How to Have a Successful Job Hunt as a Veteran: 5 Tips from a Schwab Recruiter
By Andie T.
Transitioning out of any career field or job can be nerve-wracking – we don’t want it to be. This transition can especially be difficult for those who have served in the military and are returning to civilian life. For those veterans who are looking at their next career opportunity at Schwab or beyond, I spoke with one of our Sourcing Advisors, Brooke M., to hear what advice she’d give veterans when applying and interviewing for new opportunities. Brooke comes from a military family herself and with many of her family members serving as Army Rangers or in the Air Force, Brooke has a strong passion for veterans and those who serve their country. Brooke is also heavily involved with the Military Veterans Network, one of the many Employee Resources Groups we have here at Schwab. Read on to see what tips Brooke shared below:
1. Find your passion
After many Veterans have served their time in the military, it’s quite common that they have held several different roles throughout their enlistment. As Brooke explains, “Being in the military, veterans have a title and a rank. That is the baseline for what they do, but they also wear about 13 other hats. I’ve never seen another organization where you can be a technical project manager, but you’re still working with operations, you’re doing back-end HR work, and you’re mopping the kitchen floors if they need you to.” Brooke further mentioned she tends to have exploratory calls with veterans and in those conversations, she tries to get to the bottom of where their true passion lies by asking: “What is your passion? You’ve lived in several different locations, where you do want to be? Where does your family want to be? What does the work-life balance look like for you and where you’re going? Of those roles that you’ve held in the past, where did you find joy? Was one role particularly enjoyable for you? Were there any responsibilities you dreaded while enlisted?”
1a. Refer to your ASVAB test
Brooke recommends leaning on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery Test, or ASVAB test if you're struggling to find where your passion really lies. This is a test that, “essentially all individuals that want to go into the military take. It’s roughly a 3-hour exam that captures strengths, areas of interest, and the ability to understand mechanisms in order to see where in the military you’d be a good fit. Even if what you did in the military didn’t directly translate to your ASVAB results, most companies will look at transferrable skillsets. For example, if you worked as an Operations Project Manager and a Naval Ship Mechanic, yet you want to apply to work as a Financial Advisor, we understand that in order to be successful in Operations, you need to have a strong ability to communicate. That experience coupled with the desire to go into the financial services industry may entice companies to reach out.”
2. Translate military skills on your resume in an understandable manner for recruiters.
While some skills like being a marksman, diffusing time-sensitive threats, or overseeing the distribution of tankers might not necessarily transfer directly into corporate buzzwords, the skills needed to accomplish those tasks can be utilized for success in a corporate environment. Some of these skills could be re-categorized as having the ability to “assess the situation, work well under pressure, ability to give and take orders in a high-stress situation, strategize and prioritize, and calculate the downward effects of potential actions”.
Brooke also elaborates on how to view your skills from a different perspective: “It comes down to a strategic mindset. It’s taking a basic task and breaking it out into separate entities from a corporate mindset on how and what skills can translate to working that specific position and that is a hard thing to capture. If you’re not in the corporate bubble and you’re not hearing these buzzwords all the time or seeing how teams are functioning, including what the project work entails, it gets really hard to compare what you’re doing from a military standpoint into a corporate setting.”
Another point to keep in mind is that Schwab prides itself on values of trust, innovation, teamwork, and being stewards – values similar to those in the military. The same service veterans provided to their country and others can also be easily transferred to serving a community of people focused on providing financial wellness.
If this is an area that you’re struggling to navigate, a Civilian to Military Translator tool can help with bridging the gap between civilian and military roles.
3. Reach for the S.T.A.R.s
Here at Schwab, we use a behavioral-based interviewing methodology called the S.T.A.R. Method. S.T.A.R. stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This type of interviewing methodology allows recruiters and hiring managers alike to ask situational questions and get specific answers from candidates. This is a common style that many other companies use as well. To be successful throughout the interview process, Brooke recommends that once you are interviewing with the recruiter, “Come prepared with a rolodex of specific examples that relate to the job at hand. For example, if you are interviewing for a client-facing role, have a few samples of a time you went above and beyond to serve a client while still staying compliant ready to go. Having ideas of examples prepared alleviates panic during an already potentially stressful experience. Also, show your personality! Expand on your answers and show excitement in your voice and body language. We love to see passion in the corporate world. We want to know who you are.”
4. Network, network, network
When applying to any role, many resumes can get lost in the pile. To make a resume and yourself as a candidate stand out, Brooke suggests: “When you apply to a role, if you don’t have a personal connection, you’re just a piece of paper – you’ve got to make sure that piece of paper speaks to the person reading it. My advice to these veterans is to find an opportunity or a company that you want to apply to and start reaching out to people in the business and in Talent Acquisition. Network for yourself. Say ‘Hey, I’m transitioning out of the military, I see you have a great military program at this company, and I’m interested in XYZ. Can we set up a quick 20 minutes to chat?’. Network within the group or the team, have people start being your advocate, and that always helps. Also, make sure your resume represents your experience in a way that is relatable to the position at hand. A great practice is to make sure your resume is free from grammatical and formatting errors. Your resume is most likely the first impression the recruiter/ hiring manager will have of you so make sure it’s a good one!”
5. Have a plan when it comes to compensation
Another variable that typically changes when transitioning careers is the compensation piece. As you go about changing salaries, Brooke emphasizes to veterans that, “You have so much experience, don’t short sell yourself just because we’re not translating that. Let’s do a better job of communicating what you bring to the table and put you in a role that’s better aligned.” In addition, Brooke also notes to “make sure upfront that the salary is in line with what you can live on. I always tell candidates to take a night, think it over, talk to their spouse or family and see if the change in pay is doable for them to start this corporate career.”
To help with figuring out financial components to your career, as well as helpful information regarding transition and career assistance for vets, check out the resources below:
- PayScale Calculator
- Civilian Pay vs Military Pay for Retirement
- My Next Move - Career Finder for Vets
- Transition Assistance
- Employee & Veteran Resources for being competitive in the job market