The six steps outlined here have been designed to help you create an informed path to employment. Steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 apply to veterans with and without disabilities. Step 5 is specifically geared to disabled veterans who may need reasonable accommodations, adjustments, or modifications to the workplace.
Translating your military skills, experience, and training is an important step to finding career opportunities that best align with your capabilities. There are a number of online military translators that will do this work for you. By simply plugging your MOS, NEC, AFSC, rating, or military job title into one of the many online translators, you will have the opportunity to see how your military experience may line up with jobs in the civilian workforce.
The question you will need to ask yourself now is, "Does this job interest me?" If it does, you can move on to Step 2. If it doesn't, it might be helpful to take a quick interest inventory to get an idea of other types of work you might enjoy.
Once you have a civilian job title (or two or three) that is of interest to you, you can move to Step Two.
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There is no sense moving forward in your job search if the types of jobs you are looking for don't exist in your local community. You can do this research in a number of ways. First, try entering a job title and zip code into one of the many job search engines available online (Indeed, Simply Hired, or Job Central, for example). This will help you to quickly find out who is hiring for these positions in your community.
Another way to get an idea of who is hiring in your local community is to call or visit a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist at one of the thousands of American Job Centers all over the country. The DVOP will have access to current labor market information and job descriptions from employers who are looking to hire veterans. You can find a DVOP in your local area by using the Service Locator – or you can call or email your State's Director of Employment and Training and ask who in your community can be of assistance to you.
Once you've determined your desired occupation and that it exists in your local community, you will need to figure out if the position will be a good fit for you – and if you have the necessary qualifications
Research and Discover - Is This Job a Good Fit For Me?
There are a number of ways to figure out if the civilian job you are interested in is a good fit for you. Good fit is much more than a skills match. Environment, company culture, personality, and temperament have just as much to do (and sometimes more) with a good job match as technical skills and qualifications do. There are a number of ways to research this information, both online and in person.
a. Research Online
Try the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET. Both of these sources offer a great deal of job specific information, such as the details of the global job tasks required, educational requirements, physical requirements, credentials needed, and more. You will even find information about the personality characteristics or soft skills that tend to be a "good fit" for these positions.
Networking is a critical piece of the job search puzzle – and one that the majority of the population tends to skip. Sitting at home and waiting for a job to come to you is a sure way to remain unemployed. The expression, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," couldn't be more true. In fact, the majority of available jobs and open positions are not even advertised! These jobs are often referred to as the "hidden job market" – and can only be uncovered by networking.
Getting out there and meeting people is probably the best way to figure out if the job you think you want would be a good one for you. This will require effort on your part, though. You will need to make a list of people you know and people you want to know. And then you will need to reach out to them. You might explain that you are currently exploring careers and are trying to figure out if you're on the right path – or you can let them know that you are searching for a job and would like to know if they have any potential connections for you. If you are interested in a particular industry or company, use these connections and try to find someone who can provide you with an informational interview (see below).
c. The Informational Interview
An informational interview is a networking activity important to career development and career exploration. An informational interview is an interview with a person who is doing the kind of work in which you are interested. It is an excellent technique to use when you want to:
Although an effective job search tool, it's very important to remember that the primary purpose of an informational interview is to obtain information, not a job. According to Quintessential Careers, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer. This is a remarkable number considering the fact that research also indicates that only one in every 200 resumes (some studies put the number even higher) will result in a job offer.
There are a number of ways to approach an informational interview. If you do an Internet search for "steps to an effective informational interview," you will find some really terrific information, tips, and strategies. Don't forget to follow-up with a thank you note. Be sure to mention the specific information you found particularly interesting or helpful. You can also let the person know that you appreciated his or her time and that the information provided will be valuable to you.
Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to target your efforts, creating a resume that the civilian human resources world can understand is your next step. The resume is your foot in the door. The interview is what will get you the job.
a. The Resume
Years ago, you might have been able to have one resume that could be sent to multiple jobs, but today's job market is quite different. It is important to target your resume to a particular industry and a particular job. If you are considering two different career paths, you will need to have a series of different resumes. Creating the right resume for the right position is hard work and will definitely take time. But, this time is an investment in your future. Getting a job truly is hard work.
The purpose of your resume is to tell an employer what you can do for them. It should not offer a history of ALL of your experience – but the experience you have that is applicable to the job you are seeking. Steps 1 - 3 have helped you target a specific job, now it's time to tell an employer how your background and types of skills and experiences you have relate to the position for which you are applying.
Military resumes are historically difficult to understand for those not in the military. And, since most people have no idea what an NCO or an 11B is, finding ways to explain your extraordinary experience may be a challenge. Searching for key words in a job posting will help you not only decide if you have the skills and qualifications to do the job, it will help you to be sure a future employer can easily see this. The skills and experience you have that are not related to the job in question do not belong on the resume. This is often a difficult concept to grasp. You only want to include the information that will lead a potential employer to identify you as the candidate to interview.
