Getting Hired: Overcoming Career Paralysis

Career paralysis is something I often see as a manager at Hire Heroes USA. According to Sarah Vermunt, CEO and founder of Careergasm, career paralysis is, “the inability to make any career decision for the fear of making the wrong career decision.” Service members sometimes find a job they are perfectly qualified for and decide NOT to apply because they do not meet one qualification out of 10 or even 20. When this happens, they talk themselves out of the first step of a career.

When a service member is ready to transition out of the military, their potential is limitless. They gained advanced leadership skills, industry-specific expertise, education, discipline, grit, and a global perspective. Many veterans also have incredible soft skills that are assets in the civilian workforce. Service members are talented, resilient, and they get the job done. Why then do so many servicemen and women suffer from career paralysis? How do service members conquer their fear of the unknown? Let’s sort it out together.

The Checklist Downfall

When veterans search for jobs, there can be some confusion about the structure of job descriptions. Job listings generally have two parts: minimum qualifications and desired qualifications. Some people then experience the “checklist” mentality, when they feel they MUST have all qualifications to be considered.

This is simply untrue. Basic qualifications are what employers need to justify considering you as a candidate. Desired qualifications are what will set you apart from other candidates. The more desired qualifications you have, the better. However, veterans should not let this section deter them from applying for positions. I call the person who has every qualification the “Unicorn Candidate.” Even with an impressive application, the person may not get the position. The Unicorn Candidate may not fit well with the culture or may not interview well. Company fit matters.

Fear of Crossing the Border

The civilian world can look a bit intimidating, especially if a service member joined right out of high school and has never interviewed for a job. Joining the civilian workforce can be overwhelming, so many talk themselves out of going there.

How does someone overcome this fear and connect with a section of the workforce that does things a bit differently? The answer is networking. Service members should seek out civilian employment mentors (hopefully in management positions) who have never served. They have the capacity to mentor and guide transitioning service members in the right direction.

Service members can find mentors in several ways, but I have two methods I’d like to suggest:

First, I would use Hire Heroes USA’s volunteer services. We work with more than 800 volunteers nationwide who help answer industry-specific questions for our clients. I still talk with my mentor in I/O Psychology. She has become a dear friend and is able to guide me on my career path. We encourage any transitioning veteran to sign up for our services.

Second, it’s a good idea to have coffee conversations. I recommend using LinkedIn to connect and message a civilian at a company you admire or a company you want to work for. Go for a cup of coffee or have a phone conversation about their journey and what they did to get to their position. Not only does this give you practice on networking, but if a position becomes available, they will likely keep you in mind. Positive communication is everything! 

Who Are You?

Transitioning to civilian employment is not easy. A person must first come to terms with what they are leaving behind. The military is a home for many veterans. It is where our “family” is, where many of us were raised as an adult, and where we found our purpose. When we transition, the lack of that culture can cause service members to feel lost in the beginning. 

This is ok and a natural feeling. Service member or not, everyone comes to a point in their lives where they question who they are and their place in the world. Employment is a HUGE part of this question.

I encourage service members to follow the breadcrumbs. What is your degree? What are you curious about? What companies do you like? Whatever those answers, don’t stop moving because you can’t decide on a job. Move because you have choices. Don’t forget that you have worth and value to add to any company. Believe in yourself and apply for that job. Tailor your resume and apply for a variety of jobs. You never know until you try. We’re here to help you in your transition! Click here to register to become a client with Hire Heroes USA.