As you near your military separation, you will probably have many questions regarding the military-to-civilian transition. The good news is that it has never been a better time to be a veteran. Companies are actively searching for vets because the vast majority turn out to be GREAT employees…All you have to do is get the job! Here are 6 tricks of the trade to help you successfully navigate your way to your new career.
1. Jump Into Action
One of the great things about the military is you know exactly when you will be “unemployed.” Don’t wait until 30 days before your separation before starting the military to civilian transition process. ASSESS your options and create an ACTION plan. Use the 12-month countdown. Months 12 through 5 are the preparation phase (decide what you want to do, prepare yourself, and build your “marketing” package). Months 4-2 are interview months (search for the jobs you really want, send resumes, and wow them with your abilities). Month 1 is the final phase – time to accept an offer and get ready to start work.
2. Work Smart
Now that you are in the 12-month window, explore all of your options, from location and industry to company and position. There are lots of opportunities for veterans and resources to help you help you, but you have to decide which job is right for you. You might want to focus on organizations with a history of hiring veterans because you don’t have to convince them of your worth. Attend multiple military job fairs to evaluate companies that are already open to helping you transition. Search for recruiters with a military background because they will know how to effectively position you and your skills in the corporate world. And don’t forget to take advantage of all the free services available to military vets (military placement firms, military job boards, military job fairs, TAP/ACAP) plus there are also military-specific places to network such as the VFW and military associations like AUSA, MOAA, Marine for Life, etc.
3. Civilianize Yourself
Many people get confused when evaluating veterans because the military has its own language and structure. Your job title will likely not equate with anything in the corporate world. You have to civilianize your resume, experience, and verbiage. Get used to framing your experience in a way that civilians will not only understand but also connect with the job you want. The resume is probably the hardest part of this process. It takes practice and experience to be able to read a military job description, recognize the transferable skills, and explain your work history in a way that is truthful while meeting stated job requirements. For the most part, resumes don’t get you the job, but they can very quickly eliminate you…especially when the stack of applications reaches the hundreds.
4. Build Credibility
Remember, ideally you have 12 months, which gives you time to build credibility and learn job skills if you want to transition into a completely new area. Research the field/industry you want to got into to identify the associations, certifications, and even college or professional development courses that seem popular. So you may have been in logistics in the Army but getting your Chartered Financial Analyst Certification, taking some finance courses, and attending the major industry conferences lend credibility to your argument that you will be able to fill a role in finance. Another good idea for getting experience is volunteering for projects related to your intended area of transition before you are released from the military.
5. Form a Network
Whether you know it or not when subscribed to an established forum such as LinkedIn or by joining local organizations or volunteering with a nonprofit, you are building a network. The idea is to build relationships with new people because each of them has the potential to help with your job search. Maybe they work at a company you are interested in or maybe they know someone who does or maybe they can give you good advice. The great thing about a network is that you never know where it can lead you!
6. Mind Your Move
Don’t automatically assume and plan to use your military move to go back to your hometown. A huge advantage for military job seekers is that they can apply for just about any job that meets your criteria, no matter where it is located because your military move can pay for relocation to the city of your new job. Most civilian companies only pay relocation for jobs at the highest level, so if you don’t follow the 12-month plan and have your job lined up before your separation, you may be severely limiting your opportunities. Keep an open mind about cities and regions your family might like, and be sure to tell potential employers when you send your resume that you can cover your own relocation expenses.