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The Talent 411 with Chris Galy: A Veteran’s ride into the career zone

Chris Galy
Findem Chief Evangelist
November 13, 2023

Career transition is hard...Whether recruiting a career change candidate or making the change yourself, you’re heading into the danger zone.

“The danger zone is when the pilot pushes the jet into overload, testing the mettle of both the pilot and the plane,” says Kenny Loggins. In recognition of Veteran’s Day, let’s take a ride into the “career zone,” a twist on one of my favorite songs of all time. So yes, pun intended.

Successful military to civilian career transitions are extremely complex. Managing the transition becomes a full time job that feels like the upside down in Stranger Things. To survive, you need skills and capabilities that you don’t learn in military training. 

On active duty, Mother Military gives you orders telling you where to go, what your job is, and when to be there. In the civilian world, career management goes from “we” to “me” which is a huge mindset shift and one that can be very uncomfortable for people who are conditioned to be a team player above all. This blog has tips for Veterans making the transition and for companies looking to hire them.

Tips for Veterans as candidates

Many companies have commitments to hire Veterans and their spouses. They are looking for you, but may not know exactly how to find you. Once they find you, they may not know how to fully assess your experience. That’s the work you’ll need to do to go from candidate to employee. 

Back to basics

Today, the job search still starts with a well written resume and well-groomed LinkedIn profile. Consider both as part of your marketing plan, with a goal of getting noticed and maybe even a phone screen. But once you get past the basics, you enter the career zone, where you have to show up as the best choice for the role. 

Focus on the business value

There are many more ways to highlight value-add than just technical skills. Seek to understand the business needs they seek to impact with this hire. If you understand what value they expect the role to bring to the company, you can marry that to a clear set of skills and attributes that have made you successful in your military exploits, you can win them over. And once that door is opened, they will understand more deeply how your unique value pitch aligns with the company’s needs - and not for just this role but for those to come. 

Develop your value pitch

What gets you interviews and on the path to a new position is the ability to convince the hiring team that you can do the job and enhance the team. Never sell yourself and your experience short! 

You’ll be competing with candidates who have the exact experience in the same industry as the open role. Unlike most peers in industry, you have a broad range of real world experiences alongside a myriad of personal, team, and management skills. Your mission is to build a bridge from required skills to professional attributes to those the company is seeking. It pays dividends to help their recruiters help you. 

To start, break down the job description into skills and attributes required to be successful. If they don’t post them in the job description, do your research on their careers site and make your best effort to make the linkage. Another tip is to study their employees on LinkedIn and view the listed skills for those doing the same work. Map those requirements to your experience with specific examples. That is the foundation to your value pitch.

  • Provide a brief introduction about your background
  • Highlight the attributes that set you apart from other candidates
  • Explain why this company and this role is important to you
  • Frame your skills and attributes as value you will bring to the company by focusing on solving problems and contributing to success
  • Express your interest for a next step 

Once you have your story down, practice, practice, practice delivering your value pitch to friends, colleagues, or other job seekers.

Align your value pitch to real jobs

Employers are inundated with applicants these days. Make sure that you apply to jobs you really want, where you can make a difference, and match career goals. If you’re not sure, ask for help. Some people will be happy to have an informational interview with you and answer questions about what they do and what they hire for. Map out the Veterans working there and reach out to them. If they have a Veteran Employee Resource Group, hit them up too.

These online and AI resources can help: 

  • Build your profile to convert military experiences to civilian, including titles and skills 
  • Paste the job description (JD) of interest into Bard, ChatGPT, or other AI tools and ask what skills are required? 
  • Paste your resume into the same and ask what skills are described and compare your skills to those in the JD
  • Paste the JD and ask for a set of interview questions. Use these to prepare

Keep in mind that some roles will require specific experience or certifications that are non-negotiable. Don’t go after those.

Tips for companies hiring Veterans

Understanding how military work and experiences translate into the civilian sector is more than just the Veteran’s responsibility. Employers need to educate themselves on this as well. 

