Transitioning back into the civilian workforce can be frustrating and discouraging.
Hiring processes and trends have changed while you’ve been serving our country, so you need to know what you’re up against.
If you’re planning on looking and applying for jobs online, you're competing against an average of 250+ other applicants. Out of those 250+ applicants, only 4-6 will likely get interviews. That’s why career services experts highly recommend using LinkedIn to start networking and building relationships with people who may refer you for the job you want.
If you already have a LinkedIn profile, great! But how visible are you in search results? Are you attracting the right profile views? Are you actively using LinkedIn to connect with others in your field or industry?
This ultimate checklist is full of LinkedIn tips for veterans whether you’re getting on LinkedIn for the first time or revisiting your inactive account for the first time in months (or years!).
1 | Research Jobs & Companies On LinkedIn
Start by researching jobs and companies on LinkedIn so you can target your profile easier. What exactly are you looking for in jobs? Find jobs that exemplify what you’d love to do next, and pay attention to the Matched Skills section. This section will help you determine which skills you should add to your profile and translate your current skills into civilian terms that employers will understand.
No Matched Skills section? Read through the job posting and identify keywords that relate to qualifications, skills, and experience the ideal candidate will have.
You should also research companies to improve how well your profile will attract the right employers. Attracting the right employer means finding job fulfillment faster. Consider your ideal company size, location, and culture. Consider how well the companies’ values reflect your own, too. These are all details that you can find on the Company Page and use to craft your LinkedIn profile’s overall message.
2 | Completely Fill Out Your Profile With Civilian Terminology
Profiles that are filled out completely are more likely to appear in search results especially when packed full of keywords that recruiters and hiring managers are using to find candidates like you. This means adding a Summary section and adding Accomplishments such as Projects, Courses, and Organizations that you’re involved with. The key is to fill out your profile completely with civilian terminology, not military jargon.
When filling out your Experience section, summarize your responsibilities as if you were describing a typical day or week to someone who has never been in the military. If tempted to use common acronyms, write them out first and ask yourself if a fifth grader would know what they mean. Your military service experience is valuable, but you have to make sure employers can connect the dots between your experience and their specific needs.
3 | Use Your Research To Fill In Your Skills Section
You can add up to 50 skills to the Skills section of your profile, so take advantage of your research earlier to help position you as the best fit for the jobs you want. LinkedIn will organize your skills by Top 3, Industry Knowledge (these will be the most common keywords from the jobs you’ve researched!), Tools & Technologies, Interpersonal Skills, and Other Skills.
You can designate what your Top 3 Skills are, and these will be the most visible on your profile without having to click “See more.” Since LinkedIn job applications share your top 15 skills to employers, you should also focus on adding Industry Knowledge skills (Operations, Project Management, etc.) more than transferable skills like Communication or Time Management.
4 | Create A Compelling Summary Section
Many LinkedIn users will create a short, 3-4 line paragraph that summarizes their career to date for their Summary section. When your Summary section doesn’t tell an employer anything engaging or approachable about you, it’s not compelling them to read on. Your Summary section is the space to humanize your profile and showcase your personality.
Create a compelling Summary section that tells your unique story, indicates your career goals, and describes what’s driving you. Tell employers something new about you by describing:
What problems you solve
How you’ve made a difference
What your proudest moments were
Your leadership style, communication style, etc.
5 | Update Your Headline
LinkedIn will assign you a default Headline based on your most recent position title and company listed in your Experience section. Your Headline is one of the first details anyone on LinkedIn will see about you after your name, so your Headline should capture the attention of the right employers quickly. You can accomplish this by creating a 140-character (You get 220 characters if you do this from the mobile app!) Branding Statement that highlights your top related skills and the results you can produce for an employer.
Indicating that you’re a veteran in your Headline is a great way to attract veteran-friendly companies and organizations looking for someone with your skills and background; however, your profile should demonstrate that you’re thinking forward rather than dwelling on past experiences. Keep the focus on your career goals and details relevant to your new job target.
6 | Start Networking The Right Way
Now that your profile is polished and ready for your job search, the greatest mistake you could make is disappearing from the platform until you get a message or want to apply for a job. Start by reaching out to those you served with, family, friends, family friends, and others who may be familiar with your strengths. Send Connection Requests to grow your network of potential referrals.
Mutual connections will be one of the top details on any LinkedIn job applications, so connect with people that work for the companies you’d love to work with before you apply. Send a Connection Request and “Add a note” to give context to your request and encourage a response. You can do this by asking about what it’s like to work for the company or if they can get you in touch with someone who may know more about upcoming job openings within a certain department.
7 | Give & Ask For Endorsements
The people you’re connected to on LinkedIn can endorse your skills with a single click, which gives those you find your profile some “social proof” that you have the skills you claim to have. Start endorsing the skills you’ve witnessed for your connections to help boost their profiles. They’ll likely do the same in return.
If not, you can (and should!) ask for specific endorsements that relate the most to your job target such as your Top 3 Skills. Send a private message asking him or her to endorse a certain skill or two, and make sure to give some context by briefly describing your career goals.
8 | Give & Ask For Recommendations
Recommendations on LinkedIn are replacing letters of recommendations because of that “social proof” aspect, too. Any recommendations written for you will also be linked to that person's profile with his or her profile photo, name, and Headline visible with the recommendation.
It’s easy to give recommendations on LinkedIn, but it’s important that your recommendation is relevant to that person’s immediate career goals. I highly recommend sending a private message first letting that person know you’d like to write a recommendation for him or her and asking what would be the most advantageous for you to write about (a specific project you worked on together, a certain skill that you’ve witnessed, etc.). You should include the same level of detail when asking for recommendations from those you served with.
9 | Reach Out To Your Top Companies
You should do more than just follow the Company Pages of your top companies on LinkedIn. You should engage with their updates by appropriately commenting on posts or sharing their posts with your network. As I mentioned earlier, you should also be connecting with people who work at the companies you’d love to work for. Don’t just be connecting with people who work in HR to ask about job openings.
You should be connecting and starting conversations with those who work in your preferred department as well as leaders in the company. These are the people who will shed light on the company culture, opportunities for growth and advancement, and industry insights. These connections may also refer you to jobs in their companies or job openings they’re aware of from their extended industry network.
10 | Take The Conversation Offline
I strongly advise you not to hide behind your computer screen. Take these new professional relationships offline by asking local connections to meet you for an informational interview over coffee or lunch. This shows initiative and dedication to growing a mutually-beneficial networking relationship.
You don’t need to bring a resume to this kind of informational interview. Ask about his or her career journey and goals, but remember to use this time to get to know the person on a personal level as well. Find similar interests to keep the conversation light by asking about how they spend their free time or organizations they support.
I challenge you to embrace LinkedIn this week by carving out some time to work on your profile or reach out to employees that work at companies you’d love to work for.
Have you found any active and beneficial groups for veterans on LinkedIn?