Tips for veterans applying to higher ed jobs
Tailor your resume so your military experience translates into the higher education realm. Ensure that your resume is understandable to a civilian audience. Eliminate military jargon and ask a friend to proofread it. Here at the University of Iowa and our affiliated institutions, we are extremely rigid with candidate screenings. We want you to clearly match all the required qualifications for a job, and your resume is the first place we screen for that fit.
Expect a collaborative and friendly culture. Higher ed tends to be a very collaborative environment, so expect multiple interviews, including interviews by committee. The culture in higher ed is warm and welcoming; when I first arrived at the university, we had a lot of celebrations and get-togethers for events. Overall, it was a fairly easy transition from navigating a large military installation to a large public university.
The levels of hierarchy can feel similar transitioning from the military to a large university, but there are fewer rules at the university (and no uniforms).
Practice telling your stories, with a focus on the lessons you’ve learned. I recently read about how a veteran was screened out of a job because of how they responded to a question. The candidate had been in the Air Force and, when asked a question about the value of diversity, said, “When everyone’s in blue, you don’t see color.” The candidate was trying to communicate that everyone in the military ought to be treated equally, but unfortunately worded an answer that seemed to erase the different lived experiences of fellow servicemembers. In the military you work in an incredibly diverse environment, but you may not be used to describing it in a certain way. For instance, if asked about the importance of diverse teams, you can speak about the espirit de’corps that you’ve developed working with people of diverse backgrounds towards the same unifying mission.
When I do job coaching, I encourage candidates to think about their stories. Your interviewers don’t care so much about the details of a particular situation so much as the outcome—how you handled yourself through adversity and what you learned. Focus on standard interview questions: Reflect on a time you had a disagreement with a supervisor or a time you led a team. Think of a story for each of these scenarios plus, most critically, be able to articulate the lessons you learned from your decisions.
Thanks to Adam Potter for the above insights. During his twenty years in the military, Adam’s career path took him from starting as an Airborne Infantryman to his retirement as the Senior Army Guidance Counselor of Butte Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Adam currently serves as Director of the Central Midwest Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) and as Senior Human Resources Specialist at the University of Iowa.
Follow Adam on LinkedIn for great job opportunities in the Midwest!