Then and Now: Getting a Job After Military Life
In 1970 I was a new Mrs. Lieutenant and accompanied my ROTC husband to Ft. Knox, Ky., to Armor Officers Basic. I didn't try to get a job then because I knew it was only for nine weeks – and it turned out my time was occupied with a program to train us on how to be good officers' wives.
When my husband and I next arrived in Baltimore for his military intelligence training at Ft. Holabird, I did see about getting a job. I have a clear memory of that moment 41 years ago when a hiring person told me I didn't have to worry about taking a job only for a short period – men did this all the time. But I didn't find a job.
Then in September 1971 we arrived in Munich, Germany, and I began a year-long quest to get hired through the GS-7 rating I already had. I won't recount the letters back and forth to the United States to get the attention that I should have automatically been given.
Or describe how I was told at the European Exchange Headquarters that I couldn't have a professional journalism job (I had a bachelor of arts in journalism from Michigan State University) because I might be blocking the position for a man who wanted it.
I finally got to take a shorthand and typing test to get hired as a GS-2 for the Army Air Force Motion Picture Service, spending my entire week typing on a manual typewriter the lists of films moving from one hilltop in Italy to another.
Eventually my security clearance came through and I became a GS-3 for a section of the 66th Military Intelligence Group. I typed six copies (using messy carbon paper) of classified and secret documents on a manual typewriter. If I made a single mistake I had to start the page over and over again until it was typed perfectly.
Back in the U.S. civilian job market
When we returned to the states at the end of my husband's active duty commitment, I waited until he got a job in Philadelphia before applying for positions. At one such interview the man made me cry. At another I was told I couldn't be hired because I might become pregnant.
The job I did get – one I loved – resulted from the exact same thing that can help you get a job today: a connection that makes you stand out.
I got hired as the editor of the monthly literary supplement of the weekly Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia partly because I shared the same birth date as the editor hiring me. That shared birth date formed an instant connection between us.
The importance of having a "connection"
And this same important "connection" advantage can be used by you today wherever you are in the world to create job opportunities before you or your spouse leave the military.
Let's look at the ways that today, thanks to the Internet and social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you can be better prepared for your work life after the military:
First stop – the professional social media site LinkedIn.com
Join the professional site www.LinkedIn.com (the free version is fine). Be sure to include a good headshot of yourself (no cap or sunglasses or low neckline; and yes to a smile). Make sure that you check off the choice that this photo is visible to everyone and not just your LinkedIn connections.
You're going to want to use this same good headshot for all your online activity. People connect with people, and you want people to begin recognizing you wherever they see you online.
Of course, whether you have a security clearance in the military or not, act as if everything has to be scrutinized for security. In other words, no matter what the privacy controls allegedly are, never put anything online that could negatively reflect on you and your employment opportunities. (This warning extends to NOT putting a photo on Facebook of you holding a beer bottle or wine glass.)
On LinkedIn, join groups that are related to the employment you would like to pursue after the military. Participate by adding thoughtful comments (which are automatically displayed with your good headshot) and giving people the opportunity to learn more about you.
In fact, be sure to fill out the info on your LinkedIn profile as completely as possible, because there are huge numbers of job recruiters on LinkedIn.
And get a customized LinkedIn public profile URL by signing into your account, going into "Edit Profile" and clicking on the edit button next to the long URL.
Warning: It is against LinkedIn's terms to put your company name rather than your own name on your profile. LinkedIn now has company pages.
Second stop – a Facebook personal profile
You'll use this www.Facebook.com account to start connecting with old and new friends. Again, follow the recommendations above and remember your manners. Always say please and thank you where appropriate.
Get a customized Facebook personal profile URL by signing into your Facebook account and then going to www.facebook.com/username
It is against Facebook's terms to put your company name as your profile name. Instead create a Facebook Page (formerly a fan page) at http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php for your business if you have a part-time business while you are in the military.
Third stop – participating on Twitter
Many people do not realize the power of www.Twitter.com to make connections for employment and business. Here you can choose a username connected to your business. But do put your own name in the name field in "Settings." Plus I highly recommend you use your headshot rather than a company logo for the profile photo.
Then create an effective 160-character profile bio and, for your Twitter profile link, you can use your LinkedIn public profile link if you don't have your own blog or website yet.
Tip: If you search on Twitter on #sot (for support our troops) or #militarymonday (for Military Monday) or #vets (for veterans) you'll have a fast track to making connections on Twitter.
In conclusion, if you start connecting with people online and building a positive reputation as someone who shares good information with others, you will have a huge head start on conducting an effective job search for life after the military.
Good luck and see you online!
Related Stories from AARP
- 6 Ways to Revamp a Sluggish Career
- Survey: Work Satisfaction Declines
- Proving Age Discrimination During Layoffs