Veterans Helping Veterans: LinkedIn Tips for Job Seekers Who Have Served

November 10, 2011

Editor's Note: As shared in an earlier post this week, LinkedIn has launched a new microsite for our Veterans initiative tailored with tips, tools and information to help veterans find new opportunities across LinkedIn, including a free one-year Job Seeker subscription for all US veterans and current service men and women. 

If you're not a current member of LinkedIn, we encourage you to create a LinkedIn profile, update it with your military experience, and check back on the microsite to take advantage of the great tools and the free one-year subscription. If there are any questions, please click the "Send Feedback" link on the Veterans Page

I often advise job seekers to reach out to people in their desired industries for advice and guidance. So, when I sat down to write a blog post to help job seekers with military backgrounds, I decided to follow my own advice.

I posted a query here on LinkedIn asking veterans if they’d be willing to share some tips for other former servicemen and servicewomen. Not surprisingly, several veterans stepped up immediately to help, as did a few non-veterans who wanted to lend a hand.

Here are the top recommendations they shared:

Emphasize transferable skills.

Everyone’s first tip was to make sure your LinkedIn profile emphasizes your transferable skills.

“Being a marksman with an M-16 has little applicability to supply-chain management,” said Erick S. Van Savage, a former corporal in the USMC, “but attributes such as self-discipline, dedication, leadership, courage, esprit de corps and a strong work ethic have great application to virtually all facets of business.” Veterans looking for work need to emphasize such attributes in their LinkedIn Summary statements and profile Skills sections.

“You need to remove all the typical military language from your write-up,” added Robert Martin, MBA, LSSGB, who served in the US Navy and is now an E-6 US Navy and Supply Chain Professional. “Remember, very few of the people you come in contact with on LinkedIn will understand your background. Remember to write [your profile] from the perspective of a civilian because this what you now are.”

According to LinkedIn’s research, veterans on LinkedIn have applied their transferable skills to build careers in the following top 10 job functions:

  1. Operations
  2. Information technology
  3. Engineering
  4. Entrepreneurship
  5. Sales
  6. Program and project management
  7. Consulting
  8. Education
  9. Support
  10. Research

If you’re not sure how to frame your military experience in civilian terms, look to your fellow veterans for guidance. Ray Luther, a former US Army Medical Service Corps Officer who is currently Director of Coaching and Development at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, recommended “searching for other veterans who might have similar stories to yours and see how they are positioning themselves on LinkedIn.” This is a smart suggestion, and with hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn members with U.S. military service, you’ll have a lot of profiles to choose from.

Maintain your military connections…

Once you have a strong LinkedIn profile, the next step for job seeking veterans is to connect with other professionals who might have advice or leads. “I would use LinkedIn to connect with everyone you served with,” advised Robert Martin. “Many [former] officers and senior enlisted men and women from the military get hired to consult on projects they worked on in the service. These people can provide the largest network of possible connections and career opportunities. They are also a great source for recommendations, which is very important to developing your LinkedIn profile.”

You can also join LinkedIn groups, such as U.S. Veteran and U.S. Military Veterans Network, to find profiles of veterans who have made the transition to civilian careers.

…and also network broadly.

It’s also important to expand your connections beyond fellow veterans. “The worst thing you can do is stay insular when you are making this transition,” said Alexandra Levit, a career expert who has worked with veterans. “You should absolutely be meeting as many new people in as many new fields as you can.” One great way to expand your network is to join LinkedIn groups related to the industry you want to join. If you’re not sure of your direction, check out the top five industries for veterans on LinkedIn, where you might find that your skills and interests are a good match:

  1. Information technology & services
  2. Defense & space
  3. Higher education
  4. Government administration
  5. Hospital and health care

In general, most veterans I spoke with characterized the transition from a military career to a civilian career as similar to any career change. You need to work hard to learn the language, customs and networks of your new industry, but once you’ve made the transition you’ll likely find that your different background is an asset. As Ray Luther remarked, “Many veterans live the values they inherited during their service for the rest of their lives.” In my experience, that’s an asset any organization would be honored to have.

Thank you to all veterans for your service to our country. Please share any additional suggestions or comments below!