While the standard advice is that you should start preparing for your transition back to the civilian world at least a year in advance, sometimes life interferes.
If you have only a short time to transition, these tips should help you succeed.
If you are being forced out due to cutbacks or medical issues before you planned to leave, you are likely to battle grief and depression during this time too.
Use all available help!
And ask for your friends and family’s support when you need to vent. Trying to address this early will help ensure you do not show negativity in the job search process which will hinder your success.
Now is also the time to cut down your expenditures.
Financial experts advise that any working person have at least eight months of emergency funds on hand, but many people do not. If you do not, start building this safety net immediately. You are likely to face a period of unemployment, and do not want to be forced to take just any job.
[Related: Military Career Exit Strategy.]
Tip 1. Take your service’s transition program as soon as you can.
There is a huge amount of vital information you need to know in the program. It is critical to your future.
Tip 2. Decide what work you want to do going forward. (Begin this immediately!)
Some military members want to stay in their current field. If that applies to you, then you need to look at such jobs and see what civilian requirements are.
Do this by looking at a large number of the jobs you seek in a big job board, like Indeed.com. Check out:
- Where the jobs are.
- Who the employers are.
- The typical job requirements.
Once you know the requirements, you can look at your background to see if you need additional training, education, certifications, or specific skills. Many fields which require certifications now have options to use your military experience to get those.
This usually can be done before you transition. If you will need additional training or education, learn what your service offers and what the GI Bill covers — both may meet your needs.
Other military members are not sure what they want to do next. You need to think about what aspects of past work you really liked, what skills you want to use, and learn about the jobs that meet your needs. There are many resources here on Job-Hunt, but also look at My Next Move for Vets.
Tip 3. Check all your options.
If you are certain you want to be in a specific location only, then you also need to be sure that the jobs you seek are common within the location you prefer.
Consider going to school for a degree if you do not have one.
- Middle-skill positions now often require specialized training or an Associates’ degree. Many white collar jobs seek people with a Bachelors’ degree.
- The easiest time to get your degree may be right now. Be sure to have your service training evaluated for college credits first. Schools in the region you are targeting to live in offer the best networking for a new job in the area./li>
Look for schools which have specific, useful veterans support programs and chapters of the Student Veterans of America as well as the classes and career support you need.
If you are interested in a field which may require some special training, do an online search using the field name and “troops to __ program.” Example: Troops to Construction programs.
This also works for various IT skills and certifications. Most of these programs are free and some are online.
Tip 4. Build your network
A network of people will help you with all aspects of your job search.
Start by reconnecting with the people you went to high school or college with, those you worked with in past jobs, and military people who have transitioned ahead of you. See Job-Hunt’s free Guide to Job Search Networking.
Consider building your presence on LinkedIn. This network for professionals also offers many groups focused on specific types of work, specific locations, and veterans groups.
LinkedIn is used by over 3/4 of all recruiters to find people to hire.
Your transition program will have information on using LinkedIn and other social media. There are lots of good articles online to help you. Check out Job-Hunt’s free Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search.
As you make new connections in person, online, in trade or professional groups, make sure you follow up.
- Networking is always a two-way street. Once you know a bit about a person you connect with, you can provide ideas or articles or other info about their interests as a way to grow the connection.
- Learn to ask for specific help. The spelling champ from high school might be just the person to help you improve your resume and ensure it has no spelling or grammar errors.
- Past bosses can help you assess your skills.
- Family and friends can offer ideas for your next step or how to get there.
- Professional connections can provide information on or even other connections to your target employers.
Give as much — or more — than you receive to be most effective in your networking.
Tip 5. Build your plan
Once you have a specific job focus, then build a plan to get there. You know how to do this! Every military person has some experience with planning.
Think in terms of what you need to do:
- Create your master resume file from past jobs and reviews and commendations.
- Build your support network.
- Identify target employers who match your values and goals.
Make a schedule, and work it daily. Celebrate each achievement along the way.
Be sure to include the other parts of your transition in your planning: military requirements, moving, family needs.
When you entered the military, you had to learn a whole new language and lots of different skills. Transitioning back to the civilian world uses those same “learning muscles.” It may be frustrating at times, sort of like basic training or tech schools were. But you will succeed with a little focus, some planning, and effort.
About the author…
Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial. Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and PatraFrame.com where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra’s ClearedJobs.net job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.
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