Posted on May 19, 2017

Personal Branding for Veterans Personal Branding for Veterans

As you transition from military to civilian life and start a job search, you’ll have to learn a new set of skills. To get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers, you’ll need to become familiar with Personal Branding.

Yes, it is self-promotion. And I get that that feels uncomfortable, and it feels like bragging. But self-promotion and personal branding are about understanding and communicating the value you offer to a company.

Today, much of our first impressions are online: submitting a resume on a job board or through email, your LinkedIn profile, and even Google. You need to give some thought to your digital persona to communicate who you are, control how you’re perceived and attract the attention of hiring managers. 

I’m happy to share with you some ideas to market yourself online, to tell your personal story, and to identify transferrable skills that will highlight the relevant experience, work ethic and leadership traits that made you successful in uniform.

Why do Veterans Need a Personal Brand?

When you leave the military, it's up to you to distinguish yourself from the competition. That's where having a personal brand comes in.

During your military career, you had a very defined career path. You accepted an occupational specialty, earned rank, filled designated jobs. Now as you transition into civilian life, there are no designated career paths. Instead, you have many choices in front of you about what you want to do with your professional career.

Creating an Authentic Personal Brand 

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Your Personal Brand is what you’re known for, and tells a lot about where your focus lies.

In our current economy, competition is fierce. It’s not enough to have a resume and upload it to several online job boards. You have to be visible and actively engaged on social media. You need a strategic plan, with a persistent approach to managing your personal brand across a variety of platforms.

Think of your personal brand as your reputation, how others see you. Employers, hiring managers, supervisors, clients, colleagues, and peers will naturally form opinions and judgments about you based on what they see online and their interactions with you.

Don’t try to become something you’re not and create an inauthentic brand. Instead, strive for consistency in all of your interactions. Online and in person, remain authentic and relevant.

What are the Biggest Personal Branding Challenges for Veterans?

The biggest challenge for many veterans is the inability to understand how to sell themselves. They are often reluctant and uncomfortable speaking to their accomplishments, talking about themselves in first person. The military supports a very collaborative culture. It’s a ‘we’ culture; it’s not about you, it’s about how you fit in the group. That makes sense for the military, but in the civilian world you need to clearly define what makes you relevant and compelling to an employer.

Another challenge that veterans face is translating their military experience into civilian-friendly terms. Simply re-wording your resume is not enough.

I advise you to really dig into the heart of the jobs you’ve done, either in combat or in a military career, what skills you’ve used, and how they relate to what a civilian hiring manager is looking for.

You need to talk about your military experience in terms that employers will understand, and not just about your MOS. Talk about your leadership experience, talk about the fact that you work well in team, talk about your incredible work ethic.

Remember, in most cases, rank means nothing to civilians.

How Do You Build a Personal Brand?

You should build up your personal brand in relation to the position or industry in which you are seeking employment. A little extra effort to showcase your knowledge and enthusiasm will go a long way.

Let’s compare two veterans who went through the same training school, served the same amount of time, have the same experience level, and are both applying for the same marketing position at the same company. One of them however decided a few months to build on their personal brand as an expert in social media marketing. 

She started by listening to podcasts about social media, became active in several LinkedIn Social Media groups, and took some free on-line courses on Marketing & Social Media. She then wrote an article based on her opinion of some of the key points she learned, and published it on her LinkedIn account. She included in her resume that she is a member of several social media networking groups, in addition to the above initiatives.

Who would you call for an interview? Who stands out as the passionate one, the one who cares about starting their civilian career in marketing? 

Although it takes some extra time and effort, conveying a clear career objective and a distinctive personal brand will always pay off in the end.

Wishing you all the best in your job search!