Military Transition Job Search Guide


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Top career transition and job search tips for any cleared job seeker. Get key advice on interviews, resume writing and networking for defense industry and clearance careers. This comprehensive guide provides critical, easy-to-read insight into starting or revamping your job search or building your career network. Get other news, tips and advice at

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Military Transition Job Search Guide

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  2. 2. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDETable of contents: I. Bullet Proof Your Defense Industry Resume II. The Interview III. After the Interview - The follow-up - Salary negotiation IV. Networking - Smart social media - Tips for expanding your network V. Military Transition Tips VI. Military-to-Civilian Resume Mistakes
  3. 3. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDEAs a cleared job seeker, it can be tough to know where to start. There are a variety of resources online, butif you’re looking for a career in the defense or intelligence community, your job search is unique, and you needthe specialized advice and expertise to go with it. We’ve rounded up our best advice for the cleared job seeker.As the #1 career website for cleared professionals and the industry expert in cleared social recruiting, we havethe tips you need to give your career the makeover it needs to help you get the job, keep the job, and staycompetitive in the fast-paced defense and intelligence industries. I. Bullet Proof Your Defense Industry Resume We’re starting with resumes because they’re often the first impression you’ll make on a potential employer. Take time with your resume - spell check, proofread, and ask for feedback from recruiters. Here are other tips for a bullet-proof cleared resume: Create a title better than “John Smith’s Resume.” Include skills and highlight certifications in the title. Instead of “John Smith” how about “CISSP Certified VDI Specialist.” Sounds much better. Show hiring managers the money. And we’re not talking about bribes. If you saved other companies you’ve worked for big bucks by implementing cost-cutting solutions, say so, and include actual figures. If you managed large dollar accounts, include that, as well. Dollar signs catch attention, so include them. Use keywords. It goes without saying that in today’s online search world, your resume needs to include keywords “Really analyze what you have in your for the kinds of positions you’re looking for. Search position descriptions. When you start to see common trends in wording, resume, put your strengths up front. include those in your resume as appropriate. Avoid acronyms If your strength is your clearance, in general, but don’t avoid military-or defense specific if your strength is your education, terminology. If those are the kinds of positions you’re looking for, you’ll want to include those terms. if your strength is your skills summary, or the strength is your Remember rules are made to be broken. If you’ve been job searching a while you’ve likely heard more than your share work experience – put those things of tips and tricks. Keep in mind that your resume is still all toward the front of your resume and about highlighting your skills. If you’re a veteran with 20 years in the military, you probably can’t translate all of that into a make sure they stand out.” one-page resume. Don’t try. Do what works for you and don’t —Dorion Baker feel enslaved by advice. Recruiting Manager for Intelligence, TASC
  4. 4. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE Express yourself but be cautious about being cutesy. If you’re changing careers and moving into design, public relations or sales, you can likely get by with more a creative resume design. If you’re looking to stay in the military or defense industry, you should probably stick with bold headings, assertive language, and a clean-cut resume style. Avoid passive language. If you want your resume to sink to the bottom of the pile, feel free to use general, passive words. If you want to rise to the top, use vivid imagery and be specific. Bad: Oversaw new LSS assignment in office. Better: Managed enterprise-level program, saving $200,000 annually in duplicate costs and increased overall office and employee efficiency. This is especially important for military and defense industry professionals. Many veterans are used to a culture of teamwork What you CAN and CAN’T and not accepting credit – the selfless servant. Throw that include in a resume: notion away when you write your resume and have one of your biggest fans (a spouse, coworker or even your kid) proofread your resume to make sure you’re giving yourself your full-due. What you CAN include: • Clearance level, and type Include your military service, highest rank achieved, • Polygraph and dates and any veteran’s preference or disability numbers. And be specific about the “points” you have – some positions • Skills, software & hardware need to hire a candidate with a specific point preference. proficiencies, and certifications. Include relevant overseas experience, even if it What you likely CAN’T include: was brief. This is particularly important if you’re applying • Specific project names, for overseas contracting positions. If you spent two weeks if they’re classified in a training program in Kuwait and the other candidate • Coworker and supervisor names has never been to the region, guess whose resume rises to the top? • Office size, budget Resume Related links: • Bullet Proof Your Defense Industry Resume • 10 Essential Resume Writing Tips
  5. 5. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE II. The Interview Here’s your chance to shine. The interview is where you can introduce your personality to your potential employer, highlight your skills in person and bring your resume to life. What they’re looking for: During the course of an interview, the employer will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes. Listed below are negative factors frequently evaluated during the course of an interview and those that most often lead to rejection: • Poor personal appearance. • Overbearing or overly aggressive; a conceited “superiority complex” and “know-it-all” attitude. • Inability to express thoughts clearly, poor diction or grammar. • Lack of planning for career - no purpose or goals. • Lack of interest and enthusiasm - passive and indifferent. • Lack of confidence - nervousness. • Over-emphasis on money. • Evasive - makes excuses for unfavorable factors in record. • Lack of tact, maturity, or courtesy. • Condemnation of past employers. • Failure to look the interviewer in the eye. • Limp, fishy handshake. (Tip: If you’re nervous, use antiperspirant on the palm of your hand!) • Lack of appreciation of the value of experience. • Failure to ask good questions about the job and the company. This is most important. • Persistent attitude of “What can you do for me?”
