If you are in the military, at some point you will be faced with a forced transition to the civilian world. For some, this will be no big deal; for others, it will be a harrowing experience. How you view a transition will depend greatly on several factors to include:
- How well you prepared yourself
- What type of job you are pursuing
- Location flexibility
- Your family status
- Your financial needs
I talk on a regular basis with service members who tell me they will be getting out soon and they want to finish their degree. Further, some want to head in a new direction from what they’ve been doing in the military. Now I like being positive and upbeat when I talk to fellow military members, but it is hard to be encouraging when those are their opening lines. It is great that they are finally thinking about their transition, but they have already put themselves behind the power curve.
Remember, employers will be looking for 3 main credentials, and for the most part, these require long-term effort:
- Advanced education
- Specific training that may include applicable certifications
Start early and stay on it! The more of each of these you have the better!
Treat the transition process as a life-long process that continually prepares you for the next career advancement or job. You should be prepared enough that you cab look for a particular type of job. Also, start job hunting while you are still in the service (or currently employed.) Ideally, you will get a hiring commitment and have the job waiting when you exit the military (or your current job).
In addition to being a long-term process, the transition process is often complex. Any and all of the following can be a required task and will be covered by separate articles and webinars during this series:
- Career/transition planning
- Self assessment
- Resumes & cover letters
- The job search
- Getting the word out & social networking
- The interview
- Negotiating the job offer
- Start preparing for the next transition
Advantages to military experience
If you are active duty, think about when you will leave the service and start keeping an eye out now for job opportunities and contacts. For instance, contacts made with contractors on specific projects or weapon systems can often make the transition a no-brainer. They already know you, so seeking follow-on employment with them is a good first approach.
Military members have several things working in their favor to help land a civilian job. Many companies like to hire veterans because they know the military teaches you teamwork, instills discipline for starting and completing a mission (project), and develops leadership skills. If you have a current security clearance and are flexible to relocate with the military paying for your move, these can be huge incentives to hire you.
If you are married and possibly have a family, don’t leave them out of the planning process. Consider potential jobs, schools, and healthcare availability for them also. The better you plan for their move, the more likely they will have a successful transition. When you start your new job, a happy home setting can go a long way in helping you give 100% to your new employer.
So in review, transition preparation should be both a short and long term undertaking that makes you both a valued current employee with the long-term goal of keeping you primed and flexible for future career opportunities.
Continually enhance your education level, training and certification status, as well as your experience breath and depth. This helps recession-proof your current position and make you attractive for new positions and career paths. If you fail to make this long-term preparation commitment, you set yourself up for significantly difficult times, especially if your transition occurs during a high unemployment period like we are currently experiencing.
Resources to help with the transition
There are many resources available to help you with your short-term transition preparations. Here are just a few:
- Department of Labor Site: http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/tap/main.htm (Note DOL offers this program in conjunction with DoD and VA)
- The Army’s ACAP www.acap.army.mil
- The Air Force Community http://www.afcommunity.af.mil/transition/
The Navy TAP http://www.dawnbreaker.com/defense/navy-tap.php
- USCG TAP http://www.uscg.mil/worklife/transition_assistance.asp
- Military.com site: http://transitionstories.military.com/2009/07/11-things-i-figured-out-about-the-civilian-workforce.html
- Veteran Affairs site: http://www.oefoif.va.gov/
- A transition consultant site: http://www.bradley-morris.com/MilitarytoCivilianTransition.html
Remember, American Sentinel can help you in the education and certification areas. Flexible and affordable online degree programs coupled with great military benefits can get you prepared while you continue gaining experience in a current job. Be sure to make maximum use of your TA and GI Bill benefits while they are still available!
What questions do you have about planning for your post-military career? Please post your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-800-470-3743.