As part of my ongoing work with Wounded Warriors, I recently led a federal resume-writing workshop with twenty post-9/11 veterans who are pursuing degrees. The students in the group were all under the age of 25 and had no civilian work experience. Their occupational specialties in the military included rifleman, sniper, motor operator, helicopter crew chief and morse code interpreter. Most of the students have completed multiple tours in Afghanistan.
Overall, the veterans' college majors had little to do with their work in the military. The degrees ranged from Exercise Therapy, Psychology, and Philosophy. Unfortunately, many veteran students do not realize that their military experience is relevant, and many skills they gained serving their country are transferable. Instead, students toss their military experience aside and hope to land a competitive job after college with only their college degree. This article offers case examples of how career service professionals can help these veterans.
Identifying Positions and Competencies
Start by studying the federal website, USAJOBS.gov, to find positions that will maximize both military experience and college degree. These positions with the federal government offer pay and training progression, excellent salary and benefits, as well as a stable career. I recommend that veterans focus on competencies they gained in the military, such as leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving.
If the competencies are not included in the job announcement itself, see if they are implied in the language describing the job duties. For example, when an announcement says, “ability to multi-task,” I assume the job seeker must be good under pressure and have critical-thinking skills. Look at the positions and competencies and ask:
What does the person in this job really do?
What do they have to be good at?
What are the challenges of this particular job?
What would a successful employee bring to this job?
Conduct research into federal agencies and departments to understand their current goals and problems. Research helps answer these questions.
Four Case Examples of Connecting Military & College Experience and Federal Jobs
Case Example 1: Sean
MAJOR: Exercise Therapy, MILITARY JOB TITLE: Rifleman
FEDERAL JOB RECOMMENDATION: Morale, Welfare and Recreation department
Sean said that he had no idea what job he wanted after he completed his degree. He also did not know how to relate his military occupation as a Rifleman to any career in the field of Exercise Therapy. Looking at USAJOBS, I found numerous positions in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation area.
These are athletic, wellness and morale-building jobs at every military base in the world. The MWR staff work with the family members of active-duty military. This is a great career for an experienced Afghanistan deployed Rifleman, who understands the challenges of service.
Competencies matching the Recreation Specialist career: The Rifleman position requires attention to detail, teamwork, critical thinking, negotiations, planning, coordination, mentoring, communications skills, instructing, scheduling skills, and the ability to multi-task. The young professional in the recreation industry will utilize these skills daily, in addition to using the college emphasis in recreation activities, scheduling, instruction, teamwork and mentoring.
Case Example 2: John
MAJOR: Business Administration, MILITARY JOB TITLE: Motor Vehicle Operator
FEDERAL JOB RECOMMENDATION: Pathways Student Trainee in Contracting, Dept. of the Army
John is in his third year of his Business Administration (BS) degree and wanted an internship to give him experience while he is in college. Pathways Internships are for students who are in school full-time or part-time and will result in a permanent position if his performance is excellent and he completes the required hours. His experience as a Motor Vehicle Operator in Afghanistan will be good background for business contracting.
Competencies matching the Contracting Student position: John’s military work included inventory control, supply management, transportation planning, and emergency planning and working as a team. Driving supplies on dangerous roads required careful planning, performance under deadlines and logistical skills. This military experience will give the Student Trainee insight into meeting the military customer requirements.
Case Example 3: Susan
MAJOR: Mathematics, MILITARY JOB TITLE: Morse Code Operator
FEDERAL JOB RECOMMENDATION: Pathways Student Trainee, Mathematician, US Census Bureau
Susan finished her four-year tour in the US Army with two tours in Afghanistan. She is strong in mathematics and will use her technical skills in a STEM position. A Pathways Internship position with the Census Bureau, as it moves toward the Dicentennial census, needs “bright, innovative, results-oriented individuals”.
This is the specialization that is of interest to Susan at Census: “Student Trainee 1599 - Mathematics and Statistics - (Majors such as Statistics, Math, Psychology, Sociology, Business Administration, Operations Research, Public Policy, Marketing, Demography, Economics).”
Competencies matching the Mathematics Student position: Susan’s military career as Morse Code Operator involved extensive mathematical, statistical skills, critical thinking, meeting deadlines, and preparing reports for senior managers. She was skilled with quick turnaround deadlines and multi-tasking. These skills are invaluable at the Census Bureau where the agency compiles numerous national reports on population, economy, employment, education, income and even military statistics.
Case Example 4: Pedro
MAJOR: Psychology, MILITARY JOB TITLE: Sniper
FEDERAL JOB RECOMMENDATION: Community Outreach Specialist, FBI
Pedro went into the military right out of high school. He was a US Army Scout Sniper with three tours in Afghanistan. He graduated from the US Army Sniper School at age 20. Pedro decided that he wanted to become a communicator and educator in law enforcement to communities. A position as Community Outreach Specialist, where he would speak to communities on crime, gangs, safety and guns, would be perfect for his next career. Career growth at the FBI is extensive.
Competencies matching the FBI position: Pedro was trained in intelligence, stalking, critical thinking, data collection and emergency planning. He is good under pressure and understands the psychological and community ramifications of violence.
While these are only four examples, hundreds more can make the connection between military and college with the help of a career services practitioner.
Kathryn Troutman wrote the first book on federal resume writing in 1996, and then wrote 5 more books. Ms. Troutman has created federal resume formats that match the governments’ changing application requirements. Ms. Troutman founded the Certified Federal Job Search Trainer program which licenses career professionals to teach Ten Steps to a Federal Job™. This course is taught around the world at military base transition centers and university career centers. As a GSA contractor, The Resume Place training team teaches federal resume writing to government agency employees. firstname.lastname@example.org