steps to make those dreams realities, by cultivating relationships in our networks, honing necessary skills, and acquiring expertise.