Lida Citroen, an international branding and reputation management specialist who has worked extensively with veterans through the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation and other non-profits, said that civilians tend to have more social media savvy.
"For the veteran recently transitioned, these tools require more training—for instance, learning how to be correctly positioned online is a challenge...Issues of privacy and reluctance to promote one's skills can hinder the veteran's willingness to be authentic online," Citroen said, by communicating who they are, what they value, and what assets they can offer an employer.
Some sites, like LinkedIn or Facebook, are already extensively used by people outside the military, but they aren't always as helpful as they could be, for people with a military background. Entrepreneurs are launching new sites specifically designed to help military members guide their careers before and after transitioning out of the armed forces.
Aaron Kletzing, co-founder and chief operating officer of RallyPoint.com, polled students at the Air Force Academy this spring, asking them what they wish LinkedIn would do for them. Although most service members are not on LinkedIn, the cadets were quick to describe what they wish they could find on the site: A way to leverage the relationships they have built so far into influence over their future assignments in the military.
"When we look at the experiences people input (into their profiles on RallyPoint.com), they tie to very specific units," Kletzing said. That means that when they connect with other people, they can do it with more focus than a scatter-shot search. "It shows you your network within the military," searchable by geographic location, unit, rank, and many other factors.
"The younger demographic rabidly consumes digital and social media, but you can't go on Linked- In to find opportunities deep inside the 82nd Airborne," Kletzing said. "Those cadets, in a couple months after graduation, they will lose touch. It happens to every class. It happened at my West Point class."
RallyPoint can help you connect with people who are already stationed where you're about to PCS—potentially introducing you to several informal sponsors who can show you the ropes of your new duty station before you even arrive.
"You can see everyone—past, present and future—at a particular unit," said Kletzing. "You can visualize your professional network across the most complicated organization in the U.S."
Mark Morris left the Air Force two years ago. He thought his background as a section commander responsible for 500 people, combined with his master's degree in finance, would make finding a new job in a new city an easy task.
"I thought I'd be a great candidate, but I had no specific experience outside of the military," Morris said. "Military and veterans will excel; they do have that leadership training; once they get in there and learn the ropes, they'll do well."
Like many people, Morris turned to social media for information and connections. Though the Internet can feel like a limitless resource, he didn't really find what he was looking for, either in his job search or in looking to connect with services and programs that are designed to help veterans.
"The biggest frustration for people in the military is not pay or deployments; it's having very little autonomy over assignments in the military," said Kletzing. "The best way to control your career is through a relationship: A by-name request from a senior officer."
Seeking out those requests is nothing new in the military, but having a powerful, online tool to harness potential relationships and make them easy to see can help service members both within their military career and after they move on to the civilian world.
The gap in accessible information for veterans from governmental and nonprofit organizations spurred Morris to found his own company.
"Civilians and military both look to social media for various reasons. When Facebook and LinkedIn aren't solving that problem, it opens up an opportunity," Morris said, for someone to launch a new platform with more tailored goals. He became one of those entrepreneurs with the 2013 launch of mygigline.com, an Alexandria, Va.-based site he founded to help service members find events, programs and services they need, where they live, without a lot of clutter.
"People try to 'copy' civilian sites for military users, but those haven't really worked out," Morris said. "RallyPoint saw a problem to solve, especially for active duty. The need exists, because the only network that matters is your military network. You can find military members on LinkedIn, but the network you establish on a site like RallyPoint should help."
Part of that assistance comes from connecting with people who understand what your military background means, once you transition out of service. Sites like RallyPoint enable those preparing to leave the military, and existing veterans, to find people with similar backgrounds who already have established themselves in the corporate world.
"If you're starting to think about transition (to the civilian sector), you think, 'I want to see everyone who's just like me, or everyone who used to be just like me," as you're looking for potential employers, Kletzing said. "He doesn't need a translator to figure me out."
When Morris looked for his first post-military job, he realized that his background didn't always seem compelling to civilian hiring managers. It's a common problem, he said, among transitioning military.
"A lot of vets deal with the same problem. We worked our way up, but it doesn't always translate to the corporate world," Morris said. "Some of it is swallowing your pride a little bit. There's still a training gap. Finance in the corporate world vs. finance in the military is not the same."
It's not just the skills learned on the job the matter. Learning to present yourself, promote your abilities and skills and communicate with people who do not share your military background can help any service member make the most of the past, as they prepare for the future.
"We see more and more that recruiting has become a pull—not push—strategy. This means that candidates must make themselves findable online and in key circles of influence so recruiters and hiring managers can seek them out, learn who they are and what they value, and contact them if interested," said Citroen.
Reaching out to fellow service members and veterans can be a strong, first step into becoming that easily found, heavily recruited job candidate.