Next, assume the person reading your resume has no connection to the military. Eliminate acronyms and military terms and use words and phrases that a civilian human resources professional will understand. These words and phrases can often be found right in the job description. Show your resume to several non-military friends and ask them to point out terms they don't understand.
b. Ace the Interview
Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes and look at yourself in the mirror. Ask yourself, "Why should I hire you?" Remember, your resume is what will get you in the door – but it will not get you the job. Part of being ready for a job is preparing for an interview – and an interview is all about selling yourself. This may not seem easy because it feels like bragging or boasting. It will help you if you practice articulating your confidence in your ability to do the job for which you are interviewing. Take a look at the following statements and see if you can come up with answers to each:
Using your networks (including family and friends) to practice interviewing will help you to feel more confident in your ability to talk about your experience and what you can offer to an employer. Practice answering the question, "Why should I hire you?" in a way that clearly articulates that you not only recognize the skills and capabilities necessary to get the job done, but that you possess these skills and the desire to do the job.
Considering Disability... To Disclose or Not To Disclose (Reasonable Accommodations)
Depending on your specific disability and how it impacts you on the job (if it does at all), it is important to give thought to sharing some of this information on the job so you can get the support you need to be successful. Reasonable accommodations are one way people with disabilities can be assured a "level playing ground" on the job. For example, if you have a mild brain injury and you are unable to focus on a speaker and write good notes at the same time, there is technology that can help you to do that. Accommodations are nothing more than incorporating strategies and tools to help you enhance your ability to produce.
Disability is not accommodated; it is the functional limitation you experience because of that disability that is accommodated. In keeping with the example above, a mild brain injury may manifest itself differently in different people. One person may experience difficulty reading the words on a computer, while someone else might get headaches if working under bright lights. Therefore, it is important to think about how an accommodation might provide support for the limitation you are experiencing due to an illness or injury – not the injury or disability itself. For the person who experiences difficulty while reading the written word, your employer can install computer software that will read the words on the page. There is also software that will type as you speak. For the person who gets migraines or headaches from bright lights, ensuring that the work environment is suitably lit can be an easy solution.
What follows is a brief discussion about reasonable accommodations, what they are according to the law, and some examples of reasonable accommodations on the job.
a. Reasonable Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against qualified employees or job applicants on the basis of their disability. It covers all employment practices, including the job application process, hiring, advancement, compensation, training, firing, and all other conditions of employment. Under the ADA, employers cannot use eligibility standards or qualifications that unfairly screen out people with disabilities and cannot make speculative assumptions about a person´s ability to do a job based on myths, fears, or stereotypes about employees with disabilities (such as unfounded concerns that hiring people with disabilities would mean increased insurance costs or excessive absenteeism or that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to commit acts of violence in the workplace). Section 5 of this Knowledge Book provides more information about the ADA and other laws impacting veterans in the workplace.
Additionally, employers are required to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities, which means changing the work environment or job duties to eliminate barriers that keep an individual from being able to perform the essential functions of the job. Employers are not, however, required to make accommodations that would result in an "undue hardship," which means accommodations that would result in significant difficulty or expense. What is important here is that an employer is not required to make an accommodation for an employee if the employer doesn't know the employee needs an accommodation. This is very important for veterans (and others) with hidden disabilities, like PTSD, back injuries, mild traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, etc. It is up to you to decide whether to reveal the disability and request accommodations (if you're not sure how to do this, refer to the section on self-advocacy). If you don´t need an accommodation, you don´t need to disclose anything. But if you need an accommodation (or feel you would benefit from one to be as productive as possible), it is your responsibility to begin the discussion. This discussion should begin an interactive process for determining what you need.
Here are some examples of workplace reasonable accommodations:
 Employers with fifteen or more employees must comply with these provisions.
Though you may be well on your way to finding a civilian career, you will probably encounter some potholes along the way. Part of creating your career planning road map is to identify some civilians that you know you can depend on. You should have no fewer than three people you can call at any time or connect with when you need them. These people may not have the specific answers to your questions, but will be there, as a sounding board, to help you search for the right answers. Reaching out to others (during the job search and at other times) is a skill that will serve you well as you continue to grow professionally.
A mentor can be an added bonus when in job search mode. Maybe someone you met during your informational interviewing is willing to spend some more time with you and help you to hone your resume, practice interviewing, or introduce you to people in your field of choice? You can also take advantage of other mentoring resources designed specifically for veterans.
Remember – these people will not be looking for you. It is up to you to take responsibility to reach out to them. And, you will probably need to reach out more than once, twice, or three times to find the right person at the right time for what you need.