  6. 6. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE In order to not be “that guy” with the limp handshake and the negative attitude, you’ll want to prepare for the interview. Company interviewers are continually amazed at the number of applicants who drift into their offices without any apparent preparation and only a vague idea of what they are going to say. It is important to: • Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name (including correct pronunciation), and their title. • Find out specific facts about the company; where its plants, offices, or stores are located; what its products and services are; what its growth has been; and what its growth potential is for the future. There are a number of online resources providing this kind of information. Refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your former (or present) employer. While you will be expected to know a lot about a company that you have previously worked for, privacy is important. Be careful about the kind and amount of information you reveal. • Prepare the questions you will ask during the interview. Remember that an interview is a two-way street. The employer will try to determine through questioning if you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. In turn, you must determine, through questioning, whether the company will give you the opportunity for the growth and development you seek. Topics you might discuss: Some “dos” and “don’ts” • Detailed description of the position concerning the interview: • Reason the position is available • If you are interested in the position, • Culture of the company ask for it. Ask for the next interview if the situation demands. If they offer the position to you set a • The type of person that has done well definite date when you can provide an answer. • Advanced training programs available for those who demonstrate outstanding ability • Don’t be too discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific • Company growth plans and best-selling products salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with or services their office first or interview more applicants before making a decision. • The next step in the hiring process • If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and that Dress conservatively. Pay attention to all facets of your dress you have already been rejected, and grooming. Take several good copies of your resume to don’t let your discouragement show. leave with the hiring authority. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction. Interview Related links: • Thank the interviewer for their time • Personal Marketing: Guidelines for Interviewing and consideration of you. • Tips for Skype Interview Success
  7. 7. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDEI II. After the Interview The Follow-Up: Just as a great interview can win you a job, failure to follow-up properly may cost you one. If a recruiter is weighing two strong candidates, the one who follows-up appropriately will stand out, heads above the other. Here’s what to do after the interview: Craft the perfect thank you letter. Within three days, send a thank you letter to the hiring manager or individual who interviewed you. Note that if you were interviewed by a panel of people, you only need to send a thank you letter to the hiring manager or to the one or two individuals you worked with or felt a particular connection to. The question on thank-you notes is often – to email, or not to email? Given the security protocols at many agencies and defense industry offices, a hand-written note may or may not get into the right hands, and if it does, it could take weeks. If applying for a position with a smaller company, by all means go the hand-written route – it will make you stand out. If not, email is fine, but be sure to use written letter formatting (salutation, proper grammar, etc). Re-engage your network, and take advantage of face-time opportunities. If you know others working for the company you applied with, let them know you had the interview and reiterate your interest in working for the company. If there are other opportunities to reconnect with individuals who work at the company, take them – but don’t find yourself at so many similar industry events that you seem like a stalker. Consider what you’d do with an offer. After the interview, if you don’t have a good feeling about the position, don’t hound the hiring manager. In fact, if you know straight away that the job isn’t for you – the salary range isn’t adequate, the company culture isn’t a good fit, you simply don’t like the work – say so now, not after an offer. If you’re candid with the hiring manager about your needs, they might be able to find you another position. If you act over-enthusiastic right up until the offer and then reject it, count yourself out for other opportunities within that company or their sphere of influence. For veterans: Be prepared to demonstrate why your salary requirements now are much higher than they were when you were in the service. Benefits, housing allowances and other perks of military service are a part of the total compensation package – take them into consideration when referencing your previous salary.
