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Translating military skills for civilian employers

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Chamber of Commerce Personal Resume EngineAt the New York Times “At War” blog, James Dao takes a look at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring Our Heroes” effort to help military veterans find jobs in the civilian world.  As Dao recounts, Kevin Schmiegel, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and executive director of Hiring Our Heroes, organized a team last year to create a “Personal Branding Resume Engine,” a website that helps veterans translate their military experience into jobs that civilian employers can understand. Unveiled this week at a job fair at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan, the resume engine was developed with the help from Fortune 500 human resources managers.

Dao has more:

The goal was to create something that was easy to use, so they modeled the engine on the popular Turbo Tax software, with plenty of pull-down menus to help novice job seekers navigate a thicket of résumé categories, from education to military training to personal skills.

The engine does most of the hard work. Type in a military occupational specialty and the pull-down menu translates it for you. An 88m? A motor transport officer. But that’s not all. It then offers a concise explanation of what that job entailed: “Operated wheel vehicles and equipment over varied terrain and roadways. Managed loading and unloading of personnel and equipment being transported.” . . .

Hiring Our Heroes hopes that the language in the job translations will also help veterans articulate their military experiences in more enticing ways during job interviews. “This is taking talking points and making them useful for veterans,” said Ross Cohen, an Army veteran who is senior director for Hiring Our Heroes. . . .

Mr. Schmiegel said that though he supports splashy drives by big corporations to hire veterans, he suspects many of those campaigns result in the hiring of college-educated officers who would have found jobs anyway.

The key to breaking the high unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans – 9.4 percent in February, down from a year earlier but still above the national average of 7.7 – is to focus on veterans under 25 who have only high school educations, Mr. Schmiegel said. Most of those veterans will be sergeants (E-5) or junior enlisted troops.

“These are kids who left high school, volunteered for the military and now are talking to employers for the first time,” he said.

Hiring Our Heroes plans to train job seekers on the résumé engine at all of the more than 230 job fairs it expects to hold by the end of the year across the country. It also hopes the Pentagon will allow training on the engine at big bases like Camp Pendleton, where hundreds of Marines separate from the military every week.

“I think a lot of the issues that young veterans face stem from unemployment: substance abuse, suicide, divorce,” Mr. Schmiegel said. “I think we are at a critical juncture. Many of the one million troops that will leave military in the next few years will fall through cracks. We need to do everything we can to get them jobs.”

Read more about Hiring Our Heroes here, and if you know any veterans in the job market, be sure to point them to the Resume Engine.