Each year, approximately 250,000 service members transition from the military to civilian life.1 This transition can be one of new opportunities but also new challenges as it relates to finding a career. At Pratt Industries, we strive to help veterans find a career that fits their skills, provides meaningful work and helps build a successful post military professional path for years to come.
Pratt employs veterans in a variety of roles throughout our organization, including within our Human Resources (HR) teams. These HR leaders provide valuable guidance to both our current veteran employees and those transitioning from military to civilian work. Below are tips from former military, now current Pratt, HR professionals to help others who are facing this transition.
Plan Ahead and Use Available Resources
The U.S. military provides a number of resources for service men and women as they are preparing to transition out. Many of these resources are available well in advance of veterans’ separations from the military and serve to prepare them for their post-military career. An example is the DOD SkillBridge program which allows service members to gain experience in the civilian workforce through industry training, apprenticeships or internships during the last 180 days of their service. Offered through their military installation, service men and women should contact their unit commander to learn more about the program.
The military Transition Assistance Program is another resource which provides a variety of tools, services and skill-building training to equip veterans with skills and resources they may want to obtain before departing. Resources include courses on college and vocational education, resume building and employment search processes amongst others.
“Begin planning for your transition a year or more in advance,” suggests Hugo Hinojosa, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army Retired and Human Resources Manager at Pratt’s Rockwall, TX corrugating plant. “During that time, think about the career you would like to enter and try to find courses while you’re in the military that can set you up for success. For example, I participated in the manufacturing track of the U.S. Army’s Career Skills program as I was making my transition. The experience opened my eyes to opportunities within the manufacturing world that I didn’t know existed.”
Network and Make Connections
In addition to taking advantage of available resources and training, attending job fair events and networking within the civilian workforce can be extremely valuable. Job fairs can take place on military installations or in the larger community and allow candidates to meet with potential employers and make connections that could result in interviews and job offers.
“Network as much as you can,” says Hinojosa. “Attend the career fairs and stay in contact with the people you meet. I connected with several people on LinkedIn after I met them at events on base. Those connections resulted in invitations to interviews. I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I hadn’t networked and been open to meeting new people.”
Abbigail San Soucie, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Retired and Human Resources Manager at Pratt’s corrugating facility in Beloit, WI agrees. She regularly works with local veterans’ organizations as a career advisor for transitioning veterans. “Reach out to your veteran community. There are groups, associations and Veteran Affairs locations throughout the country who can provide a variety of career resources,” says San Soucie. “These organizations can also connect you with other retired veterans, like me, who can serve as mentors through the transition process and beyond.”
A number of organizations feature career fairs and networking events for veterans including: Hiring Our Heroes, Military.com, and RecruitMilitary.com.
Translate Military Terminology into Civilian Skill Sets
Many of the skills and experiences in the military can be directly applied to careers in the private sector; however, the terminology used may be slightly different. To alleviate any confusion about professional skills, candidates should refrain from using military terminology which may not be understood by a civilian hiring manager. Instead, include more commonly used civilian words and phrases. Enlist the help of veteran mentors to help with this, as well as to help tailor your resume to fit the job description to which you are applying.
“When I began applying for positions, I took the key words from the job description and used them to describe what I did during my military service,” says Ian Lack, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Retired and Human Resources Generalist at Pratt’s Grand Rapids, MI converting plant. “By doing this, I was able to get through the screening process and make it to in-person interviews.”
Robert Pearson, Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force Retired and Human Resources Manager at Pratt’s converting plant in Wichita, KS agrees, “Try not to use statements such as ‘I managed 550 sorties per month.’ A civilian shipping manager who is unfamiliar with military terminology will not understand what this means. Instead, use a statement such as ‘I managed the movement of 50 tons of cargo per month to locations throughout the U.S.’ By wording your skills in this way, it alerts the hiring manager to the fact that you have experience in shipping and logistics.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a Veterans Employment Toolkit, which includes resources to assist in job searches, resume building and interviews, as well as a listing of upcoming career events.
Hold True to Lessons Learned While Serving
All of our HR Managers agreed that the best piece of advice is to hold true to the lessons learned in the military and strive to translate those lessons to the civilian world. While transitioning from military to civilian life can be difficult, remembering the lessons learned about leadership, teamwork, adaptability, discipline, and patience will make the transition much easier.
“Stay true to yourself and the core values that were instilled in you while in the military,” advises Pearson. “Keep that integrity, the work ethic, professionalism and apply it to all that you do. But remember that others may not understand the experiences that you’ve had, so be patient with them. If you do that, you’ll be extremely successful in your career.”
“Being in the military sets you up for success,” adds Michael Mendelsohn, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Retired and Divisional Human Resources Manager for Pratt’s Paper Mill Division. “Take the best of what you’ve learned from the military – the discipline, teamwork, the commitment to success – and apply that to your civilian career and you’ll go far.”
To learn more about career opportunities at Pratt Industries that may fit your skill set, visit Careers.PrattIndustries.com and enter a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code into the search bar. Our applicant tracking system (ATS) will translate your MOS code into job functions and responsibilities that match open positions within our organization.
- U.S. Department of Labor – Veteran’s Employment and Training Service: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/tap
Pratt Industries provides equal employment opportunities to applicants and employees without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, protected veteran status, or disability.