While nobody likes hunting for jobs, it can be especially difficult for transitioning veterans. The civilian business world just doesn’t work the same way that the military does. While the freedom to take your career in any direction is exciting, it may also be intimidating. It can seem like you have a million things to do before you can even begin to apply for IT professional jobs.
Fortunately, by taking it one thing at a time, and one day at a time, you can break these tasks down into small parts that are easy to accomplish. Below are 13 tips to help transitioning service members undertake their IT job hunt with confidence!
1. The Hiring Process Takes Time
This may seem obvious, but it can be hard to grasp in practice, especially for transitioning veterans. Don’t expect to be able to get a new job immediately. Plan on your job hunt taking at least 4-6 weeks before you’re starting your new position. Even if you’re interviewed within the first week of your job hunt, it will take more time for a second interview and other things such as a background check, calling your references, drug testing, and so on.
2. Professionalism is Important
Most job hunters are prepared to dress professionally, but professionalism doesn’t end there. Remember to stay in communication with potential employers. If you have a phone interview, send them an email thanking them for their time afterward. Set up reminders to occasionally email them and see if they need more information. And, if they reply to you, make it a priority to get back to them! You don’t want to lose your chance at a great job because they didn’t hear back from you for two days.
3. Not Everyone Will Respond
The military is a highly structured organization, and you may have come to expect a response when sending out an email inquiry. Sadly, the civilian job hunt is the exact opposite of this. As you send out applications, you’ll begin to notice that you hear nothing at all in response most of the time.
Don’t take it personally. Hiring managers are very busy, and they are looking for the ideal candidate for each position. With possibly hundreds of applicants per position, they don’t have time to respond to every resume they get. Just keep applying for new jobs, and don’t sweat it if you don’t hear anything back.
4. Apply to Recently Posted Jobs
Job hunting takes a significant amount of time every day. You don’t want to waste your time applying for jobs you have little to no chance of getting. It’s for this reason that we recommend only seeking jobs that have been posted within the last week.
Older job postings, especially from a week or more ago, have either been filled or the company has created an applicant pool and is working on it. Job postings from the last few days are the freshest, and you’ll get a much higher response rate by applying to these. Speed is key because candidates are called as they apply.
5. IT Companies Tend to Hire Contract Positions to Start
Don’t look at a contract position as a “lesser” option. You may think it’s better to hold out for a full-time offer, but these can be very difficult to find. Contract positions are very common in the IT world for a few reasons and are often a gateway to a salaried position. Employers like to “try before they buy” by hiring workers on as contractors. If they like the worker’s skill set and work ethic, they will be interested in bringing them on.
Another reason for contract-to-hire is to avoid the cost of a security clearance renewal unless they know they want to have that person on staff for a while. A security clearance can cost between $30,000-$60,000 to renew. Finally, it’s important to remember that many states, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas are at-will employment states. You do not have more job security by seeking a salaried position.
6. Certifications Count as Experience
If you have relevant IT certifications, make sure to list these on your resume! Certifications are as good as experience in the eyes of many employers and can make up for a lack of job experience on your part. If you haven’t completed your certifications yet, but are studying for them, list them on your resume as “in progress.” Keep studying and take the exam as soon as possible so that you can officially list these on your resume.
7. References Don’t Need to Be on Your Resume
This is just a quick reminder. Don’t put references on your resume! They take up valuable space, and you should reserve them until you’re asked to provide them. Instead, just add “References Available Upon Request.”
8. IT Experience and Your Resume
Just because your job title doesn’t have IT in it doesn’t mean you don’t have experience. If you spend some time thinking about your duties at work, you’ll notice that most jobs have IT aspects. Make sure to list these on your resume. Perhaps you have experience with a point-of-sale system, or you were responsible for rebooting the router at your job. Yes, there is always somebody with more IT experience, but there are also people with less! Don’t be afraid to list your experience with IT, even if it’s a hobby. It can be used on your resume.
9. PM Resumes Should Have a Section Called “Projects”
If you’re looking for project management positions, you should have a section on your resume to describe the kind of work you’ve done before and highlight your successes. Don’t include projects under your different jobs, where they may get lost. By giving them their own section, you can give your project experience the spotlight it needs to shine.
10. Use Military IT System Names
Go ahead and use the names you already know to describe military IT and networking equipment. You’d be surprised by how many people with military experience are out there. If they don’t have any experience, there’s always Google! By using the correct names for these things, you show that you know what you’re talking about.
11. Be as Technical as the Job Description
You may be worried about being too technical in your resume and putting off people who aren’t as tech-savvy. If this is a concern, take a cue from the IT professional job description. If it contains a lot of technical details and jargon, feel free to be as technical as you want. If it looks like it was written by a layperson, tone down the technical references instead.
12. Optimize for Keyword Search
As you work on your job hunt, you’ll notice that certain terms pop up over and over in the jobs you’re looking for. You should make your resume mirror the IT job descriptions by including similar language. Don’t just copy/paste what they had in the job posting but do try to see if you have the experience that matches what they’re looking for. As you see terms come up repeatedly, make sure that these are included on your resume if you can.
Large corporations use software to comb through the hundreds of resumes they get and narrow them down to a few top contenders that have the needed skills. If your resume is missing these terms, you won’t get the chance to explain this to the hiring manager.
13. Don’t Get Overwhelmed, Ask for Help from Your EDM!
The job hunt can seem like a never-ending list of things to do, but it doesn’t have to be. If you study for your certifications at the ACI Learning Hubs, you’ll get access to the ACI Learning Career Services team including your friendly local Employment Development Manager (EDM). Each EDM has a twofold job: to help prepare ACI students for the job hunt, and to connect with employers in the community who might be interested in hiring learning hub graduates.
Your EDM can help you break down all the details of the job hunt and take care of them one at a time. They’re experts when it comes to resumes, cover letters, job hunting techniques, and interviewing. It’s their mission to make sure each of learning hub graduate is armed with everything needed to secure the job they want. When one of the ACI Learning employer partners is hiring, your EDM can even help you skip much of the job hunt process!
IT and Cyber Security Training at the ACI Learning Hubs
If you’re interested in a career in IT, cyber security, project management, or networking, the ACI Learning Hubs can help! Choose from several 5-10 week certification prep programs that will give you the knowledge you need to take the exam and excel in a new IT job. You’ll also gain access to the Career Services team. From initial training to dealing with your GI Bill® to finding a job in IT, you have a team behind you that understands veterans better than anybody. Job hunting is never easy, but we can help you get the training you need to succeed.