Related topics

5 ‘dumb things’ smart vets do in their job search

November 12, 2018 GMT

Transitioning out the military into the civilian marketplace can seem daunting, even if you have prepared for it. Moving from a regulated environment to one that is less defined than the military can be more time consuming than you might have thought.

Regardless of how well you succeeded in your military career, there are job search skills you must learn to develop for your civilian career path.

Here are five “dumb things” that really smart veterans do that affect their job search:

Relying on one resume. In today’s job market, you will need multiple resumes for different strategies. Using one type of resume for every employer is an outdated approach that will lengthen your transition. Instead use a variety of resume formats such as; chronological, functional and combination that will best meet the employer’s need in a clear, concise way. You may need to use one page or multiple pages depending on your situation.


Assuming employers know their skills. Landing a good job requires selling yourself. To effectively sell your skills, you need to “translate” your military experience and verbalize them in a way that adds value to the workplace. Think like an employer who does not understand military jargon. Avoid using the same skills repeatedly in your resume and during your introduction with others.

For example, leadership is important, but you bring other abilities as well such as organization, critical thinking and problem solving.

Misunderstanding interviewing. Many times, the most qualified candidate doesn’t get the job, rather it’s the one who knows how to build rapport and connects their skills to the employer’s needs.

Interviewing is an exchange of information, and it’s your job to make sure the interviewer understands how your experience will help them solve their business problems. Pay attention to your non-verbal language as well as how you answer questions. Practice asking open-ended questions to convey you understand the job position.

Searching without a personal brand. Teamwork in the military is a core value, and employers appreciate your understanding of teams. However, in a job search, you are marketing your unique skills to an employer.

A simple definition of a personal brand is the way people remember you. You can start creating your personal brand by answering two questions: who are you and how do you want to be seen?

Fixating on what they lack. Job searching can be stressful due to the “unknown” aspect of change. No doubt, veterans will bring with them top-notch skills in both leadership and technical areas, but in the civilian market you may need to acquire different skills for specific jobs.

Kimberly Thompson is a board-certified counselor. Send questions to or Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210. Visit her blog at