By Patra Frame
If you have a decade or more military service, returning to the private sector is often more change than you expect.
Month after month I see people who are accomplished pilots, program and project managers, commanders, XO’s, deputy X’s, First Sergeants -- yet who are truly floundering.
Far too many simply are flailing around without having selected a specific next job.
Many hope their ability to learn quickly or variety of experience will convince a company to figure out a great job they can do. Companies do not work like that.
Corporate America expects you to know exactly what you want to do and be able to demonstrate the achievements and skills that show you can do that job.
Many others have unrealistic expectations. For example, senior military retirees do not have the P&L (profit and loss management) experience normally required for program management and executive jobs. Some do not even know what that is or think their financial experience is equivalent. Many senior military no longer have the required depth of professional/technical expertise for the jobs they seek.
You've faced important action requirements before, probably in very tense situations. This will not be life threatening, but it will require complete focus.
As usual, to complete your mission, you need a target/goal and a plan of action:
Take some time to think about who you are, what you are best at, and what interests you.
You probably had this advice in a transition program – and ignored it. So, this time, pay attention!
Find a quiet time and spot and look inward. Write, think, write. Let it lie fallow a day or three. Then, go back and work some more.
Be sure you include intangibles you need from your work
Add those. They are critical.
Once you begin to really understand what you want and what you need to get from your work, you can move forward.
If you cannot do this alone, check out the classic Richard Bolles book “What Color is Your Parachute?” Work through it completely. The exercises will help you focus and better understand the best direction for your career.
Once you have finished step one, get all your ideas into one list. You need to validate them and expand them into potential jobs.
Start by talking to people who know you well.
Take all your ideas and start learning about potential jobs. For more information, read Avoid Career/Job Mistakes with Informational Interviews and Top 10 Tips for Successful Informational Interviews.
Use these keywords (the right job titles and skills) in your LinkedIn Profile so these employers will find you when they are searching for qualified candidates.
Recent studies show that the vast majority of jobs are filled by employee referral (50% or more) rather than by job board or employer career site application (10% or less). So, effective networking is the key to success in your job search.
Be prepared -- more details about Employee Referral Programs.
LinkedIn is essential today -- like a giant online Rolodex where people can look up former colleagues and find new network contacts. LinkedIn is used by the vast majority of recruiters to find qualified candidates and to vet applicants. So, finish an "All Star" (complete) LinkedIn Profile.
Expand your networking. Start with people you already know from work, professional, or community groups, etc. Former military who have already transitioned are a great resource for what they did right – and mistakes to avoid. Reach out:
Your goals are to learn more about both jobs and employers, to enhance your knowledge of the field, and to make connections who can assist you in the process. These are the people who can help you be realistic in your goals as well as guide you into the hidden job market.
Networking is all about human connections. It is not going to some big event and passing out business cards. It is also a two-way street – be open to whatever help you can offer to each connection and you will develop far better contacts.
Check out Networking for Networking Haters and Improve Your Ranking in LinkedIn Searches in 10 Steps for the basics in LinkedIn visibility.
I have been in your shoes. I know you have significant value to offer an employer! But you - only you - can figure out what you want next, what you offer an employer that the employer wants, and where you want to work.
Be smart. Be focused. View this as your next "mission" or you will have a long job search.
Be smarter – do your "prep work"! Then, your transition to a civilian career will go very well!
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.