The Veteran Job Search: Why It’s Unique and How to Navigate It

A veteran's hands filling out a job application

The U.S. military often provides its service members with gainful employment for as long as they wish to serve. But what happens when you decide it's time to join the civilian labor force?

A veteran job search is unique – and challenging – for a number of reasons. Perhaps that's why, according to reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experience a higher unemployment rate than nonveterans. The following advice can help you buck the trend and find success:

Translating your military role to the civilian job market

The first hurdle a veteran may encounter when seeking employment is the inability to match military job titles with their closest civilian equivalents.

Matching your veteran skill set to a suitable civilian job can seem complicated, especially if recent service has kept you from establishing a familiarity with the civilian employment market. Fortunately, there are tools that can help. For example, Robert Half's Career Opportunities for Veterans site lets you filter available civilian jobs using your military job title or code.

Rewriting your resume

Another common challenge in a veteran job search is highlighting your transferable military skills, such as leadership, communication and problem solving.

To ensure clarity, skip the acronyms and military details, and create a resume that focuses on core competencies that hiring managers in the civilian job market can easily understand. Study each job posting to determine which skills a potential employer is looking for.

Remember that when you come to an interview, you can use your resume to prompt an in-depth conversation about the qualities and strengths you gained through military service and how they match the requirements of the open position.

Finding opportunities

Many organizations make a purposeful effort to hire veterans. The unique skills you may have gained in the military, such as project management, logistics, languages or technical skills, make you a desirable candidate for many vital roles in federal and civilian employment.

Civil service jobs employ a higher-than-average proportion of veterans, and programs like Veterans' Preference and Veterans' Recruitment Appointment even give eligible veterans preference in appointment over many other applicants. Familiarize yourself with these programs and how you can use them to your advantage.

Navigating regulations

A veteran job search might include understanding and dealing with national and state regulations, which can sometimes prohibit you from taking a job in the civilian market that's similar to your military job without first undergoing retraining. According to a White House report on this issue, jobs in specialist fields such as medicine or information technology may require specific qualifications and certifications.

The good news is that many states now allow veterans to bypass these certifications if they have appropriate military training. It's to your advantage to be aware of these regulations and how they might affect your search for civilian employment.

Get your gold card

If you're a post-9/11 veteran and currently unemployed, you can obtain a Gold Card on the U.S. Department of Labor's website. Simply print the card and take it to your nearest American Job Center to access an extensive range of veteran job search and job readiness resources for up to six months.