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Undo the Wrapper – Military Transition

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Billets, chevrons, crows, stripes, stars - the list goes on. These all mean something to someone working in the military. It is a standard all military members learn to respect alongside seniority and general experience. And, it is universally identifiable by almost everyone-military or not. No longer wearing the uniform displaying my role and level of leadership was a huge change and a serious hurdle as I searched for jobs in my new career. And, this easily identifiable symbol of one’s place in an organization disappears like a quick puff of smoke the minute you take it off.


My wrapper identified me as a well-tenured member of the USCG, and a Chief Petty Officer. I knew exactly what I was and what I could do every single day. And, for the most part, so did those around me. Avoid some simple pitfalls I ran into transitioning my once-obvious qualifications into the civilian workplace. It is important to understand that once your wrapper comes off and the close-as-skin supervisors you had in the military are no more, you must market yourself and find new ways to make yourself stand out.


Consider the Experts


Consider having your resume, cover letter, and other documents professionally done. It can be rather expensive up front. But, the results can be breathtaking compared to your own efforts. The people who write resumes for a living know what employers are looking for. They know how to catch their attention quickly. And, best of all, the pro resume writer doesn’t know you from Adam and has to do his or her level best to sell you as a product without bias.


Just to make sure everyone can understand this. Think of a product on a shelf.  Think of all the job seekers out there. That shelf would be lined up with a bunch of average looking people with no obvious symbol of what they can do. The employer is the shopper forced by that reality to pick up, if only briefly, each person to look at their label. You want to make your label (resume) as obvious and spiffy as your uniform once was. And, if you cannot accomplish this, consider hiring an advertising/marketing agency (professional resume writer) to design your label. It is usually tax deductible.


Employers Want Education


The key to any decent career is education-and experience. How often does one see a person with 8 years of leadership and management experience (basically from E-3 up, dependent upon perspective and the relevance upon the job you want) along with maybe three or four different operational competencies and dozens of professional level certifications? It simply is not the norm out here. On the other hand, service members for whatever reason are not as educated as their civilian counterparts and the scales can tip either way in the competition of today’s job market. Use Tuition Assistance. Use your GI Bill. Apply for grants and scholarships. You need that degree. For example, I have submitted resumes for 46 different safety manager and safety coordinator positions. Of those, 38 “preferred” to see a BS on my resume. “Preferred” is a strong suggestion that unless you have eye-popping skills and experience on your resume, you will be in the middle of the pack in competition without the degree.


Don’t Demand Ransom-Like Salaries


Do not expect to replace your entire military salary right out of the gate. If you do not have the “preferred” education or certifications that are the norm in your chosen industry, you must make concessions. You, in some ways, will be starting from square one. But, your pay will still be quite a bit higher than those with little or no experience.  And, the skills you learned and qualities instilled by your military service will propel you if you use them wisely.


Watch Your Language


When you market yourself, do not try to describe your experience in passive, cliché, and general terms. Describe what you achieved not what you did. According to Professional Resume Writers, this is one of the most common mistakes of all non-professional resume writers.



  • Passive language/ Doing: Duties include dealing with difficult customer service issues.
  • Action language/ Achieving: Entrusted with the most complex customer service issues as a result of exceptional ability to promptly resolve concerns and satisfy customers.


In your work history section, quantify your achievements. In the action language example above, you could expand: Consistently achieved a quarterly customer approval rating of 98%.


Obviously — but frequently overlooked by job seekers –make sure your resume is absolutely free of grammatical, spelling and punctuation mistakes. This is a huge no-no in resume submission and will kill your chances upon its discovery.


Precision Can Equal Decision


Make sure your resume and cover letter pass the 30 second test. This means that your Career Summary and Core Competencies are clearly displayed in the top third of the first page of your resume. 30 seconds. This is the average amount of time the average hiring manager gives the average resume when deciding to either keep or round file your hard work. Make it count!


I wish all who are making the transition the very best of luck!


This article is based on a conversation with a real veteran. Doris Appelbaum is CEO of Appelbaum’s Resume Professionals, Inc. Her specialty is resume writing and career coaching for transitioning military and veterans. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 414-352-5994.

VA staffing new White House VA Hotline Principally with Veterans

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Hotline 003


Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the two-month pilot phase of the new White House VA Hotline that began in June has demonstrated that Veterans calling the hotline respond best when their calls are answered by fellow Veterans and others with first-hand experience on their issues.

Trump signed the ‘Forever GI Bill.’ Here are 11 things you should know.

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GI Bill Signed


Editor’s note: An older version of this article misstated when VA will change the way it uses time in service to calculate GI Bill eligibility. This provision will go into effect in August 2020. The story has also been updated to clarify changes to the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.

Veteran Shares Green Thumb Hobby with Fellow Vets

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Green Thumb Hobby


Plants, the more exotic the better, appeal to Greg Kolodziejczyk. The 46-year-old Iraq War Army Veteran has a green thumb and tends dozens of plants at his home. He recently shared his interest with fellow Veterans when he brought in some of his own plants to be repotted and provide green to our hospital Clubhouse, the setting for many different types of recreational and educational activities.

My father and the dysfunctional, broken VA

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Dysfunctional Broken VA


In 2014, after it was revealed that at least 75 US Veterans had died while waiting to get appointments at their VA hospitals — with more than 120,000 never tended to, just abandoned or deliberately shuffled from one bureaucratic boondoggle to another — public outcry forced the following: congressional hearings, an internal VA investigation, an Obama administration investigation, an FBI criminal probe, a RAND Corp. investigation, an Office of Special Counsel investigation, and the “early retirement” of VA chief Dr. Robert Petzel and Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans affairs.

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