How to get a Job after the Military: Everything You Need to Know

After being in the military for years, transitioning into the civilian world is hard. Not only do your civilian friends not get your jokes, but there is SO much to do. The number one thing that we hear from almost every transitioning veteran is they want to know how to get a high paying job after the military.

G.I. Jobs is here to tell you that and fill in the gaps to share everything TAP didn’t teach you. We’ll cover everything from setting up your social media for success to writing your resume to stand out.

Read each section for a step-by-step guide to get the job you want or search through the sections to find answers to all of your questions around the job process.

Where do I start the job search process?

There are a lot of misunderstandings about finding a civilian career. The first step to getting the job you want after the military, before you even type up your resume, is to do a self-evaluation

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • How much do I need to make?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • What really makes me happy?

There are so many job opportunities, and the idea of just how many are out there can be stressful. If you start with assessing everything that you want in your career, that will help you narrow down your job search.

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a career after the military, it’s time to write up why an employer would want to hire you. Type up every accomplishment you can think of from your career. It helps to brainstorm what to put on your resume. Then you’ll need to format your resume, but we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves.

We’re going to walk you through the steps to take to get the job you want after the military.

Build Your Job Search Strategy

How to Write a Resume & Cover Letter

Translating Your Military Experience

Before you start applying to jobs, you need to know the dos and donts of writing the perfect resume. Step 1 is to translate your military experience and start your resume.

What Skills To Put On A Resume

Crafting your resume is like writing up a caption for your dating profile. Most of the time, the person reading about you has no idea who you are, so this is going to give them a first impression. What do you want that person to know? What type of person do you want them to think you are? What qualities do you have that you think they want?

When you’re writing your resume you have to tailor all of the skills and experience you have for what the employer wants.

You want to avoid these common military resume mistakes, and make your resume stand out. Before you do that, you need to know about the types of skills that you should include on your resume: soft skills and hard skills.

What does that even mean? Glad you asked!

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are personality traits or characteristics that make you the right fit for the company culture and the right person for the job.

A few examples of soft skills:

  • Professionalism
  • Creative problem solving
  • Strong initiative
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Flexible or Adaptable

As a veteran, you might resonate with some of these skills. The military trained you to be adaptable, have a strong work ethic, and more. You can use these military traits to land the job.

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are abilities you’ve learned through your career experience, certifications, or courses.

A few examples of soft skills:

  • Web: HTML, CSS, Javascript
  • Research
  • CRM Platforms
  • Social Media
  • MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint)

How To Translate Your Military Skills

Now that we’ve covered the types of skills you need to add to your resume, let’s talk about how to write your achievements in a way any civilian can understand.

Here are a few ways to civilianize your resume:

  1. Can you pass the “seven seconds test?”
  2. Did you ask a civilian to read your resume? Do they understand it?
  3. Throw out the Alphabet Soup. Paraphrase the acronym in civilian terms if you need to.
  4. Put your training and education front and center.

Formatting Your Federal Resume Vs. Civilian Resume

In the video below, the VA shares the difference between a federal and private sector resume. With a federal resume, you’ll want to be very detailed.

Formatting Your Federal Resume

Formatting Your Civilian Resume

How long should a resume be?

One page. The person reading your resume is busy. Don’t give them an essay to sift through. Give them an easily digestible one-pager.

Your resume should highlight your achievements that make you qualified for the position you’re applying to. Is the job descriptions three pages? Unlikely. Let that be your guide to what you share on your resume.

What is a Cover Letter for a resume?

You know when you come across a bad commercial, and you think “What the hell was that guy thinking?” The marketer missed the mark. Think of a cover letter like an ad. How can you persuade the potential employer that you are without a doubt the BEST person for the job?

A cover letter is what translate all the attributes that you wrote on your resume into benefits for your potential employer. Visit the company website and research the company values. Can you add how you would fit their company culture? An effective cover letter finds ways that your strengths play into the company’s needs.

Veteran Networking Events & Job Fairs

So you created your resume and an outline of your cover letter. And you’re ready to apply to jobs, right?

You could start applying to every job you see on the G.I. Jobs Career Portal, but a 2016 LinkedIn study showed that 70% of people were hired at a company where the person already had a connection.

That’s why it’s crucial for you to grow your professional network and attend veteran hiring events where you can get directly in front of recruiters.

Attend a few veteran happy hours and networking events to meet people who can help you get a job.

Ways to Use Social Media to Find a Job

A man holding his phone joining LinkedIn on his iphone's homescreen

One of the best ways to find a job after the military is to put yourself out there. Reconnect with old friends on social media platforms to start building your network. Setting up a profile on social media networks like LinkedIn helps recruiters find you and even friends with companies hiring.

Build Your LinkedIn Profile

Having a basic LinkedIn profile set up is just the beginning. You should use each section and feature to the fullest, including volunteer information, asking for and giving recommendations, listing skills, etc. Be sure to update your official service photo with a photo of you in professional civilian attire. 

According to a recent study, 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn during their recruitment process.

It’s a great tool to get hired after the military so learning how to use LinkedIn is an essential step in your job search process.

