Eric writes: I’m an Army specialist transitioning out soon and concerned about what’s next. A lot of guys I know seem to have either gone into security or work at some big-box chain store. I want neither of those but feel stuck. I enlisted right after high school so I don’t have any education or skills and don’t know what I CAN do after I get out. Please do not tell me to go to college; I can’t afford to go to college which is why I enlisted in the first place. Any advice?
The Career Doctor responds:
A few things first Eric. Number 1: Yes you DO have skills – transferable skills from your years in the Army such as teamwork leadership interpersonal communications and critical-thinking.
Number 2: Yes you CAN afford college – or vocation training if you chose that route – because of the great benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill (assuming you are receiving an honorable discharge).
Number 3: Your future is wide open; any career is possible but you need to complete some self-assessment and research to see what careers are the best fit for you.
If you have not done so already I highly recommend taking advantage of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) a partnership among the Departments of Defense Veterans Affairs Transportation and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) to give employment and training information to armed-forces members within 180 days of separation. TAP consists of comprehensive three-day workshops at selected military installations nationwide covering topics such as career exploration job-search strategies and job-search tools preparation.
After immersing yourself in the TAP you should be on your way to uncovering a career for you – and developing a path for breaking into that career. That path may include additional experience (such as internships or apprenticeships) and education.
Regardless of the path you take you’ll want to use your network of Army buddies – and other family friends and colleagues – to learn about opportunities and to ask for assistance when it comes time to look for a job.
You’ll also need to learn the intricacies of maneuvering in the civilian job market – a job market that frustrates experienced job-seekers as much as it does transitioning vets. Today’s job search is not always user-friendly and you’ll want to master key elements of it from how to position your military experience to job interviewing and follow-up.
The good news is that today is Job Action Day 2013 – and we have an amazing array of articles and expert advice to help you achieve great success in your military-to-civilian transition. Consider starting with my article How to Successfully Transition from Military to Civilian but feel free to move on to all the others that speak to you.
Finally I want to leave you with a little nag: please DO remember to maximize your veteran benefits; you earned those benefits serving honorably in the service to our country – and now you need to use them (and your Army experience) to leapfrog ahead in your most important mission… successfully transitioning into a civilian career.