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What Is a Veteran Employee Worth? How to Earn What You Should

Military service is a huge plus for employers. Here’s how to put a value on that

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

Although military roles have defined responsibilities with pay grades to match, civilian jobs aren’t nearly as specific. When you as a veteran start on a civilian career path, it’s important to know your worth so you are paid according to your true market value. Here’s how to do it.

Your military experience has value

If you’re pursuing positions that aren’t an exact replica of your military experience, that’s OK — your experience counts. Employers need all of the tangible skills you possess such as leadership, time and project management, and teamwork.

“Never discount your vast experience, even when there is not a direct correlation between the specific things you have done in the past and what a new job might require,” Heather McGowan, Future of Work keynote speaker and coauthor of The Empathy Advantage: Leading the Empowered Workforce, told AARP Veteran Report.

“Military experience is wide-ranging, just as most future jobs will be. The mental and physical discipline to learn and adapt, the ability to react quickly to rapidly changing environments, the experience working with and depending on diverse team members — these are all fundamental and valuable skills that every job now requires.”

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Ask recruiters

More often than not, salaries won’t be disclosed in job descriptions, but once you start interviewing you can ask employers what the job pays.

Chris Shipley, business transformation consultant and McGowan’s coauthor, told AARP Veteran Report: “Recruiters should be able to provide a direct answer to the salary question without asking you to disclose your current or recent pay or salary expectations. Ask them, ‘What is this work worth to the company?’ rather than answering what you expect to be paid for the work.”

Research salaries online

Kimberly Stiener-Murphy, an Air Force veteran and senior regional director at employment consulting firm Robert Half, told AARP Veteran Report, “Your  military pay should be irrelevant to the position that you are looking for and you should make sure that you have explored different salary guidelines to make sure that you are ‘in the know.’”

For instance, the Robert Half Salary Guide provides insight into annual wages for specific positions. “Researching salaries will help you get to know and understand your worth,” said Stiener-Murphy.

Conduct informational interviews

Determining your worth includes having meaningful conversations with people in your network.

Ruth Beltran, a career counselor and life coach, told AARP Veteran Report: “Have as many information meetings as possible with people who are already doing the job you aspire to and with the heads of those departments. The many questions to ask them include ones about salary ranges for entry-level through senior levels, and the qualities it takes to succeed in the job besides the literal technical content.”

Tap into resources early in the process

Lean into resources you already have access to, such as a career transition assistance program at your military base if you’re still serving.

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“The military, as well as many other agencies like Hiring Our Heroes, offer an incredible amount of support to help veterans transition, everything from career counseling to résumé writing to job fairs, and many other services,” Gary Pearcy, vice president for payment operations at DailyPay, told AARP Veteran Report.

Pearcy recommended beginning the journey as early as possible. “The longer planning time you have, the better. If you know that you are not going to reenlist, start planning. As an officer, if you know that you will not stay in beyond your commitment, start planning.”

Bottom line

Establishing a dollar amount of your worth is a critical part of the job search process so you’re not in the dark about salaries.

Being proactive is key. If you don’t set your own worth as a springboard for negotiations prior to getting a job offer, you end up underpaid and underappreciated.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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