Dear Matt: Do you have any tips for military personnel returning to the workforce? Do employers want to hire those who have been in the military? How should I highlight my military experience on a résumé?
Matt: One of the biggest challenges military personnel face when returning to the workforce is matching their military skills and experience to the needs of a traditional job, said Mary Emmen, owner of NewHR, LLC (www.newhronline.com), a Twin Cities company that provides human resources consulting services. Not only does Emmen have more than 15 years of experience working in all aspects of HR, she recently retired as a Master Sergeant after more than 28 years in the Minnesota National Guard.
"Relaying the transferable and technical aspect of some jobs (vehicle maintenance, administration, IT) is obvious, but if you're dealing with more combat-related jobs, it's difficult to see what you can sell to employers," said Emmen. "Regardless of their military job, all service members have a demonstrated ability to be committed and highly disciplined, are adaptable and able to endure difficult situations and stay cool under fire - sometimes literally. They know and have experienced first-hand the importance of teamwork. What employer wouldn't want that?"
If the service member has achieved any officer or non-commissioned officer ranks, they have been provided with formal training and gained experience in leadership, supervision, project management, communication and other management-related skills that are also highly valued, said Emmen.
"There definitely are businesses out there that are looking to hire service members because they know this to be true," said Emmen.
If your last job was in the military, highlight that at the top of the résumé as your most recent experience instead of burying it as a line item hidden on the bottom of the last page. During an interview, use examples from your military experience to show the employer you have the required skills and experience. For instance, you could say something like: "As a squad leader, my job was to communicate mission requirements and select the right soldier for each task in order to get the mission completed in the most effective manner." Or: "The ability to manage an enormous amount of detail was critical to my job as a supply technician."
In addition to Family Assistance Centers and www.militaryonesource.com, more military-related employment information can be had at Beyond The Yellow Ribbon (www.beyondtheyellowtibbon.org) - a Minnesota National Guard-based program that provides job search support and career assistance to service members and veterans of any branch.