This is the second in a three-part series. For the other posts in the series, click here.
4. You Have No Idea What Value You Bring to the Table as a Military Professional
To give yourself a fighting chance against the odds that we discussed last time, you have to answer one critical question. The one question that every military professional should ask themselves is this: What do my target employers want?
If you choose to start with your military experience listed in your VMET, SMART, awards and evaluations, you will doom yourself to the “resume black hole.” You need to answer this question before you think about writing a word or even enlisting someone to help you write your resume (yes, I did say help). Because the answer to this one question will guide you to what you should include and exclude from your resume. It will help you decide what to do about that gap, or which skills to highlight.
As an example, one person in my military network wanted to go back to doing something she last did three duty stations ago. Since then, she’s had several training and evaluation jobs and run her own unit. To ensure that employers see her highly relevant past experience, she structured the resume so that all those training and evaluation jobs were rolled into her most recent tours of duty. She then kept that section relatively brief and only highlighted the assignments that were closely related to her target positions.
By doing this, she was able to get 10-year-old experience onto page one. She also created a strong profile with headlines that described that older experience in a way that would appeal to target employers, because it addressed their main concerns.
This resume approach worked for one reason and one reason only: she thought about the needs of her target employers before she started writing one word of her resume.
5. You Don’t Really Know What Employers Need
If you’re staying in the Defense and Space industry, you will already know this. Think about the most successfully transitioned people who were at the same level you are in your Military Occupancy Code (MOC). What do they do now? What are their post-military career jobs? LinkedIn makes this very visual with their Veterans App, which lets you choose your branch of service and see where most of your fellow branch of service members reside, what industries they’re in and what companies in those locations/industries they’re working at. What are the best and worst qualities you see with the contractors, vendors and government employees you work with now?
You can also use ONET to help you to list of potential “reported job titles” you may be a good match for. If you find those job titles are too limiting, search for your current job title on LinkedIn and look at the profiles of the results. That way, you can at least get started with a few target job titles and a list of companies that hire people with your background and where your existing personal and professional network can provide value to them.
But don’t stop there. Scour the web for job postings and note any common themes. Run a Google search and look at 15-20 of those job postings to see how you can actually match the employer’s language. This is where you have to do a gut check. You can use the civilian job language; however, be careful that it’s true before claiming it as your own. Otherwise, you easily risk being blacklisted if it’s discovered during the interview that you lack the relevant experience you claimed you had.
Obviously, if you’re aiming to move into a new field, especially outside of the Defense industry, you’ll need to do a lot more research. You’ll first want to identify whether they have any experience in hiring prior military or have any ex-military on their staff.
If you know a company on your target list has published an opening, research them to find out all you can about their goals, position titles (hierarchy), culture and competitors. Read all you can on LinkedIn Groups, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, blogs, company websites and industry association websites. Tap into your network and talk to anyone with knowledge of the companies on your target list. Be proactive, step out of your comfort zone and reach out to social media connections to see if they will share their knowledge.
Now it’s time for us to move on to the one of the hardest steps: knowing exactly how you can address that plan.
6. You Don’t Know What Your Unique Value Proposition Statement Is
If you haven’t been told already, you should know you’ll be asked the age-old interview question: “Why should we hire you?” Most military professionals dread it, but knowing the answer to that question is central to succeeding with your resume (and your job search). I know you haven’t decided what you want to do, but you absolutely need to.
Here are some of the critical inquiries you need to make:
- Ask former managers and subordinates, who have transitioned successfully and are employed, how they would describe you. Also ask them what positions that they believe would be a good fit for you.
- Look back over old military evaluations or personal awards, not for language, but for common themes to see how you’ve added value or what your common expertise theme is.
Put all this information together and take it in. Once you’ve identified your unique value proposition, try to formulate it into a concise sentence or two, but no more than three sentences.
For example, my value proposition is: I help large companies reduce the cost of their employee recruitment without impacting benefit levels. With the spiraling costs of talent management today, this is a critical issue for most businesses.
Yet, at the same time, notice that this objective statement is still very general — it could be more specific (e.g., military recruitment, executive, temporary, etc).
Would you ever try to sell a product without knowing its unique value proposition first? Of course not. So you can’t skip this simple step in your transition from the military. (Click here to tweet this thought.) There’s no substitute for this. No military resume writing service, no military to civilian skill translator can do this for you.
Because you now know what makes you different and valuable, you can start figuring out how to match your skills with the needs of potential employers in their language, and that’s where the resume magic happens.
As a recruiter, when I open your resume email and see exactly what my client is looking for, I am guaranteed to call — every time. I don’t think any recruiter out there will disagree. If you’re not getting any interviews now, it’s because that match isn’t clear enough. This should create a sense of urgency, especially if you have fewer than 90 days left in the uniform!
Once you’ve figured out the answer to the question “what do my target employers want,” you’re ready to start thinking about your military resume strategy. It’s that strategy that will get you interviews. It’s that strategy that will guide you as you make decisions about content and layout and font choice and all that good stuff.
It’s been amazing to me to see that in the military, we always have a strategy for everything we do; however, when a lot of us transition from the military, we often “wing it” without any type of strategy or the dry erase boards, ticklers and Excel spreadsheets we require for everything else.
So in my next post, I’ll talk about how you can create synergy between your knowledge of your target audience and your unique value proposition to create a military resume for civilian jobs that recruiters and hiring managers can’t resist. Be sure to stay tuned! It’s maybe the most important post yet.
As always, I’m eager to hear your feedback, good or bad and feel free to connect with me or catch me on one of my live military transition webinars.
What questions do you have about discovering your value proposition? Tweet at us!