The internet has fundamentally changed how we look for jobs. While you can still find job openings in your local newspapers, you’re most likely looking at those job listings online. There are scores of other websites and online services dedicated to facilitating job searches, and you can now look for work anywhere in the country — or even the world — from the comfort of your desk at home.
We can also use the internet to know more about a company before we decide to apply, and social networking is helping to revolutionize this process. We can find out a lot about a company based on its Twitter and Facebook activity, or after reviewing its website, but LinkedIn is a great and sometimes overlooked service for helping employers and potential employees find each other.
If you’re not familiar with LinkedIn, here are the basics: it’s been around since 2004, but it’s now a growing social network for professional and employment services. Its influence is constantly expanding. Individuals create profiles to help advertise themselves for their job searches, and many businesses establish a LinkedIn presence to advertise themselves to jobseekers and other associations.
Indeed, many employers accept the submission of a LinkedIn profile as a full application.
There are many free job posting sites for veterans to search for a new career, but LinkedIn does more. It’s a great tool for any jobseeker, but there are many things veterans especially can do to improve their chances of making their way into a new career through this network.
Make the Most of Your Profile and LinkedIn Membership
As a veteran, or a soon-to-be separated service member, you want to make the most of your years of service, both experientially and as part of your resume. Since your LinkedIn profile is essentially a virtual resume for you, give it the same level of care and attention. This can make the difference between getting a job offer and being passed over.
- Your profile picture. Not having a picture associated with your profile is a big mistake. Profiles with a picture are more likely to be viewed, and as much as you may be proud of your uniform, you should have a picture of yourself in professional civilian clothes. A picture of yourself in uniform may lead potential employers to infer that you’re not ready to move forward as a civilian.
- Civilian language. Many civilian employers won’t understand the jargon from your military specialty. Indeed, many veterans from other services may not understand it. You’ve been wearing a uniform for years, and now you’re going to have to wear civilian clothes. Your LinkedIn profile, as well as your resume, should transition to the civilian world.
- Keywords. There may be some keywords your profile needs to include to help employers find you. You can look at profiles of people who have a career similar to what you want to get into, and you can look at businesses you’re interest in. This helps make your profile searchable by employers who place a value on those key words.
- Follow businesses you’re interested in working for. This may seem like a simple idea, but it could make a big difference for you in the long run. An employer may use this as a way to filter out candidates when there’s a large number of them. There are often more candidates than a company could possibly even offer an interview. Don’t let something this simple hold you back.
- Learn about those businesses. Almost every interview includes a question of how much you know about the organization. This is important. It could be a distinguishing factor between you and another equally qualified candidate. Use LinkedIn, along with other resources, to learn as much as you can about the business before the interview.
- Skills. Your profile shows your important professional skills. This will help employers find people with the necessary skills for their openings. Some of the skills your LinkedIn profile should mention are leadership, team building and possibly public speaking. Make sure you add skills to show your qualifications for civilian employment.
- Endorsements. You should also allow your connections to endorse your skills, and make sure you reciprocate. It’s part of the give-and-take of LinkedIn membership. Remember: employers are more likely to give credence to a heavily endorsed skill over one you list without any endorsements.
Remember that your LinkedIn profile, like your resume, makes a statement about you. In many ways, sending out a resume is like sending out a version of yourself for someone to review. Repeated rejection can be disheartening, but with appropriate preparation, it can be prevented.
Make sure you send out the best version of yourself for an employer to review, and make sure the best version of yourself is out there for recruiters to find. If you’re actively looking for a job, you should actively maintain your LinkedIn profile. Cultivate it. Just like you want access to job postings, employers want to find military veterans to work for them. A solid profile will make you stand out.
And along with your LinkedIn profile, it’s a good idea to apply for an eBenefits account for veterans. You’ll be able to manage any potential Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, and there’s an online employment center for veterans on the site, as well.
Groups on LinkedIn, as with groups on any other social media site, can help you connect with people who have similar interests or backgrounds. It’s a great way to build your network, but there’s more to it than just making connections. In the right group, you can use discussions to help establish yourself as an authority on certain topics. Group members use these discussions to get to know each other.
You can also share your insights on subjects in your field of expertise to show your experience. This will also help generate endorsements from your connections within the group. It’s important to remember that these are professional discussions on professional topics. These aren’t Facebook political discussions. You don’t have to agree with people, and the discussion should be respectful.
There are nearly two million groups, so you can find groups related to just about any career field or geographical area. There are also over 2,000 groups especially for veterans, service members and those who support them. These groups can help you connect with other people with similar backgrounds or experience, and may even connect you with employers.
