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Virginia firm helps vets, spouses conquer job market

By CATHY JETT | The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. | Published: September 5, 2016

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Bruce Benedict knows firsthand how tough it can be for someone to find a civilian job after a career in the military.

The skills they’ve acquired in the service don’t readily translate into those required for a job with the federal government, a defense contractor or other employer, said the Stafford County resident, who retired from the Army as a major in 2007.

Benedict eventually found a job as a hiring manager for the federal government’s Joint CI Training Academy, but many of the résumés that crossed his desk didn’t make it easy to figure out if the applicant had the appropriate skills.

He soon realized that the majority of veterans who were applying had one thing in common: They thought that they had to change who they are in order to get hired, and were understandably frustrated.

“What I concluded was that the veterans themselves don’t need to change, they need to understand the system to know how to work with the system,” Benedict said.

He’s turned that insight into a business, Battlefield Résumés, which offers military transition training, one-on-one employment coaching, self-paced video training and a series of on-demand workshops and webinars. He’s also written three books: “Operation: Job Search,” “Operation: Federal Résumé” and “Operation: Civilian Résumé.”

As the book titles suggest, Benedict relies on familiar military tactics, terminology and procedures to help veterans approach a job search, get an offer and negotiate a salary. Trying to enter the civilian workforce, he said, is like deploying to a foreign country. You need to analyze all aspects in order to have an advantage.

“The analysis, for me, comes first,” he said. “I look at every job, every job announcement, as a battlefield. That’s why I chose the name Battlefield Résumés.”

Some of Benedict’s clients first learned about his services through his free introductory webinars. The next one, which is on preparing for a federal job interview, will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 20 through eventbrite.com. He said that about 150 people usually participate, including some who are stationed abroad and considering their futures after the military.

“I think everyone is scared of applying for a federal government job because they don’t know anything about it,” he said. “The federal government understands military language, so there’s less translation. It’s easier for someone in the military to transition into a federal or federal contractor job than a non-defense job.”

He tells veterans to consider writing a résumé for a federal job opening, or any job posting for that matter, as an operations order, or op ord, for short.

“Military veterans understand what that means,” Benedict said. “If you use the same op ord for every battle you fight, people would think you’re crazy because every battlefield is different. Every job announcement is a battlefield. That’s how you tailor it.”

That’s just what Benedict did when he helped Terry Adams of Destin, Fla., a retired Army sergeant who was applying for a government position earlier this year.

“I’ve applied for several federal postings and never had any luck,” Adams said in a phone interview. “As soon as I got him to help me with it, it was a totally different résumé.”

Benedict showed him how to pinpoint what an employer was looking for and how his military and civilian experience fit the requirements rather than just listing his duties.

“It got more specific,” said Adams, who is a Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, engineer. “It pulled out what kind of equipment I’d been using.”

Adams was offered the position he was seeking, but ended up not taking it.

“I’m still looking,” he said. “I would probably use him again unless it’s for a very similar-type position.”

Military spouses can have an even harder time finding a job once their husband or wife enters civilian life. Their work history tends to be spotty and scattershot since they had to leave one job behind and find another as they followed their spouse, said Benedict, who also helps them.

That was the case for Erica Ramos of Stafford, who moved four times during her husband’s 20-year career in the Marines. It would take her about a year to find a new position each time, and then she’d have to leave and start the process all over again.

When he retired and they settled in Stafford, Ramos decided it was time to redefine herself as something other than a military spouse.

“This is what I’ve been for so long, what do I really want to do?” she said in a phone interview. “I knew I didn’t want to work for the military anymore, although that was what was most comfortable. I needed to decide what I wanted to do for Erica.”

Ramos went to college to get a nursing degree, and then Benedict, who is a neighbor, helped her distill information that would have filled page after page of a federal job application into a one-page résumé that focused on the skills that her potential employer was looking for.

“The military looks at résumés very differently than the civilian world,” she said. “Bruce was able to tailor it to be functional. It defined who I am professionally so people could say, ‘We know who Erica is professionally in a snapshot.’ ”

Thanks to his help, she landed the job she wanted at a LabCorp branch in Herndon.

“I absolutely love it,” Ramos said.

Cathy Jett: cjett@freelancestar.com

©2016 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
Visit The Free Lance-Star at www.fredericksburg.com/flshome
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