So you are leaving the military! What are you going to do now? For those leaving the Armed Forces, the transition from the military to the civilian sector can be challenging. Oftentimes, military personnel lack adequate job-hunting skills.
As you enter the civilian sector you will be surprised to learn that employers are not impressed by your rank or by the accomplishments achieved during your military career. Do not assume that your success in the military will easily convert into a civilian career. In these challenging economic times, the competition for jobs is greater than ever. As you seek to enter civilian life, you must start over and establish a new identity. Becoming familiar with the civilian job market takes time and effort. Some of the main challenges you may face include:
The civilian resume. One of the biggest challenges you will face is translating your military accomplishment into a civilian-style resume. Being able to translate your military experience into civilian language is essential. The last thing you want is to be overlooked by a recruiter because he could not understand your resume. Take time to assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities, and integrate them into the position for which you are applying. It is a good idea to have multiple resumes based on different career skills. For example, if you have both program management and engineering experience, build a resume for each set of skills. Make sure to list key accomplishments in quantitative terms, such as percentages, money saved, and/or contracts awarded. Your resume must portray how your experience will ultimately add value to the employer’s bottom line.
The cover letter. There are lots of pitfalls in writing a cover letter. One of them is simply repeating the same information that is on your resume. Often employers are looking for statements of purpose, career goals, and objectives, as well as descriptions of accomplishments that may or may not be listed on your resume. A cover letter will give you the opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants.
The civilian interview. A civilian interview can be daunting. You must dedicate time to familiarize yourself with the civilian application and interview process. Research your chosen industry or position and acquaint yourself with frequently used terms. Practice interview questions and make sure your answers depict some type of value or return on investment for the company. You must be able to sell yourself to the hiring managers.
Education. Lack of a college degree may not have been a hindrance while in the military, but it will be in the civilian world. Most companies require a college degree before they will consider you for employment. Obtaining a degree while in the military is the best option. However, if you left the military without attaining a degree, there are a number of resources available to former military personnel to go back to school. You should take full advantage of all of the educational benefits afforded to active duty personnel.
The civilian work environment. The work ethic, values, and integrity you experience in the military will be very different in the civilian world. You will be faced with people who do not have the same level of work ethic and leadership ability. The lack of structure and direction can also be challenging. You must learn to adjust to an environment where the objectives may be vague. Being flexible and applying the problem-solving skills you learned in the military can help alleviate this challenge.
Networking. While in the military your network mainly consisted of military personnel. As part of your transition, you must expand your network in order to enhance your job search. Make sure to inform your friends and colleagues that you are searching for a job. They can prove to be a valuable resource and help you connect to others who can assist you in your job search. Nowadays most jobs are filled through referral sources not the job posting. Having a vast and diverse network can connect you with hard to reach people. In addition, you should utilize Internet job boards and social networking sites. Sites such as recruitmilitary.com and militaryhire.com specialize in helping military personnel connect with organizations. LinkedIn.com is a professional social networking site that allows you to connect with people with whom you currently (or previously) work(ed) or with whom you went to school. The site also allows your current contacts to provide recommendations on your job performance. Best of all, your current contacts can help you connect to other professionals outside of your network.
Transitioning from the military to the civilian world will be one of the most stressful challenges you will face. Ample planning is required in order to make a smooth transition. You should not rush through the transition period. Instead, focus on doing the research required to be knowledgeable about the new career you are pursuing. Try to look at this chapter of your life as a fresh start with opportunities to grow. Regardless of the length of your military career, the best is not behind you. Keep a positive attitude and have the confidence to know that you have a lot to offer the civilian world.