Does Military Experience, Higher Education on a Resume Help or Hurt Chances of Finding a Job?


Aired August 7, 2003 – 12:50 ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let’s take a closer now look at the job search. After serving in the U.S. military, does risking all for your country help or hurt? Joining me now from Los Angeles is Lee Cohen from the Lucas Group. He’s a form officer in the U.S. Navy, now manages Lucas military recruitment. From Orlando, Florida, joining us Bill Gaul. He’s the author and president of the Destiny Group, on of the Top 50 career Web site that helps veterans transition back into the civilian workforce.
Thanks to both of you for joining us. And let me begin with you, Lee, does it help or hurt for a military veteran to go out and get a job?

LEE COHEN, MILITARY RECRUITER: Well, it depends, Wolf. We have — what we’re seeing in the current environment is there are people with significant amount leadership experience and specific technical skills who do very well. That doesn’t apply to all of them. But for the vast majority of the military guys they do very, very well when they transition into corporate positions on the outside.

BLITZER: So, Bill, do you agree it’s a good career move to spend a few years in the military or it may be a setback?

BILL GAUL, MILITARY OUTPLACEMENT CONSULTANT: Oh it’s a very good quality to have. It teaches you teamwork, leadership and at a very young age you’ve develop very well for the corporate environment.

BLITZER: All right, here’s an e-mail question we have from Joe. Let me let Lee handle this one. “While it helps to have applicable skills, even those retired and former military people looking in areas where their military job doesn’t apply, should have an edge over those that don’t, if the employer recognizes the value of the discipline, writing skills and work ethics military people usually bring to the table.”

Lee, what do you think?

COHEN: Yes, he’s absolutely right. And if you looked at military people coming out in general, look at what citizens they are. They are mission oriented, they’re typically pretty clean-cut folks, the type of most people would like to work around. So he’s right. Some of the intangible things lend themselves to a very, very successful transition for most of them.

BLITZER: Here’s an e-mail from you, Bill. It’s from Michael. “I was wondering about the practice of dumbing-down one’s resume. Job counselors have suggested to me that I should reduce the amount of years’ experience I have on my resume and remove my master’s degree because employers will assume I would want too much money or that if I accept the position, I wouldn’t be happy and would leave as soon as I could. Is my experience and educational background now worthless?”

GAUL: No. Not at all. The applicants should correctly reflect all of the information on their resume that they have. They should not upsize or overstate their experiences. But to have a very accurate portrayal of their education.

I would remove any references to age and I would also remove any references to military acronyms that they may have on the resume. But they should definitely recommend — I would recommend that they have the correct education on their resume.

BLITZER: Lee, troops coming back from Iraq right now or Afghanistan, who are leaving the military, retiring or whatever, served for a few years, what is the worst thing they could do to hurt their chances of getting a job? Because a lot of them are probably looking for work or at least their loved ones are beginning to think about it.

COHEN: Yes. Wolf, I’ve seen some folks do pretty amazing things, exercise a pretty poor judgment. For example, they detach from the military, they buy a house in their little hometown in the middle of Arkansas and figure that they can land a job there after they’ve settled down. That’s — you want a secure a position first somewhere in the United States, and then settle down.

BLITZER: All right, Kevin, in Florida, you’re on the air with your question. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi, Wolf. Just in my personal experience trying to find a part-time job, there’s — granted, employers can’t necessarily discriminate against you if you do get hired. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a chance that they’re going to discriminate you when you’re seeking employment. So in my experience, I had an employer that grilled me during my employment interview about the fact that I was the reserves.

BLITZER: Well I think that’s a good question, Kevin. Let me let Bill handle that. As Kevin points out, if you’re in the reserves, employers by law, federal law, can’t hurt you if you are activated, if you go into active service.

But if you’re in the reserves, can they prevent you from getting a job because the employer is concerned you could be activated and mess things up for them?

GAUL: Wolf, that’s an excellent question. That is exactly right. Every employer out there or hiring manager could have a bias in any interview. It could be because of reserve duty, it could be because of your gender, it could be because of your skin color.

The questions that are asked are asked because they want to make sure that that employee will be available to that employer. A good answer to the question is that you’re going to make yourself available for the opportunity and should zero in the on the skills for the opportunity, not necessarily what reserve components you’ll be having after the military.

BLITZER: Bill Gaul, we have to leave it right there. Thanks for joining us. Lee Cohen, thanks to you as well.


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