Enlisted service members, military officers transitioning to the civilian world, and veteran jobseekers should join a variety of groups and make connections within them. Otherwise, that LinkedIn profile won’t be as valuable as it could be. Many people receive requests for interviews and even job offers based on their profiles and membership in certain groups. Veterans should take advantage of this.
Groups for any veteran. Most veterans and service members can obtain a free year’s premium jobseeker subscription via the Veteran Mentor Network Group. In this group, you can learn more about how to make your profile work for you and how to make the most of the advanced job search functions. You can also connect with employers and find resources for veterans.
There are quite a few LinkedIn groups that are open to all veterans. These groups focus on helping veterans expand their networks and connect with veteran-friendly employers. Most veteran groups on LinkedIn require that your profile shows your military service or, depending on the type of group, what your military specialty was.
- We Hire Heroes focuses solely on veteran employment. They’ve built a large network across multiple websites to help solve the problem of veteran unemployment.
- Veterans Hiring Solutions is a smaller group focused simply on helping veterans and transitioning service members find jobs.
- US Veterans is a group over 60,000 strong, focused on building a network for veterans to connect and share important community and employment resources.
- The US Military Veterans Network is another large group dedicated to helping veterans in their lives and employment.
- Veteran Job Opportunities is a group specifically for employers to find veterans to hire.
- Linked-Vets connects employers with veterans and service members who are getting ready transition to the civilian world.
- Military MOJO is a service that coordinates hiring events for employers and veterans. If you register for the events in advance, the service can help set up interviews with employers interested in your qualifications.
- US Government Connections is a group for veterans, service members, and current and former federal employees.
Groups based on your branch of service. Veterans from across the services can join LinkedIn groups based on their ties to those branches. Current and former marines can join the Semper Fi Network to connect with others who’ve shared the same service, and hopefully to connect with employers.
- The United States Navy Group is open to former sailors who want to connect with their fellow navy veterans and build their networks to help each other connect with employers. Silent Service — Submarine Veterans is a group for navy veterans who served on submarines.
- Army Veterans is there for those who have served or continue to serve in the regular army, army reserve, and the army national guard. There are also groups based on regimental affiliation, such as the 1-37 Armor Alumni Association, and divisions you may have served in, such as the US Army 3rd Armored Division.
- The US Air Force also has groups based on service as an airman or air force officer, as well as groups based on military specialty, such as the United States Air Force Medical Service Corps group for current and former medical service officers and Air Force Cyber Professionals for current and former officers, enlisted members, civilians, and contractors who worked as cyberspace professionals.
Groups based on veterans’ service organizations. There are quite a few veterans’ service organizations around the country. Most lobby Congress for veterans’ causes and help individual veterans navigate the application process for various Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Some help by providing volunteers for VA facilities. They also perform a great deal of charity work in communities across the country.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a group primarily for veterans with chronic, residual effects from combat wounds or other injuries from service. In addition to building your network, the group can also help connect you with employers who may be interested specifically in employing disabled veterans.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a group for veterans who have served in combat zones or who have otherwise been forward deployed and in harm’s way.
- Student Veterans of America has a group for student veterans to connect with each other and potential employers.
- There’s also a group for American Legion members to build their networks with each other, but it’s not officially sanctioned by the organization.
Each state has its own veterans affairs service office, and there may be groups based on membership in these organizations, as well. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has a group for people interested in working for the Department, as well as for current employees. The VA prioritizes hiring veterans for nearly every job opening, and members of this group can learn about potential openings.
Groups base on theater of deployment. People who have served in combat zones have a shared experience that they can connect over, independent of which branch they served in. There are at least two LinkedIn groups for veterans of specific theaters of operations.
- Afghanistan War Veterans is for those who served and who continue to serve in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Iraq War Veterans is a group for those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
- There is also a service organization group specifically for veterans of both OEF/OIF. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is a group for anyone who served in either of those theaters, as well as civilians who support those veterans — not just for members of IAVA. This organization also lobbies Congress and assists individual veterans in a variety of ways.
Groups based on geographical location. Connecting with groups in your area is a great way to expand your network. Members of the group may know of jobs and other resources and benefits specific to the area. To find these groups, enter the word “veterans” along with your state or city into the search bar on LinkedIn’s website.
Local employers may also take advantage of these groups to search for potential candidates to fill openings. The VA and other federal agencies are required to prioritize veterans for possible openings, but many small businesses prefer to hire veterans for their discipline, professionalism, and demonstrated dedication. LinkedIn helps them find these men and women to hire.
What to Do Next
LinkedIn, like other social networks, is a tool for expanding your personal network of connections. But it does so much more. A well-developed LinkedIn profile can make you a better candidate for a job, and using your group memberships and endorsements wisely can help you land your next job.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, it’s time to start one. Just make sure you take care of it and use it wisely. It’s a representation of you, and you want potential employers to see you at your best.