As a veteran, you have a unique set of skills that can be extremely valuable in the civilian workforce. LinkedIn is the perfect tool to help you make the move from military to civilian life. In this blog post, we will discuss how to add veteran status to your LinkedIn profile and make the most of LinkedIn in your job search. Let's get started!
Why LinkedIn Matters
To really understand how to use LinkedIn in your military to civilian job search, it is important to first understand why it matters. 97% of recruiters report using LinkedIn every single day in their jobs to find candidates for their open positions. However, only about 37% of job seekers report using LinkedIn in their job search (civilian and veterans alike). So, there is a huge opportunity when you use LinkedIn properly.
In the civilian sector, most recruiters use LinkedIn as a resume database to find candidates that can't be open about their search. This means that they sort and filter people based on the information in their profiles. The software that recruiters use to manage those open jobs does the same thing. This is where it can get tricky for most veterans. Keep reading to find tips on how to translate your military experience to the civilian sector.
The other big way that LinkedIn matters in your job search is how the people in the process will use it. In fact, people will be looking at your profile, your activity, and your connections - even if you don't apply to the job through LinkedIn. So, you need to put your best foot forward at all times on LinkedIn.
Add Your Service Experience
The key to building an effective LinkedIn profile starts with your professional experience. This means adding each of your titles on LinkedIn including any experience before you entered the service that may be relevant to your current search.
As noted above, recruiters will be using the fields in LinkedIn to search and filter candidates. So, your military titles will be unlikely to be a search term for a civilian recruiter. Instead, they will be looking for their civilian counterparts. So, you should pick the job title from the drop-downs for each of your entries. You will want to pick a title that is honest, but that also advances your current career goals (or at least doesn't hold you back).
For example, if you functioned as a physician's assistant in the service and are now looking for a physician's assistant job in the civilian sector, then you should pick the Physician Assistant title from the drop-down for your job title. Your official military title and rank can be included in the description for the role to provide full context on your role (as well as details on what you did, specialties, etc.).
And, remember, that each title needs to be entered separately on LinkedIn. You can group some roles that are similar, but you will want to show progression over your military career. The easiest way to do that is to break out the particular roles and to provide relevant descriptions of each during the applicable timeframes.
How to Add Your Professional Experience
Not sure how to put each of your jobs on your LinkedIn profile? Here are the instructions to put each of your jobs on your LinkedIn profile:
- Log in to LinkedIn
- Go to your profile
- Click "Add Profile Section"
- Select "Core"
- Select "Add Professional Experience"
- Enter the information for each role in the pop-up.
- Fill out every field including job title, organization, dates, and description.
- Hit Save
- Repeat as much as needed
Use the Drop-downs
LinkedIn is a big database that is used by a lot of different people for different reasons. So, make sure that you remember this when you are entering information on your profile. This means that if you do not use the drop-downs it may be challenging for people to find you in the system.
The drop-downs were created for the private/civilian sector for the most part. So, it can be hard to find the right fit for your military experience. It is ok to deviate from the drop-downs if you must. But, make sure that you look through that list of suggestions to see if there is a match before free-typing. And, make sure that whatever you pick from the drop-downs is an accurate reflection of your experience. You don't want to over or understate your experience or skills on LinkedIn.
The Skills section on LinkedIn is critical for anyone that is applying to jobs. This section will provide analytics to recruiters if you apply to jobs on LinkedIn. It can also push into the applicant tracking systems (ATS) for employers to create your candidate profile in their databases. So, take the time to complete this section.
LinkedIn caps skills at 50. You will want to pick a mix of soft, substantive, and specialty skills on your profile. You will also want to select skills that are relevant to your current search - not merely a report on your military service. So, think carefully about what skills are relevant to your next career move and select appropriately.
You can modify the Skills section on your LinkedIn profile at any time. However, you won't want to do this after applying to each job on LinkedIn. This could result in removal of skills that may be important for your overall search and create confusion. So, pick the core skills that are relevant to what you want to do in the civilian sector and review them periodically (not constantly).
Add Your Certifications
Certifications and licenses that you obtained in military service can be relevant to the private sector. So, you will want to add each of these to your profile in the right profile section.
The certifications may be skills, but they won't be properly searchable if they are added to your profile outside of the Certifications and Licenses section.
Again, you will want to add each certification and License separately. You will also want to pick from the drop-downs and properly tag the organizations that issued the certification or license.
You can add Certifications & Licenses to your LinkedIn profile by:
- Log in to LinkedIn
- Select "View Profile"
- Click on "Add Profile Section"
- Select "Recommended"
- Scroll down and select "Add licenses & certifications"
- Enter the information in each of the fields in the pop-up
- Repeat for each of your licenses or certifications
Don't Forget Your Education
Another important part of your LinkedIn profile is your education. Many veterans will have completed their degrees in the service. Your work experience is relevant, but so are your degrees as they may be viewed as a requirement for a particular organization or job.
Again, make sure that you use the drop-downs and enter each of your degrees separately on your LinkedIn profile. You can also include details about activities and provide descriptions of your degree programs in these entries.
Partial degrees or degrees in progress should also be included on your LinkedIn profile. Do not overrepresent your experience here, but enter the name of the degree program and include a future completion date (if applicable). If you do not plan to complete the degree, then enter information about how much you did complete towards the degree in the description section.
Build Your Network
In the civilian sector, it can be as much about who you know as it is about what you know. This means that you should build your network on LinkedIn. Doing so will help you to more effectively leverage that network in your job search. In fact, people with referrals to a job are 4x more likely to land the position than those that do not.
And, having a professional network on LinkedIn will show the recruiters a few important things. First, it can demonstrate that you are a real person. LinkedIn is still social media and there are scammers out there. So, avoid looking like a fake profile by building out real connections on the platform. This will incentivize recruiters to engage with you.
Second, the fact that you have a network and are responsive to people on the platform can also help you to show up as a responsive candidate. Recruiters that have access to the LinkedIn Recruiter module will have analytics about how active people are on the system. This can matter if they are trying to fill a job quickly and want to use their in-mails strategically. So, make sure that you are building a network and responding to in-mails to improve your ratings on the platform.
Apply to Jobs
Finally, and most importantly, make sure that you are actively applying to jobs. You can use the jobs section on LinkedIn to find a wealth of information about companies, open positions, and your network.
Be careful when applying on LinkedIn. The easy apply option is not always the best because of how the data can be sent to the potential employer through LinkedIn. Instead, you can and should go directly to a company careers page and apply directly whenever possible.
There are times when you have to apply through LinkedIn for a job. In that case, the person reviewing your application may be seeing analytics about your profile before they look at your resume. This is why having a strong profile and putting it to work for your job search can matter in your civilian job search.
Make the most of your LinkedIn profile with the tips above. And, remember, that there are civilian tax credits that incentivize companies in the private sector to hire veterans. So, make sure that you are leveraging all of your strengths to stand out in your military to civilian job search by using LinkedIn actively.