While finding a new job can be difficult for anyone, it can be especially hard on veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce.
A new study from Military Benefit Association revealed that half of the veterans recently separated from the U.S. military and are currently unemployed have not had a full- or part-time job since leaving the military. Among those 40 percent have been out of work between four and 12 months.
Roy Gibson, a retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. and president of the Military Benefit Association, said one critical aspect to landing new work for veterans is ensuring they are well-prepared for the job search process, including any interviews they may go on.
When going on an interview, it is important that veterans can accurately describe their skills and what they can bring to the table. Gibson said research shows that more than 70 percent of hiring managers find it difficult to ascertain recent veterans' skill sets based on their resume alone.
"There is an obvious disconnect there," Gibson told BusinessNewsDaily. "Eventually, they are going to have to sync up with the hiring managers that are reviewing their resumes and interviewing them."
Gibson advises veterans to use one of the numerous online military skills translators to help them describe their experience in a way that hiring managers can better understand. Veterans can find skills translators online at military.com, Home Depot and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Career One Stop.
"They need to take advantage of the resources that are available to them," he said.
Veterans also shouldn't go into an interview with a limited scope of what they can do. For example, Gibson said veterans who spent their time in the military working on jet or helicopter engines shouldn't focus solely on those types of jobs.
"They should market himself or herself more broadly as a mechanic," Gibson said. "That will open up a lot more doors than if they tried to stick to what they've been doing."
With that in mind, it is also important that veterans clearly understand the job for which they are interviewing. Gibson advises veterans to clearly dissect the job description for the position they are interviewing so they can best frame their skills to match what the employer is looking for.
"Be thinking, 'what I can do for this employer,' not 'here is what I do, take it or leave it' and hope it fits," he said.
Finding someone who has gone through the process to mentor veterans and help them prepare is also an excellent way for veterans to get ready for an interview. Gibson said the best mentors are those who have military experience and were successful transitioning into the civilian workforce.
In addition to helping them understand the civilian job search process, mentors can also help veterans run through practice interviews to ensure they are getting out the right message to hiring managers.
"Have a mentor to help you practice interviewing," Gibson said. "There is no substitute for practice, especially if you are doing something as foreign as I think interviewing for a job is for most of these folks that are getting out of the service."
Knowing that most veterans won't land a job after the first interview, Gibson said it is important veterans try to stay positive as the job search process extends beyond what they were hoping for. He said the key is having a strategic plan to find work and finding a network of people that can help out in terms of looking for potential jobs that might be a fit.
"I understand that it can be very discouraging if that job doesn't pop right up and in most cases it does not," he said. "If you network, have a plan, keep working your plan and using your resources, it will come."
In the end, Gibson believes the most critical thing veterans can do to improve their job search efforts is to start the process early. Rather than waiting until they are officially out of the military, he thinks making a job search plan and working on their resume and interview techniques well before that time would best serve them.
"The worst thing is to wake up on your first day as a civilian and say OK, now I have to find a job,' because it has to start long before then."
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.