Real Life Job Hunting: The Story of One Veteran's Career Transition

real life job hunt sm.jpgWe all (myself included when I was in the job market) would like to have an easy job hunt: go to a website, post a resume online, get numerous calls from employers, go on several interviews with at least two job offers to choose from--all within a month or so.

Rarely does it happen that way.

But the above scenario is a real life expectation of many military veteran job hunters.

So, how does a real life job hunt compare to the ideal one? The following military veteran is a good example of what an actual job hunt is like. In the end, he succeeded in getting a job in his home state of Ohio. Let's see how he did it.


This veteran contact me in October. He had retired the previous August, while living in Louisiana, and wanted to move back home to Michigan or Ohio after twenty years in the Air Force. But he wasn't having much success. He had been job hunting for 12 months, trying to get a job in the DoD or aerospace in those states but claimed that he could not get anything solid because of government budget problems and cuts were slowing or freezing new hiring.

He had done his homework, however. He knew he could find a "job" but, in his words, "I have avoided security clearance job rich areas like FL, VA, D.C. and CA for now as I hope to find something near home."

When you have been job hunting for a long time, like he had, and you have had 12 interviews for GS jobs, you begin wondering what the heck is going on! This vet had those thoughts about government jobs in his home state. He even went so far as saying, "I have been applying for civil service jobs left and right but have found it to be very nepotistic in hiring. After my 12th interview for a GS job in MI/OH I am ready to give up."

(Very nepotistic in hiring? Hmm. Well, from his shoes, I can understand why he felt so. But I think the Federal Government tries to be fair. But are they fair all the time? In all situations? Well, I think it comes down to this: if you are an optimist, you answer the question, yes; a pessimist, no. I'll vote for the optimist any day of the week.

The bottomline is that a hiring decision is subjective. It depends on who the candidates are and whom they are going to work with and what the organization's culture is and what the organization's most pressing needs are. Unlike the military where anyone who is a certain pay grade and rate can be plugged into a chain of command, the civilian sector is much more particular about whom they finally choose to hire.)

Back to our vet job hunter.

After all those interviews, He learned that the jobs were filled "internally." He didn't feel the veteran's preference points had helped him.

Despite his frustrations, I was impressed by this job hunter. He was using a multi-channel approach to job hunting, that is, using both online resources and traditional, offline methods such as networking.

He described his job hunt this way:

"I have applied via internet/online to major aerospace/defense companies but I can't seem to stand out from the other thousands of applicants, I have not gotten any calls. I am trying to expand my network people contacts but I am at the end of my list."

He hadn't used an executive recruiter (headhunter), yet. This decision was based on his personal style--he had a do-it-yourselfer attitude all his life and felt he could manage his job hunt alone as well.

I corresponded with this job hunter for a couple of weeks, as we "brainstormed" together how he could optimize his job hunt.

Most job hunters contact me because they think their resume is the problem. In fact, in most cases it is. However, before even looking at his resume, I knew it was not the problem. How did I know that? He understood the job hunt process. He was networking. He had personal contacts. Basically, he knew what he was doing and how the game was played. His type rarely need resume help. Rather, they need business research and career strategy assistance. And that's what I provided him.

But I looked over his resume anyway. It was good; it detailed in clear language his aerospace experience, which was considerable.

I then asked him a basic question: What is a resume?

I got the muffled response like the kid at the back of the class who didn't do his algebra homework when called on by the teacher.

I answered the question for him.

A resume is a sales proposal, not only a historical record of employment. A resume makes this proposal to an employer: You hire me and I will provide services to you so you can service your customers and you can make money. Hence, the resume information must be applicable to the employer's needs and must be persuasive.

Was an aerospace-focused resume applicable to employers in Michigan and Ohio? I conducted some quick research and discovered there were few aerospace jobs in those states. His expertise was as a planner. In my quick research, I discovered that the vast majority of employers were seeking employees in the sales, marketing or business development side of the business.

Basically, there were very few jobs and employers that matched his direct aerospace skills in those states. He had to expect a long job hunt for an aerospace job; or he had to re-write his resume that emphasized his core job skills -- management, planning and technical background--that could be used in any industry or company.

I also felt that going to a headhunter would be useful. They are important "connectors" in the jobs marketplace. But more important, they will tell him immediately whether he will have market traction.

He agreed with my assessment and rewrote his resume and posted the new version online again.

In the meantime, the job hunter learned that a civil service job opened up in Louisiana. I could tell he really didn't want it because he wanted to go back home. But the job was going to be offered to him because two other candidates turned it down. (This happens quite a bit. The person actually hired could be the 2nd, 3rd or even the employer's 4th choice due to employers competing for job candidates! So the game is never over till it's over!)

I'm a pragmatist. I quoted to him the old adage...a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I told him to take the job; once a Federal employee, your options open up.

His feelings were a bit different about taking a job he did not want. He said, "I always worry about taking a local job, many who say they want to leave but find a local job then stay (forever). On the other hand, local economy/jobs around here can't match the pay of this position. I think this is good news and see taking it as neutral as far as getting home. Will see what happens."

In November 2004, the job hunter wrote me again. He began the letter by saying he was the guy who talked to me last "October, starting with my frustrations of not getting any leads after 6 months."

I remembered him and had assumed that he had taken the civil service job in Louisiana. Instead, he reported that he got a job in Ohio, exactly where he wanted to live!

How did he do it?

In his words...

"[In November,] I attended a job fair in Ohio, but it was my network contacts that I developed many months earlier that got me the job offer." The job involves the aerospace industry. "Not exactly what I'm looking for, but I can use it to leap frog elsewhere I hope."

Then he told me what happened since we last corresponded.

He turned down the civil service job in Louisiana. "It was a hard decision after 12 interviews trying to get a GS job," he said. His desire to go back home won out over the short terms needs of employment. It was a risk but the tone of his letters suggest that he and his family are happier for it.


Can we make any conclusions about this job hunter's story? Many could be made but I think it boils down to this: Trying again and again is the only strategy of a successful job hunt.

Good Luck In Your Job Search!

Randall Scasny 

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

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