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A Veteran’s Approach to a Job Search (Part 5)

When I first made my list of steps to aid in a job search, I added the phrase “if necessary” when it came to continuing your education. In hindsight, continuing education is always necessary.

Regardless of when we served, we are very fortunate to have educational assistance as Veterans. Even if we have depleted all of our military or VA funding sources, many colleges and universities — and certain states — offer discounts, scholarships, or waived tuition to aid Veterans in pursuing your education.

Time to be honest. I spent 20 years in the U.S. Army, with tuition assistance available, and I used it very little. I cashed in my Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) funds, as I felt I did not need them, and chose to refuse the GI Bill conversion when it was offered.

I seemed to think there were more important things for my free time. In fairness, I was very busy. However, they were my choices to make.

Fortunately for me, our leaders passed the 9/11 GI Bill and I qualified for benefits at 70 percent eligibility. So I enrolled in college again and found I have a hunger for education.

So, if you have not been in a library lately or earned a degree or certificate, time to “ruck up.”

How do we pay for it? I know far too many people who are having a tough time getting financing or assistance in order to pay for school these days. Many citizens have gone to college and left at least once, many with financial assistance. After leaving school, life happened, and they may owe the school or other financial aid loans. If so, no financial aid is available for them until they are able to become current. Even a small amount of $1,500 can delay an enrollment and limit options for a struggling student today.

Knowledge is power. Be sure to learn what is available to you: VA, your local Veterans Service OfficerState Veterans Affairs Offices, VA News, and our own Job News and Advice page on this site all have great information. It is likely a good idea to stay current on VA Careers’ Facebook page.

What do we study and where? That is where we need to talk to the military advisor at different schools. These are the people familiar with translating our military experience into what is a good choice, keeping in mind our knowledge, desires, and economic forecast.

For example, as much as I may like blowing things up, I should consider that I might need an education in a growing field. Prospective employers also like to see that we have initiative, motivation, current and relevant knowledge, and are not someone that “just gets by.” I like to tell people to think about health care!

But if a school is not Veteran-friendly, move on. Most reputable schools are adapting to our needs. Find your fit and look for reviews. Be sure to verify that they are regionally accredited.

No matter the stage of your job search, it is never too early to get into school and it is always a good idea. It will even advance efforts in networking, which we will talk more about later.

The Veteran’s Approach to a Job Search Series:

About the Author:

Darren Sherrard is the associate director for Recruitment Marketing and Advertising at VA’s Office of Workforce Management and Consulting. Darren retired from the U.S. Army with 20 years of service. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Management, is a Senior Fellow of Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education, a Certified Contracting Officer Representative (COR) II and a Federal Acquisition Corps Program Manager (PM) I.

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