If you're a veteran returning from active duty, chances are you'll delve head first into the job market. While job searching is always a tough task, you may be faced with other problems, such as discrimination or an unemployment rate that is slightly higher than average.
So what can you do as a veteran if you can't land a job? How can you make yourself more attractive to employers? Check out these tips:
Examine your personal network
Your friends and professional associates can be a valuable part of your job search experience. Not only can they can help you to identify employment opportunities, they can also refer you to these opportunities, which greatly improves your chances. After all, most jobs are filled by referrals.
Keep in mind that these relationships should already be cultivated. That is, you shouldn't just ask people out of the blue for their assistance. A running relationship should always be occurring. As with any form of networking, you need to have already shown your value to your friends and professional associates. This way, it won't seem like you want an easy out.
Look into veteran-friendly organizations
The first place you should look in your job search are veteran-friendly organizations. These companies not only actively hire veterans, they understand your varying needs.
For example, these organizations will typically accommodate a disability or understand if you need to take a few days off due to medical reasons. Plus, by law, they have to. Under the The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), rights and benefits of military veterans are clarified by law, enforcement mechanisms are improved, and claims are processed in a more streamlined manner by the Department of Labor.
For a full list, check out the Top 100 Military-Friendly Employers.
Build your resume through volunteering and interning
If you think volunteering and interning are just for students and young professionals, you're mistaken. Many older professionals are taking internship or volunteer opportunities and using the opportunity as a stepping stone. Think of them as a necessity in today's competitive job market.
Instead of taking any old internship or volunteer opportunity however, try to obtain one in your chosen field. So, if you majored in health sciences, obtaining an internship at a clinic or a volunteer gig at a non-profit can not only boost your resume, it can also be the foot in the door you need to gain a full-time job.
Use your soft skills to get ahead
There's a skills gap these days and employers are totally aware of it. In fact, 35 percent of employers report difficulties in finding employees with the right skills. Oftentimes, the skills needed are soft skills -- in other words, those more natural skills and traits you have. For example, if you possess leadership qualities, are a natural communicator, or have a positive attitude, make this apparent in your written materials and during interviews.
Using your soft skills to get ahead is a great way to stand out from the pack. For example, showing that you were an innovator or a problem-solver during your time away is a great way to illustrate why you're a good candidate. Just be sure to paint this picture through clear examples, rather than just stating that you have good soft skills. The more background an employer knows, the better.
Tell the story of you
Your personal story is what makes you different; it's what makes you interesting and helps you stand out. Don't shy away from this story! Embrace it and tell it like it is. For example, if an employer were to ask you why you want the job, you can relate a previous experience in your military career as something that would help the organization.
You can also amp up your presence while showcasing your veteran status as an asset (not a liability) by tweeting about your job search as a veteran, blogging about real-life accomplishments, connecting with other veterans on LinkedIn, or starting discussions on Facebook.
If you're a veteran job seeker, understand that there are options for you when looking for a job. Look into veteran-friendly organizations, build your resume through volunteering and interning, use your soft skills to get ahead, and tell your story. Any one of these tactics, or the combination of a few, will greatly improve your search.
What do you think? What are some other options for veterans who can't land jobs?
Sudy Bharadwaj is a Co-Founder and the CEO of Jackalope Jobs, a platform that helps job seekers find a job via their social networks. Learn how Sudy and Jackalope Jobs obsess over job seekers by connecting with them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.