What To Do When You Can't Find a Job

April 2003


Randall Scasny

My friend Jim, a Navy vet, recently found a job. But it was a far cry from the job he did in the service as a machinist's mate on a nuclear submarine. In his new job, he is a dietician at a hospital and he's loving it! His story is a lesson for every vet job-hunter: successful military-to-civilian career transitions do not necessarily follow a straight line.

Once Jim got out of the service, he took a job as a mechanic. But a few months into the job, he wondered why he was doing it. What he liked to do was cook. His family nudged him to pursue it as a career, which he did. From cooking, he discovered the field of nutrition. So he enrolled in a Bachelors degree program and graduated this past year. A few months later, he was hired by a hospital.

Vets are getting hired even in this lackluster economy. But if you listen to some of the scuttlebutt going around, you'd be surprised. Here are a few reasons why some vets say they can't get a job:

1. There are no jobs.
2. The government does not want vets to get employed because of the information they may reveal.
3. Discrimination.
4. I haven't really looked very hard.
5. I don't know how to search for a job.
6. The war.

Some of these reasons are valid. And some are not. Now, let's look at some facts.

Most veterans right now are either employed or retired, according to the 2001 National Survey of Veterans Final Report, conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The report says that only 3.6 percent were unemployed and looking for work. I'll admit the numbers look pretty good if you got a job. If you don't, no rosy statistics can romance you.

Our nation is going through some difficult times. Last month's start of the war is on everyone's mind. War breeds uncertainty and uncertainty breeds doubt. These doubts affect not only individuals but businesses as well. Doubts about the war and its effect on the U.S. economy have created a cautious hiring strategy by private industry, according to Crain's Chicago Business. News like this doesn't make job hunting easy. In fact, job hunts are getting longer, according to Business Week. However, the war looks like it will be a boon for defense contractors. But that was expected.

The hot jobs of just a few years ago--tech jobs--are tougher to win nowadays. Many of these jobs have been lost, according to the Washington Post. However, don't get too worried. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earmarks information technology jobs for 9 out of the 10 fastest growing occupations. (Also on that list are medical assistants. The healthcare industry will contain many of the "hot jobs" of this decade. So, it's not surprising that my friend Jim found a job so quickly.)

If you would like to learn more about what jobs look most promising, check out the national occupational outlook on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. The website also offers information about employment predictions, state by state. Another good place to get information about job-hunting is at the U.S. Department of Labor's Use Your Military Experience and Training website.

Successful job hunting requires knowledge, information and a plan. When you have them, you will not entertain weird theories that befit Hollywood action thrillers. Rather, you'll be too busy hunting for a job.

Understanding how to search for a job takes time and experience. But these can be short-circuited by taking job-hunting courses offered at many community colleges, state employment offices and, even, churches.

Using websites such as militaryhire.com are also good places to learn about who is hiring. But it takes most job hunters more than just posting a resume on a website to win a job.

Every time you apply for a job, you should do an Internet search for the company's name and go to their corporate website. Learn about the company and their business. From that information, you will learn how you can be of value to them. In the process, you'll learn about their industry sector. Once you know their industry, new job opportunities will pop up.

Getting a job is a methodical process that requires a plan. There are three types of job-hunting plans:

  • Immediate
  • Short term
  • Long term

Immediate plan: If you are unemployed and have no income, financial nest egg or other resources, you need to focus on your immediate plan to get some cash rolling in. This may require you to take a temporary job. Restaurants are good sources for these kinds of jobs. Temp agencies are another source. And temp employment is a good place to get your foot in the door for a permanent full-time job.

Short-term plan: If you have a part-time job or the resources to pursue your job hunt full-time, you should focus on your short-term plan. Seek employment that you can find within 3 to 6 months. This should be employment that you are (a) qualified for, (b) that will meet your financial needs and at least some of your career goals without (c) moving or changing your lifestyle drastically. Short-term plans may not necessarily get you the "dream job" you've been wishing for, but they generally will be stepping stones to one.

Long-term plan: If you have the financial resources and do not need part-time employment to meet your needs for the coming year, you should focus on your long-term plan for permanent and professional employment. This may require you to search for a job out of your home area. You may need to investigate more education or a professional license or certification. Long-term plans prepare you to be employable for the long haul.

Sometimes a job hunter may need to work on all three plans simultaneously. My friend Jim did. When I met him, he was a delivery driver for a catering service until he found his "dream" job.

No matter what you do, you must have a plan or else you may not get anything done. If you have a plan, keep on implementing it and something will turn up in due time.

Once again, these are difficult times in the lives of not only veterans, but of all Americans. The chain of events since 9/11 have finally lead us to war. In the past you may have been directly involved with war efforts. Now, as a vet, you're on the sidelines perhaps feeling powerless. Or, maybe someone you care about is a reservist who has been called up to active duty and you're concerned about him or her. Your concerns are natural.

But just as our country must act to solve its problems (whether that be war, diplomacy or both), you must act to solve yours.

Good luck.

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of MilitaryHire.com or the publisher.

Copyright 2003 Randall Scasny. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.