Anyone seeking a new job or wanting to change careers learns quickly the power of social media. However, older applicants and those who’ve been outside the job market – such as military veterans and their spouses – may face unique obstacles beyond the normal stress of a job search. What does preliminary research tell us about how social media helps or hinders members of the military and their families making a career transition to civilian life?
Bluvshtein, Kruzic, and Massaglia (2005) examined people making career transitions aided by social media through the lens of Alfred Adler, a leading individual psychologist who transitioned from military doctor to civilian life in a country that lost. According to these authors, Adler viewed relationships at the core of human nature, traits that get especially tested during unemployment, which fuel emotional stress and doubts of self-worth (p. 144). These researchers cited previous studies that view social media contributing to those feelings of isolation but refuted these theories, noting, “We believe that social media does not displace face-to-fact social connections but makes them stronger” (p. 147). Bluvshtein et al. offered six steps to help those in career transition on social media and achieving lasting meaning from those connections (p. 149).
Active military members may distrust or not take advantage of social media opportunities, according to Frame (2016); veterans may view social media as a way for terrorists to track down their family members instead of as an essential career search tool (p. 170). However, members of the military are comfortable with computer-based training and often keep in touch with family back home with Facebook. Frame cited a 2015 study that noted that 95% of recruiters search LinkedIn for candidates and post jobs on Twitter, 92% post jobs and 79% hire people from those connections. About three-fourths of recruiters use social media to increase employee referrals, according to this study (p. 171). Frame suggested ways to protect personal information so military families can feel more comfortable with these public digital networks. Frame suggested that members of the military searching for jobs get active on LinkedIn, build connections with military friends and then increase civilian connections, follow-up on job leads, use less military jargon, and explain skills without giving away classified information (174-175).
Military spouses in particular face career search challenges that include frequent relocation, history of unrelated jobs, living in somewhat poor job markets, and lack of seniority, according to McBride and Cleymans. They cited a 2013 survey that identified today’s military spouse as a 33-year-old female with some post-secondary education and some children in the home who makes about a third less than her civilian peers (p. 92). Read a more entertaining take on unemployed military spouses here.
However, these resilient spouses also tend to possess valuable and employable skills that include adaptability, flexibility, creative thinking, problem solving, and organizational skills, but may not necessary have the know-how to communicate the value of those skills to hiring managers. McBride and Cleymans suggested that military spouses use these job-search strategies: create a career lattice, increase marketability, understand education opportunities, learn job-market lingo, document accomplishments, and leverage social media (p. 93).
Bluvshtein, M., Kruzic, M., & Massaglia, V. (2005, Summer). From netthinking to networking to netfeeling: Using social media to help people in job transitions. Journal of Individual Psychology 71(2). 143-154.
Frame, P. P. (2016). Coaching veterans to understand the value and proper usage of social media. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 32(2), 170-176.
McBride, P., & Cleymans, L. (2014, Fall). A paradigm shift: Strategies for assisting military spouses in obtaining a successful career path. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 30(3). 92-102.