The game of keyword matching between resumes and job descriptions puts Veteran job seekers at a disadvantage. Don’t just post a job and screen people out who don’t have a 95% keyword match. You’re truly missing out on talent who are experienced, self-reliant, loyal, disciplined, and true team players. 

Build from the inside out

Leverage the Veterans inside your organization to better understand what success looks like. Do the work to understand which skills and attributes are predictors of success inside and outside of your organization. Seek insights and trends among the Veterans in your organization and bring them into your research. Leverage your Veteran Employee Resource Groups and if you don’t have one, start one or invite them to informal meetups. Pizza and libations work universally well with affinity groups just as they do with engineering teams. 

Commit to Veterans-specific programs

Companies that do this well often have programs to educate hiring managers and recruiting teams on the military culture and talent. They might also have dedicated programs to hire, onboard, and train Veterans. Many have dedicated recruiting and sourcing teams.

These programs tend to work best at scale, but don’t be afraid to start small:

  • Attend a military career conference or employment event with Vets in Tech
  • Reach out to a local base and ask when the next career conference is
  • Partner with Work for Warriors or one of many amazing organizations helping place Veterans 
  • Or ping folks like me or Beau Higgins (my high school football teammate) to help you think through your strategies

Get into the danger zone

This might sound to experienced talent teams like hiring for “potential.” And that is true to an extent, but lazy at the same time. Lazy? Yes, LAZY. 

Veterans aren’t untested talent. These men and women are super validated, way beyond what our work lenses allow us to imagine. So if you hire Veterans solely for their “potential,” that simply means you are too lazy to deeply assess Veteran talent.

Companies and talent professionals, in particular, need to do more than just compare resumes to job descriptions. On the flip side, candidates need to do more to understand where their unique life and career experiences will be of value to companies that are hiring.

How Findem uncovers Veteran talent by attributes

At Findem, we love attributes and skills. In fact, we started this company with a belief that we could turn the workforce system - and all of its inefficiencies - on its head by focusing on skills and attributes as the fundamental elements of hiring and selection instead of resumes and job descriptions.

Findem’s Talent Data Cloud offers our customers incredible insights into data such as Veteran status, security clearance, and service affiliations. It also allows TA teams and hiring managers to understand the Veteran talent available in the market to help you meet hiring goals. 

Veterans can often end up underemployed, so Findem can help you level up Veteran talent within your organization today through internal mobility. Our customer relationship technology allows for veteran focused campaigns and talent communities for ongoing relationships.

As well, we’ve donated our technology to Veteran Service Officers partnering with Work for Warriors, a free job placement program, to build better transition experiences. 

A Veteran’s message from the career zone

To Veterans 

As this message is directed to US Veterans, I’ll leave you with this. You are not alone in your quest, please realize that you have access to more resources than Veterans in any other country and most other job seekers in ours. 

You also need to understand that a job search is difficult for just about everyone. To outsmart and outplay the competition, do your homework, understand how to both tell and show what you can do. 

To companies

Push yourselves beyond today’s current assessment processes. Try starting with skills and attributes that go beyond a specific industry requirement. Resist laziness in your talent processes. 

Trust me, I’m respectful of all the challenges we face in our work, but today’s assessment norms are not enough. Start small. It could open your mind in ways you’d never predict.

Salute to Veterans

To our Veterans and their loved ones, thank you for your service. Even though transitions are difficult and stressful, you are blessed with a lot of companies and people who care about you and want to help. Your next mission is to build the bridge to your civilian career. 

To those in the talent profession who’ve made it this far: thank you for all you do to help Veterans and their loved ones transition from military to civilian careers. We’ve made tons of progress over the years but still have a long way to go. Your continued support is appreciated. 

If you have a trend or specific topic worth discussing in an upcoming webinar or sharing of any kind, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

Godspeed, happy November and always be recruiting!

- CG