The Laws of Transition — Article 01

An Effective Resume

Somewhere between ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘saving the world’ we became lost…

Post 9–11 saw a military support movement in the United States unlike any in recent history. People and companies banded together, supporting our troops and passing legislation to ensure our Veterans were both protected and cared for.

In our societal efforts to help our veterans, we seem to have forgotten the difference between a hand-out and a hand-up. The very legislation constructed to ensure veterans ‘have a life’ after service, has become so cumbersome and awkward to maneuver within that it takes the rise of an industry to navigate even simple hiring processes. There are some legitimate reasons for this, such as the compliance laws that protect veterans working and pursuing careers within organizations having large military contracts. However, basic hiring practices and candidate ownership have been blurred in the process.

The basics, as I see them, are that great companies hire great people. For example, Southwest Airlines Values state ‘Warrior Spirit’, ‘Servant’s Heart’ and ‘FunLUVing Attitude’ as core principles of both their leadership team and their hiring process. As Veterans, we embody those traits. The issue seems to be getting those traits communicated effectively.

In this series of Laws of Transition articles, Bernard Edwards and I will cover the principles of a successful transition to include resume effectiveness, social awareness, personal branding and positioning to win. In this first article, we will focus on the tenants of an effective resume.

If you are a transitioning Veteran looking for a career outside of military service, you must own your transition. There are lots of great services available to Veterans, and we suggest that you seek them out, however, you control your destiny and are accountable for your success. As Bernard Edwards states “If you don’t shape your narrative, someone else is going to build one for you, possibly based on negative stereotypes of veterans.” “Without owning the action, nothing will happen.”

Transition Effort:

The effort necessary to have a successful transition starts the day you decide to leave the military, if not earlier. Plan on a minimum of six months, more is recommended, prior to your separation date to ensure you are transition-ready.

“Change Before You Have to.” — Jack Welch

Current market rhetoric will have you focused on shifting from military to civilian speak as part of your preparation to leave service. You’ll hear the term “civilian-ready” used often. We prefer the term transition-ready. Although terminology translation should certainly be part of your resume building process, the larger effort should be focused on understanding effective communication and branding.

A Change in Veteran Mindset:

Consider this. You’re not a great person because you’re a Veteran…you’re a Veteran because you’re a great person. The military of today is comprised of an entirely voluntary force, assembled from approximately 1% of the US population. Most, of which, have an innate belief of the greater good; to serve and protect those who cannot protect themselves. Along the way, these individuals become some of the greatest leaders, organizers, team builders and coaches ever acknowledged.

The “corporate” view of individualism is new to military personnel, who focus on the success of the team above themselves. Unfortunately, companies generally don’t hire teams. Companies hire individuals to become a valuable part of the team that already exists. Because of this, it is necessary, as Veterans, to shift your mindset and highlight your individual value proposition.

Time, effective marketing and both professional and personal support systems are all factors that contribute to creating a compelling value proposition, otherwise known as “personal branding”. Personal branding is not stating falsities to make yourself look better. It’s not the fish story about the one that got away. Personal branding, when done effectively, is the creation and articulation of the unique story that lies within us all.

“If you don’t shape your narrative, someone else is going to build one for you, possibly based on negative stereotypes of veterans.”

- Bernard Edwards

Unfortunately, most of us lack the necessary communication skills to be great storytellers. Effective communication is the responsibility of the communicator (in this case the transitioning veteran) to ensure that the audience (the potential employer) understands the message being conveyed. When you have two distinct world views…much like military vs. civilian…this can become problematic. However, with some planning and preparation it can be overcome.

The Job Hunt:

What you’re up against…

1. Don’t limit yourself to job boards…

  • 80% of open jobs are not listed on job boards. (Source: Forbes. “7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Job Search”. Jacquelyn Smith 4/17/2013)
  • Approximately 118 people on average apply for any given job listed on Indeed® or Monster®. (Source: Forbes. “7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Job Search”. Jacquelyn Smith 4/17/2013)
  • 98% of applicants are eliminated at the initial resume screen. (Source. “Workopolis. “Why only 2% of applicants actually get interviews”. 11/10/2016)
  • Of the millions of companies looking to hire Veterans, states that only an average of 50+ exhibitors attend any given career fair. Career Fairs have their usefulness but that’s a lot of great companies not present. ( Article)

2. Don’t discount the small guys…

Large, military friendly companies tend to have vast budgets for recruiting and marketing veterans. And that’s a great thing. It’s fantastic what Quicken Loans, Verizon, Amazon, Cintas and others have been able to accomplish for the Veteran community.

Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMB’s) typically cannot afford to act in this manner. However, they offer a lot of the same great culture, perks and opportunities as large companies. In addition, they represent nearly half of all U.S. employees and 98% of U.S. companies. For example, Power Home Remodeling is doing a great job not only branding themselves but becoming one of the hottest companies to work for. They also excel at hiring Veterans, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the right thing to do for business. Don’t limit your options to the ‘Amazons’ of the world.

  • In 2016 there were 28.8 Million Small Businesses equating to 99.7% of all US based businesses. (Source. Small business profile 2016)

3. Do enjoy the benefits of being found…

When you properly position yourself in the market and leverage resources such as LinkedIn, social channels, mentors and networks, the probability of being found increases. Being found, instead of sending countless applications through Job Boards, actually increases you chances of landing at a great company.

Being found takes work. It takes research. It takes knowing that it isn’t about you. It’s about aligning to the needs and wants of prospective employers. And when done well, those employers will seek you out.

Listen to J.T. O’Donnell, “3 Reasons Networking Is a Job Search Priority.”

OK, let’s get started with the first step…

EFFECTIVE RESUME — The only job of your resume is to get you an interview.

· Professional Title — Create a title and list it under your name. Example: “PROGRAM MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL”. This is an easily customizable area that can quickly be adjusted to align with job applications. It is also an area that is highly screened by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for job matches.

· About Me — This is your story. Or if you’re a Simon Sinek fan, your “WHY”statement. Consider reviewing your evaluations and apply them to the value you can bring an employer. Think about why you earned the medals, not the medals themselves and align the accomplishments. Consider how you would convince someone as to why you matter. What would you say? That goes here. Your Professional Title and ‘About Me’ sections are areas recommended to be adjusted and aligned for any job you apply toward.

· Human Element — Write your ‘About Me’ section in first person, just like you speak. Take this same human approach when writing your role description in your experience section. Each role you have should first list a summary of what you did in that role. Ex: I am presently a Procurement Manager leading the purchasing and budgeting efforts for the entire Battalion. I lead and mentor 50 personnel responsible for all facets of equipment, base services and maintenance. Then list your accomplishments/results bullets.

· Success Verbs — Use term like authored, led, contributed, achieved, built, constructed, improved, collaborated, introduce and optimized. Stay away from words like managed, completed, and tasked with.

· Accomplishments vs. Duties — DO NOT LIST YOUR DUTIES. Use success verbs to list your accomplishments and tie results to them. Example: “Authored a new contract procedure, reducing time to purchase by 30% saving $150,000 in annual expenses”. Accomplishments typically do not get adjusted for each role you apply too.

· Format Essentials — Basic rules of thumb.

  1. “Combined” format: both Functional and Chronological. This format seems to leverage the content of a transitioning veteran more effectively than a simple Functional or Chronological approach.
  2. If your experience is less than ten years…keep your resume to a single page, if more than ten, two pages is acceptable. Its not totally fair, but you have limited time (1–2 minutes) to impress the hiring manager. Ultimately it is up to you to position yourself to win.
  3. Your ‘About Me’, ‘Super Powers’ (top 3–4 character traits), and ‘Professional Skills’ sections should be easily recognizable by the reader.
  4. Let your accomplishment based experience support who you are, not define it.
  5. List the most recent three experience roles with 4–6 individual bullet items for each role. Your remaining experience and roles can be summarized and highlighted in one paragraph as increasing roles of responsibility.
  6. Consider different resume designs or templates that align with your personal brand and the industries/companies you are interested in. The standard black and white chronological format isn’t doing you any favors. Keep in mind that if your resume is being submitted via an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) ensure you use a MSWord compatible file or PDF (more about ATS later in the series).

· Military Summary — Outline your military experience in a quick summary that is easily read. If you are in your transition period, state your separation date. List Branch, Rank, Pay Grade, Type of Discharge, MOS, Battalions or Divisions and Separation Date. This summary makes it easy for employers to acknowledge your service. This creates emphasis on your “ME” sections e.g. your value and accomplishments instead of weaving the military throughout your entire resume.

Own your actions. Be your transition. Much like an M16 is an unbiased weapon, e.g. it hits what you aim at, your resume is the same. It will do only what you tell it to do.

Stay tuned for our next Laws of Transition article…SOCIAL AWARENESS.