  8. 8. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE Salary Negotiation You got the job, now you need the salary to match. While today’s job market is competitive, security-cleared salaries rose last year according to the ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey. With demand for security-cleared professionals high, you want to make sure you’re getting the salary you need. Here are a few tips to consider: • While you may be fully prepared for the discussion, don’t be the first one to bring up the subject of compensation and/or benefits. • Know that it’s acceptable to answer a question with a question. Q: How much are you looking for in a salary? A: What is the salary range you are offering for this position? • When you must say something, provide the employer with a salary range – one that is 10-15% higher than the one you’d accept. It is far easier to negotiate down than up. • If the employer offers you a lesser salary range, make your case for a higher one. Be prepared with solid work examples to back up your claim. • Don’t accept a job before you have fully negotiated both salary and benefits. • Negotiate salary first then benefits. Keep them separate. • Never accept or reject an offer on the spot. Mull it over and get back to them later. • Don’t be afraid to haggle over dollar amounts or benefits. This is business. • Be satisfied with a salary before you accept it as it becomes the basis for all your future salary increases with that company. • Make sure anything you agree upon is written down in an employment contract or offer letter, signed and blessed by both parties. After the Interview Related links: • Your Security Clearance Career Plan • Salary Negotiation Survival Skills • After the Interview: Follow-up Strategies
  9. 9. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE IV. Networking A resume helps you stand out, an interview gets you the offer, the follow-up seals the deal – and networking? It helps you keep the job, and jump forward to your next big challenge. If you work in the defense industry, networking can be a bit intimidating. When there’s a chain of command, it can be difficult to know who – if anyone – is safe to reach out to. Here are a few things to consider: • Go to defense industry career fairs and conferences. Once you connect with one person, it is easy to branch out. • Go through your entire contact list and reach out. You’ll be surprised how many people within two or three degrees of your network work in a wide array of defense industries/organizations. • Make appointments with people after getting their business cards. • Never leave an informational interview without asking if they have another contact that could help you out. This is how you expand your network Smart Social Media From LinkedIn losing 6.5 million encrypted passwords, to hackers, to the seemingly constant deluge of spam messages to email and social accounts, it may seem that the Internet is not a safe place for your job search. The reality is that with more millennials entering the market and professionals of all ages using social media at growing rates, incorporating social elements into your job search is critical. That doesn’t mean you should go online and post that you have a TS/SCI with full-scope poly to an open forum – that’s just asking to become a victim of even more spear phishing attacks. We recommend cleared professionals take advantage of the host of social recruiting elements – from job seeker profiles to niche industry groups – at the Cleared Network at The Cleared Network is the only secure, unsearchable online arena allowing cleared professionals to network directly with defense industry recruiters. Job seekers can even connect directly with the recruiter posting the position – how’s that for transparency? Don’t forget your business cards - even with the advent of social recruiting, business cards are still a great way to make connections and facilitate a follow-up. (U.S. Army photo)
  10. 10. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE We don’t expect you to stop using Facebook to help maintain your personal network, and keep in touch with friends and family. But we do know that recruiters are checking out social media sites to learn more about you online, and what they find could make a big difference. Here are tips for maintaining a professional, safe image online: Google yourself. This is generally the first recommendation I give when it comes to being aware online. No longer a sign of vanity, searching your name on search engines clues you in to what others (with intentions good or bad) might find out about you online. Easier said when you’re a Lindy Kyzer than when you’re a John Smith, so try searching with your name and employer, organization, or relevant interests. Know your settings. Did you know you can block your tweets so only individuals you approve can see them? Did you know that you can choose how you share every album of photos you post to Facebook? Whenever you post information online you should consider it a public release of information, even if your settings say otherwise. It’s like the good advice to never send an e-mail you wouldn’t want published on the front page of your favorite newspaper. Taking just a few minutes to establish strict online settings will go a long way toward keeping what you post restricted. Don’t overshare. We all have “that friend.” The one who narrates their entire life on social networking sites. “You would not believe the omelet I had for breakfast at Denny’s this morning…” Even worse – the public spats between couples splattered on one another’s Facebook walls. Such oversharing isn’t just a good way to find yourself the scourge of your friends, it’s also a great way for individuals to data-mine or target you for spear phishing campaigns. It’s fine to use social media to keep your friends informed, but be smart, and think before you post. Don’t talk about work. The best way for anyone in the intelligence community to use social media sites is to keep a clear distinction between the personal and professional. Use social media to connect with friends, not talk about your job. If you’ve ever written about how much you hate your boss online, don’t expect anyone else to want to hire you. Use a dedicated, secure network to connect professionally. Networking online (and offline) are incredibly important. That’s why the Cleared Network was created – to provide a solution for the need to connect with companies and recruiters online without sharing your information (or your resume) publicly. So if you’re looking for a place where you can highlight your skills, post your resume, and connect securely, join the ClearanceJobs Cleared Network.
