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Job Application Assistance

photo of Spc. Joshua Robinson creating his resume

Source: 172nd Public Affairs Detachment photo by Spc. Joshua Barnet

Transitioning from active-duty service to civilian employment can be a challenging process that takes careful planning and thought for some service members and veterans. During the transition to a civilian job, it is important to emphasize the skills you developed while in the military and develop a personal network of trusted individuals who can assist you with your job search. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. Given the realities of the current job market, it is more important than ever to highlight your experience and develop a personal network to find the right position that matches your skills and career goals. This article provides tips to help you write an engaging resume, develop and leverage your personal network to find job opportunities, and understand veteran hiring policies and veteran-specific job programs and resources.

Writing an Effective Resume

Creating a resume is one of the first steps you can take to highlight the skills and knowledge you gained while serving in the military. A resume is a written document that describes your personal experience, training and education in a format that a potential employer can quickly review to assess your qualifications for a job. Writing an effective resume is an important part of any job search since a well-prepared resume can: 1

  • Serve as a marketing tool to highlight your unique experiences
  • Summarize how your skills and abilities can contribute to an employer’s company
  • Distinguish yourself from other applicants and help you get a job interview

Creating a resume that clearly describes your unique experiences and what you can offer an employer is one way to help set yourself apart from other applicants. Use the following tips to write a resume that will help highlight your skills: 2

  • Follow an Easy-to-Read Structure – Write in a format that an employer can easily scan to understand your experience, with your most recent experience listed first. Avoid large blocks of text and instead use bullets to describe your experiences.
  • Do Your Research – Know what skills the employer is looking for and any industry specific key words that you should include in your resume.
  • Emphasize Relevant Content – Highlight the most relevant content and de-emphasize less relevant experience to match your job and career goals.
  • References – Prospective employers may want to contact people who can answer questions about your work history, skills, abilities and work style. Including a statement at the end of your resume, such as “References available upon request,” lets a prospective employer know that they can follow-up with you to obtain contact information for your references. Doing so will help you identify the most appropriate references based on the employment opportunity and give you the opportunity to let your reference know that a prospective employer may contact them. For additional information on selecting a reference, visit Career One Stop’s References webpage.

Learn more about the types of information to include in your resume, how you can translate your military experiences into career skills and view sample resume formats by visiting the following resources:

Developing a Personal Network

Your resume is one tool to use during the job application process. However, contacts in your personal network can often play an important role in securing an interview and ultimately landing a job. Your personal network includes all of the individuals in your personal and professional life who can serve as a resource in your job search. Individuals in a personal network can include relatives, friends, neighbors, former command and unit members, association members, Vet Center employees, teachers, classmates, social media contacts, clergy and congregation members. Before contacting individuals, make sure you complete post-government (military) service employment restrictions counseling to understand any potential conflicts of interest. Service members are required to complete this counseling during the transition process, prior to being released from active duty. For more information, contact the Transition Assistance Program at your installation or use the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS database to find a transition office in your community.

Networking is an important part of any job search since organizations are often more likely to hire someone they know or who was recommended by a trusted source.3 Using your network when applying for jobs can help you uncover positions that were recently posted or find a more specialized job in your preferred industry. The chart below provides steps you can take to build your personal network and pitfalls to avoid when networking: 3

How To Build a Personal Network
Do Don't
Make a list of everyone you know, including your social media contacts Post unprofessional comments or overshare information with professional social media contacts
Contact individuals in your network to explain your background and learn about their industry Ask for a job before establishing a relationship with the individual
Thank your contacts for their help and advice Forget that your contacts are volunteering their time to help you
Follow up periodically to see if your contacts have any new leads Be afraid to ask for help
Attend veterans’ job fairs or industry events to make connections in your preferred field/industry Attend job fairs that are far beyond your scope of expertise
Join a social, trade or professional organization Misrepresent your professional skills, trade or work experience
Volunteer for an organization related to your preferred field Be afraid to spend time volunteering or serving as an intern for a period of time

Veteran Hiring Policies and Job Programs and Opportunities

As a veteran, you may be entitled to hiring rights provided by veteran-oriented government initiatives and policies. This is especially true for veterans who have received a disability rating for an injury while serving on active duty. Some of the hiring benefits available to veterans include:

  • Veterans’ Preference gives special preference to eligible, transitioning service members, and veterans applying for federal jobs. Find more information about individual eligibility.
  • Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans include specific authorities that federal agencies can choose to use at their discretion when hiring veterans. A few of the specific authorities include the:

There are also a variety of federal and nonprofit organizations that provide services specifically to help veterans identify job opportunities or enter into job programs. A few of these programs include:

By better understanding your hiring rights as a veteran, developing a resume that effectively highlights your skills and establishing a network of close contacts, you can be better prepared to enter the civilian workplace in a job that matches your career goals. As you transition to your civilian career, keep in mind the psychological resilience skills that you learned and used during your military service to help you cope with the stress often experienced with job searching.

Additional Resources


1VA for Vets Resume Building Guide,” (n.d.) Department of Veterans Affairs. [PDF 3.33MB] 
2Resume Guide," CareerOneStop. Last accessed Nov. 24, 2015.
3Focused Jobseeking: A Measured Approach to Looking for Work,” [PDF 932KB] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Published Spring 2011.

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