Let's start with a little background on me and then about the article. First, I want to thank Samantha Kim and all the folks here at ACP. I'm writing this article here because I was asked to share The Guide.
I first joined the US Army Reserves in 1998 as a way to earn a little extra money. Seriously. That was it. There was no great patriotic duty coursing through my veins. I was struggling along at $4.75 an hour and couldn't make rent. Fast forward to summer of 2001 - I was laid off with no chance of being called back. A week or two after annual training I decided to call a personal friend (who happened to be an Army recruiter) and told him I felt I was ready for full time. I got a conditional release from my Reserve unit and found out I had to wait to reclass. Two weeks later, as I sat watching TV at my parents' house, every channel suddenly started broadcasting news of a burning building somewhere in New York City. By the end of that fateful day, I found myself rethinking every one of my life choices. I had no idea how much this would change the course of the next 20 years for me.
Enough about that. Here it is summer of 2021. In a career that started in the aftermath of 9/11 and wrapped up with COVID-19, I've learned a thing or two. As I went through the SFL-TAP process, I was inundated with dozens of tips and organizations that all exist to help us become civilians again. It's not an easy process and it's not a whole lot of fun. That's okay - neither was the Army. You learn as you go and do what it takes to make mission happen. You use the skills the military instilled in you and you figure out what works. After about a year of struggling, I think I've figured it out. What follows is my take on what worked the best for me. Obviously, everyone has their own experience but, if someone had handed me this article last summer and told me to take it seriously, it would have made things a lot smoother for me. You want to know why I think I figured it out? What makes me qualified to write this article when I haven't even gotten my DD-214 yet? I'll tell you. I turned down a job at The Pentagon on Tuesday and I've got less than an hour before I interview for a job that starts at $85,000 a year and I don't have to be down range to do it.
Without further ado:
(Disclaimer: I'm endorsing everything below only as it benefitted my transition. I wrote the original guide for a co-worker who is about a year or so behind me in preparing for his transition. Nobody has asked me to be included and I'm not influential enough to be bribed for saying nice things.)
Never assume your first resume is good enough. Get other input and help. Most of the sites listed here will help with resume writing. You can take one version and upload it to another site and they’ll rewrite it. Take every version you can get and keep adjusting it. The key is to have your voice represented. Anyone can help you with the product but they don’t know who you are, really. Make sure what’s being said is something you would actually say yourself.
LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com) - Does not host your resume but you should use your resume to fill in all the information. Use the article below to help make your profile awesome. Can’t stress enough how much people use this and many sites will let you fill in a job application using your LinkedIn profile.
BEST MILITARY FRIENDLY SITES
HireHeroesUSA (https://www.hireheroesusa.org) - This is where I got my start. I sent 11 years worth of NCOERs and an ERB and got back a solid resume. It was fast, accurate, and free. Granted, I’m on about my eighth revision but that’s how it works.
RecruitMilitary (https://recruitmilitary.com) - One of my favorites. Job fairs, resume help, interview prep, job searches, the works. They also have an interactive “Battle Buddy” that will open up and guide you to job openings based on location and keyword. Create a profile and upload your resume.
Institute for Veterans and Military Families (https://ivmf.syracuse.edu) - Simply the best organization I’ve worked with throughout my transition. If you’re retiring/ETSing from Fort Drum and you're interested in anything IT or Business Management, Onward to Opportunity (O2O) is the way to go. They also sponsor VetNet and Boots to Business. As you go through the program, you’ll get resume help, interview prep sessions, job fairs, and other great support.
American Corporate Partners (https://www.acp-usa.org) - another phenomenal organization. Register to get paired up with a mentor who has been in your shoes and is likely wearing the shoes you want when you’re retired. You’ll be assigned a facilitator who will help you through the whole process. They will match you with someone with a military background (your preference) that is currently working in the field you’re interested in. Your mentor will offer you insight, help tweak your resume to the industry, and can even give you tips from their own experiences.
COMPANY REVIEWS and SALARIES:
Indeed (https://www.indeed.com) - upload your resume and it will auto-complete most of your profile.
Glassdoor (https://www.glassdoor.com) - same.
Whenever you find a job or a company you might be interested in, you can look them up on these sites. Sometimes, if the site has the job info, you can apply directly through them or it will take you to a link for the company.
ClearanceJobs (https://www.clearancejobs.com) - if you’ve got a clearance, flaunt it. This has been my go to for jobs and they even have some postings where you can apply with one click. I have gotten crazy job offers from here. Above all else, make sure you keep your resume updated anywhere that you post it. This is how I got my interview lined up today (45 minutes to go).
USAJOBS (https://www.usajobs.gov) - NOT the only place to go for GS positions - just the heart of it. Any other site that hosts federal jobs will link back to this site. You can upload several different documents here as well as creating a profile. The federal resume is very different from the civilian one. Also, they host regular events like job fairs, info sessions, resume help, etc. (https://www.usajobs.gov/Notification/Events)
Department of Veterans Affairs (https://www.vaforvets.va.gov) - this is more of an informational site but they do offer jobs as well. The coolest feature is their Careers by Location map (https://www.vacareers.va.gov/#locations)
Feds Hire Vets (https://www.fedshirevets.gov) - tons of info on the federal hiring process. Lots of guides and how-tos/FAQs. https://www.fedshirevets.gov/job-seekers/federal-employment-overview/#content
That's it. Take it or leave it. Copy it, take my name off, and tell people you created it. If one person reads this and takes one piece of advise from it, and it helps them, sweet. That makes me happy. I don't want a gold star or a cookie or another COA. I just figured my own experiences would help. Best of luck to all of you and don't let rejection get you down. Keep working on your resume, on dropping military acronyms from your dictionary, and on your Zoom presence. This is just another mission and you'll knock it out like you always have.
I've gotta run. Half an hour until my interview and I have to change out of my old deployment t-shirt into a button down and comb my hair. Zoom interviews are weird. Reminds me of the promotion board I took a soldier to in Kuwait that we conducted by VTC because the board members were in Qatar. I'm still debating on wearing pants.
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