  11. 11. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE Tips for expanding your network, before or after you get the job Like it or not a popular networking cliche is very apt for describing a defense industry job search - it’s not what you know it’s who you know. And it’s not just who you know who’s important - it’s how close they are to the inside of the organization you want to work for, especially if it’s one in the intelligence community. Here are a few specific strategies to consider as you expand your network: Forget the body count. Accept that numbers aren’t important here. It doesn’t matter how many people you know. It matters who you know. Focus on building a few genuine business relationships with others within your profession, in your current place of work or in the one you want to eventually call your own. Know the deal. Someone with an impressive sounding job title, a corner office with a spectacular view or a personal driver may have clout but you may have to go through lowly (and yet highly connected and perhaps influential) gatekeepers for access. When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated. ID your existing A-List. Take the time to identify those who are already in your network. Learn more about them and create opportunities for partnering with them. Try to look at everyone in a new light. How can they help you? How can you help them? Create opportunities for a genuine win-win relationship. Have an agenda. Know what your end game is before you begin to play ball. Is it your goal to meet a specific person that you can only get to via another person? Is it to pass your resume on to a hiring manager? Is it to learn more details about a soon to be announced job? Is it to become a known quantity in a particular organization? Clarity of thought will serve you well before you fumble the proverbial ball. Become indispensible. Whether you are already employed or not, you can make yourself valuable to the organization you hope to eventually call your own. If the company is rooted in your community, then be an active community member with a reason to be connected to the company. Your community could be a brick and mortar one or a cyber one. Jump in feet first and make a splash. Join the club, but not just any club. If you want to get closest to those who know about job vacancies before anyone else or you can help catapult your career efforts, then join and actively participate in professional organizations relative to your career field. Be selective and join only the one that you feel will best support your professional aspirations. Return the favors. Networking isn’t a one-way street. To be truly effective, you have to be willing to give as well as take. Focus only on what networking can do for you and your network will be weak. A weak network won’t do you any favors in the job search process. Networking Related links: • 10 Tips for Networking on the Inside • How to Network in a Hierarchical Organization • Career Networking at a Defense Industry Expo or Tradeshow
  12. 12. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE V. Military Transition Tips With veteran unemployment at record highs, a number of new initiatives aim to help veterans find employment. The fact of the matter is, most veterans have the skills coveted by employers – commitment, dedication, ability to work in a team – they just need help translating those skills into the civilian sector. Here are a few points to keep in mind if you’re a veteran making the transition from service member to civilian: Don’t expect to overhaul the organization you work for on day one. It can be intimidating for a recruiting or hiring manager to try to match the intensity of a service member’s commitment to the job. Show your personality, but be prepared to be patient – sometimes the civilian hiring process can seem just as slow as actually trying to get a plane from Kuwait to home. Recon your target. Here’s an area where your military expertise can be of particular use – use your ability to plan to your advantage, and consider each potential job prospect like its own mission. If you do the right homework, you’ll be on the job in no time. Translate your military skills. You had great overseas experience in a wide range of leadership arenas. Super. But if you write anything that looks like an MDMP (Military Decision Making Process), you’re in trouble. Communicate your skills in civilian terms, particularly the kind of terminology you see in the mission statement of the company or position description. Remember you don’t have rank anymore. Some defense contractors, in particular, may be very cognizant of the authority you held as an officer in the military. But not all will, and a 25-year-old recruiter may not have any clue that you’re a really big deal. Put on a cloak of humility and remember you’re getting back to the basics. If you get the job, you’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate why you earned those credentials. Be prepared to transition. When you entered the military you knew you had a certain term of service before you – whether you were a 3-year jobber or a 20-year lifer. In the civilian world, most employment is at-will. Meaning you may be there a week or you may be there a decade. Invest in the company, but always keep your network fresh, and be prepared to make a move.
