Friday, May 4, 2012

Be careful of what your resume may not say about you

When I retired from the Army I was well prepared, so I thought. I had a resume' that I thought was my ticket to a new job and and I had learned from the Transition Assistance Program on Fort Lewis techniques for interviewing. After all I was

"Highly organized with an ability to manage multiple projects, tasks and priorities effectively and in a timely manner.  Strong work ethic with outstanding communication and follow-through skills."

I would soon learn that it was not what my resume' told employers about me but what my resume' did not tell employers about me that hindered my job hunt. While I was at Fort Lewis I submitted 45 resumes both in the civilian workplace and the federal workforce (Joint Base Lewis McChord) I started submitting resumes early. I retired on 31 March 2011 and my job search started in August 2010, I kept a Excel spread sheet that showed the company name, where I found the opening (USA Jobs, Craigslist, etc.) when the closing date was, when I applied, how I applied (email or "snail mail" or in person), what documents I provided (cover letter and DD214), and if or when I was contacted and by whom.

Of all the positions I applied for I received one call back and that was for a security officer position at the VA hospital in Lakewood. I was needless to say, very dismayed because I thought that I had the qualities that employers were looking for: loyalty having served for over 21 years in the military; a track record of success at multiple levels of leadership; education I had a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Saint Martin's University; but most of all I was a veteran who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to serve our nation. All of this would not even get me a minimum wage job.

Leadership and Supervision:  A superior leader with demonstrated performance in high-pressure environments.  Earned a solid reputation for improving organizational performance through hands-on training and a leadership approach that emphasized decision-making through active listening.

·         Superbly managed and motivated as many as 166 personnel; renowned for firm, yet compassionate mentorship. 

·         Key player in the planning and execution of four successful Company-sized operations in the Shah Wali Khot district and three operations in the Arghandab River Valley.

·         Taught third-year military science students for two years at Boise State University; developed class syllabi that was approved by the Department of Social Sciences Chair and is still in use.

Problem-Solving and Analysis:  Consistently implements keen analytical abilities and a proven team-based work dynamic with a systems-oriented approach to facilitate efficient and effective solutions.  A critical thinker open to alternative views to optimize decision-making.

·         Authored and implemented Standard Operating Procedures for a Stryker Company consisting of 166 personnel and $60M+ in equipment.

·         Excels at proactively identifying errors and recommending cost-effective solutions on site. 

Selected Military Training:  Basic Rifleman's Course; Military Skier Course; Basic Forward Observers Course; Squad Leaders Basic Course; Marine Corps Scout Sniper Course; Health and Safety Training for Hazardous Material Waste Operations and Emergency Response; Helicopter Rope Suspension Training / Safety Insertion Officer Course / Rappel Master; Basic Security Guard Course; Maritime Tactics / Close Quarter Battle Course; Introduction to Networks / Computer Hardware; Air Assault School; Warrior Leaders Course; Advanced Leaders Course; Army Safety Program Management; Senior Leaders Course; Instructor Training Course; Combat Lifesaver Course

Bronze Star with "Valor" Device; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (x2); Army Commendation Medal with "Valor" Device; Army Commendation Medal (x4); Army Achievement Medal (x2); Navy Achievement Medals (x2); Combat Action Ribbon (Marine Corps)
These are actual bullets and areas of emphasis that are are my first resume' I ended up scrapping this resume after moving to Boise, Idaho and talking with a representative from the Boise Department of Labor. Ok, I am getting a little ahead of myself, I finally moved to Boise, Idaho and thought for sure that a very pro-military community here would be my best bet for getting a job. Well still no luck and I took a job making $4.25 an hour (VA work study position). I was very upset and felt something must be wrong or I was just not getting it. Where I was working (the Boise Vet Center) a representative from the Department of Labor came in to talk with veterans about employment opportunities and I showed him my resume. He looked over and advised me to down play my military service and especially my combat time. I felt like I was hit in the face, because I felt like my service did not matter and that it should be something I am ashamed of. I could not do that, so I re-wrote my resume and submitted it to several police agencies, Ada County and Canyon County no return call. I was not going to settle for a minimum wage job nor was I going to settle for a job I did not like doing. I was receiving a retirement stipend so I was not bad off.

What I learned was employers are not afraid of what you have done in the military but what they perceive you may suffer from. The biggest hindrance is what the media has put out there about us veterans. People think that we are "powder kegs" or that we suffer from PTSD and they don't want to hire us. Hire a Vet has started here in Idaho I have not looked into the statistics of how it is working but it really seems like a lot of talk.

I am currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California in Social Work and when I graduate I will help veterans here in Boise. I volunteer at the Boise Rescue Mission in the Veteran Mentor Program helping as a volunteer case manager. I will continue to look for jobs that take me out of this area even though it really depresses me because I bought a house here and decided four years ago that I wanted to retire here. Unfortunately I can't find jobs that will allow me to pursue my passion, helping our veterans. The company that I work for currently as a mental health specialist has been so supportive and I am glad that I found them. Riverside Rehab., in Garden City is by far the best organization I have had the pleasure to work with as a civilian, but more on that later.

I would love to hear about your job seeking endeavors, please contact me and I will post them on here. I would love to hear your story's good or bad and how you handled them.


  1. A comment from a friend here in Boise;

    "Damn, I'm glad you posted this, Gene. Your qualifications 21 years of service dwarf my 7 years (for all intents and purposes the military trained me to be a beat cop other than a brief stint in a Harbor Patrol Unit and a year of Detention in Gtmo). Nonetheless, I was unemployed for 5 months after I was discharged before finding a job. Sadly, the pay was minimal and there were no benefits. Despite having prided myself at being a proficient practitioner of Law Enforcement and Detention, I enjoyed neither and had no desire to return to that sort of work. However, when I found out I was going to be a father (hand's down the happiest and most rewarding thing to ever happen to me), it meant I could no longer get by on little more than minimum wage at 20 hours a week while going to school. I reluctantly began seeking work within the realm of law enforcement. I quickly discovered that despite having received most of the same training as my civilian counterparts, the law enforcement training and 7 years of experience I received from the military was virtually useless. I possessed the knowledge but lacked the piece of paper saying I was Post 1 & 2 certified. As you know, I eventually found a position at an agency that only required 5 weeks of training where I've worked the past 2 years. While I'm thankful to have a job in this economy, I don't love what I do. I don't blame my current employer for this. Law Enforcement is a calling and I don't feel called to. Despite my true passion lying in a drastically different field, I never would have guessed finding a job doing something I'm good and experienced at would have been as difficult as it was. The TAP program is a good one but it needs to be taken a step further. Sadly, other than people such as yourself who do 20-25 years, the military isn't all that concerned with people who choose to leave early (despite the fact that the number of people who leave early is staggeringly higher than the number of retirees). I joined the military right out if high school before my 18th birthday. I went from living in a room at my parents' place to a barracks room. I was completely ill prepared for life in the real world or how competitive the civilian job market would be. Not everyone raises their right hand. I believe those of us who have have earned some additional consideration."

  2. Another comment from a friend;
    As much of a bummer it is to learn something like that the hard way, i appreciate you sharing this with us. Not only does it mean that we need to alter resume content to avoid prejudice, but the fact that the media has succeeded in making sure combat veterans are shunned... That makes me pretty angry... My voc rehab counselor has her work cut out for her

    1. Agree here on the media comment. I don't believe that the media portrays veterans in a very positive light. We are seen as more of a risk than an asset for employers. How do you mitigate the risk? You just don't hire a veteran.