1. Get A Headshot for your LinkedIn Picture

2. Update Your About Section with Relevant Experience

3. Follow Channels

4. Add experience from your resume

5. Let Recruiters Know Your Open To Jobs

6. Actively Post Thought Pieces To Your Network

7. Search for Jobs

Free & Paid Professional Resources

G.I. Jobs Career Portal

The G.I. Jobs Career Portal is a free veteran job board that features companies hiring veterans. To use the job board, you can create your profile and browse open positions on the platform.

GI Jobs Career Portal home screen

Create Your G.I. Jobs Profile

When you get to the home screen, click candidates to create a profile on the G.I. Jobs Career Portal.

You can upload your Resume and add additional information. (Don’t worry, you’ll be able to edit your information later!)

GI Jobs Career Portal Login

Add Your Experience & Resume

In the portal, you can upload multiple resumes. You might have a few resumes that you keep in rotation that are tailored to different jobs.

Save Your Job Searches

Once you have your information in the Career Portal, it’s time to start searching for jobs. If you have various job searches in different cities or different positions, you can save these positions.

As an example, I have a search saved for Advertising and Public Relations in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

From there, I can save the search. That way when I log into the Career Portal, it’s really easy for me to sort through the job openings in that industry.

G.I. Jobs Career Portal Job Search

Professional Resources: Career Coaches, Recruiters, and Headhunters

Some other professional resources that can help expedite your veteran job search are career coaches, headhunters and recruiters. A career coach or career counselor can walk you through your career goals and personally guide you through the job search process. The goal of recruiters and headhunters is to find candidate to fill open positions. Although both are similar, their are some key differences between headhunters versus recruiters.

Career Coach

A career coach can help you with your job search strategy, reviewing your resume, updating your LinkedIn account, or even practicing interview with you.


Typically headhunters work with companies to source the best candidates for the company’s open positions. Most times they’ll find candidates who are already employed rather than actively searching for jobs. You can find a headhunter by making meaningful connections and updating your LinkedIn profile regularly.


A recruiter typically pre-screens candidates for open positions. They work with all kinds of job markets and aim to connect the best candidates with jobs their suited for. You might get messages on LinkedIn from recruiters. If you follow up with them, they’ll have a quick conversation with you that’s like a pre-interview to make sure you check the right boxes before they send you on to interview with the company.

Networking & Job Fairs

How to Prepare for a Job Fair

Sometimes you submit a few applications and never hear back from a company. Well, job fairs are a great way to learn more about companies and actually talk to a real person about an open position.

There are a few things you MUST do before you attend a job fair.

  1. Research the jobs ahead of time
  2. Plan to approach the employer
  3. Have your elevator pitch ready
  4. Dress like you’re going to an interview (if it’s in person)
  5. Plan to follow up

Interview Tips for Success

How to Prepare for an Interview

So you got an interview? Congrats! You’re one step closer to getting the job. Here are a few  interview tips that will get you hired.

If an interviewer asks, “Why should we hire you?” Are you ready to respond with a great answer? You need to be. Before your interview, practice answering these common interview questions with a friend or professional.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you’re interviewing for a career with the VA or a civilian job, there are a few key dos and donts. The employer liked what they saw on your resume, so this interview is to check in and make sure you talk the talk, walk the walk. There are a few interview mistakes you can avoid.

  1. Using military lingo
  2. Dressing inappropriately
  3. Failing to research the company
  4. Rambling
  5. Leaving without asking the interviewer questions

Types of Interviews

Most companies have a few types of interviews in their hiring process.

Phone Interviews

Phone interviews generally take place early in the interview process. If you’re contacted by a recruiter, you’ll likely have a quick phone interview screening. A second or third interview might take place over the phone. Make sure you have good service and minimal background noise before your interviewer.

Virtual Video Interviews

A virtual video interview might take place anywhere in the screening or interview process. The pandemic really pushed companies to embrace video interviews. Check your wifi connection and test the system the company is using a few minutes before you sign on for the virtual video.

In-Person Interviews

An in-person interview typically means that you’re close to sealing the deal! For an in-person interview, make sure you show up about 15 minutes early and be prepared. Dress professionally and bring your resume with you. It sets the tone for the meeting and gives a good first impression.

How to follow up to an interview

So, you’re done with the interview. Now what? It’s time to slam dunk. Draft a follow up email that highlights the following:

  • Summarize the main reasons they should hire you.
  • Show that you know general business etiquette.
  • Reinforce your desire to work for them.
  • Answer any open questions that came out of the interview.

Negotiating the Job Offer

How long can you take to respond to a job offer

You mastered the interview and you’ve been offered the job! Almost time to celebrate!

Don’t blindly accept the position. You can take some time to review the job offer thoroughly.

How to Negotiate Your Salary & Benefits

Before you get back to the employer to tell them you’re work 250,000 per year with a month of vacatoin time, we want to make suggestions on negotiating your salary.

  1. Research salaries for similar positions in your industry.
  2. Become familiar with benefit packages.
  3. Understand that the company can only offer so much​

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Easy Access Account

Save your favorite information and recieve the latest on jobs, education, and franchise oppertunities. Just enter your email address for initiall registration and subsequent logins


Easy Access Account

Save your favorite information and recieve the latest on jobs, education, and franchise oppertunities. Just enter your email address for initiall registration and subsequent logins

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