  13. 13. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE VI. Common Military-to-Civilian Resume Mistakes Mistake #1: A resume written in a language only a fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine could truly appreciate. Command and control. Tactics. Execution of battle plans. OPTEMPO. Combat. Weaponry. Subordinates. Baseops. Insurgency. MTOE. MOUs. ABS. Line of sight. You get the technically camouflaged picture. If it sounds military, it is military. If you are targeting an employer in the greater DoD family (federal or contract), you may be able to get away with a certain level of military jargon but don’t overdo it. The first person to actually look at your resume (and decide whether or not to keep it), may not be of your unique world. Mistake #2: A resume filled with vague accomplishments. You’ve been accountable for people, dollars, programs and equipment. Your resume says as much. What it fails to say, however, is the extensive scope of that responsibility or breadth of those accomplishments. In other words, you shortchange yourself. Fix that by plugging in actual dollar amounts, percentages of savings, number of employees (don’t assume the person reading your resume knows how many people are in a platoon) and dollar values of equipment (assuming they’re unclassified). Mistake #3: A resume that lacks any type of direction whatsoever. You’re not sure what you want to do in your post uniform career and it shows exactly that on your resume. One work experience narrative is focused on one thing and the next on an entirely different area. An objective statement? What’s that? You have to decide now what you want to be when you grow up. You can always change your mind with the next version of your resume, but for this one resume, at this particular moment in time, you have to focus on one career direction. Mistake #4: A resume that goes overboard on showing education and training. Don’t misunderstand. It’s important to show your academic education and applicable training. It looks desperate, however, to list every single course you’ve completed in the last ten or 20 years. It is also unnecessary to show coursework that clearly supersedes a previous one. For example, if you mention that you earned a certificate for an advanced leadership development course, then you don’t need to list the basic one that preceded it unless you know that the employer is looking for mention of that course specifically. Mistake #5: A resume that is too short or too long. It’s difficult to cram a whole career onto one page and yet you somehow manage it in a bold case for brevity. Or perhaps brevity isn’t the issue. You have done too many things or been too many places to limit your resume to a mere two pages. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember why you are writing a resume in the first place. You want to get the attention of an employer within a 20-30 second time frame, and you want that attention to ultimately lead to an interview. You want to do that in a concise and visually appealing way. You want to limit it to no more than two pages unless you have specific directions from the potential employer to the contrary.
  14. 14. A CL E A R A NCE JOB S CA R EER GUIDE Mistake #6: A resume that sounds a little too perfect. Your work narratives sound familiar…a little too familiar. If you were to compare them with your past performance appraisals or with an entry from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), you would find striking similarities. The temptation to copy (plagiarize seems like such a harsh word) is great. Don’t do it. While you might enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling over the accolades bestowed upon you by a past rater, those aren’t your words and they are probably not the best ones you could use anyhow. If you pulled them from the DOT, they are far too generic. As painful as it may be, you have to use your own words. You can always get assistance massaging the words from your transition assistance program counselor. Mistake #7: A resume that is guilty of random acts of capitalization and other crimes against grammar. If you ever wrote an MOU, a SOP or an OPS plan, you understand the crime in question all too well. If it was important, you capitalized it. If it defied every rule taught you by former English teachers, it passed military muster. If your resume is guilty as charged here, then you may need to review the basic rules of grammar before sending it out into the civilian world. Military Transition Related links: • Veteran Career Resources • The Final Countdown: Your Military Separation Checklist • Veteran Job Search: Standing Our from the Crowd in a Competitive Job Market