by Debra Wheatman
There are many ways to ease the transition from military service to a career outside the military. Whether you seek an opportunity in the private or public sector, start with a strategy to prepare yourself for the new career, brand yourself to attract employers, and communicate your strengths to a potential employer.
Another important key to success is networking, which will increase your knowledge of new occupations, new industries, and ultimately open doors that may lead to job opportunities. If you are not networking, it is time to get started. Follow these easy steps.
Identify Your Career Goals before You Begin to Network
As you separate from the military, you can discover many exciting opportunities. Think about your goals in terms of requested (desired) compensation, optimal location, and occupations that match your interests and qualifications. These are things to research and consider seriously. Review your goals with your local Veterans Administration Counselor or Services Officer. Document your goals, evaluate them frequently, and update as you uncover new information. Make your goals specific, realistic, and action-oriented.
Prepare Your Civilian Job-Search Resume
With a solid goal in place, you can begin to prepare to achieve your goal. The next step is to prepare your resume. Transitioning from a military career to a non-military career is different from other types of career transitions. If you pay attention to the needs of your target employer, you will succeed. Start by researching the job requirements and determining the skills, education, and experience you possess that match the requirements. In many instances, the military terminology differs from that in the corporate world. Use job titles and language that a civilian will understand.
Corporate hiring managers also look for examples of past success to determine a candidate’s competency. Be sure to include specific examples of accomplishments, complete with measured results. Numbers sell, especially numbers that tell of cost savings, efficiency gains, and quality improvements. With a new resume, you are ready to network.
Build Your Personal Career Brand and Network Online
Use your resume as inspiration and a source for content to update your online presence. Your online presence includes your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, blogs, and any other online content you manage. Just as you did in your resume, skip the military jargon. The goal is to help the reader relate to you as a candidate for your new career. As you did in your resume, emphasize those unique skills and achievements that match your career goal. Now, you can dive into the world of online networking.
Connect with other professionals in your chosen field, as well as former contacts from your military career who have successfully transitioned to civilian life. Search using keywords on LinkedIn to find individuals and groups based on your past positions, including military groups. Join online groups on LinkedIn. Read and participate in professional blogs and forums. Post compelling articles and links that relate to your target career. Engage in online webinars and town halls. All of these virtual connections will build your brand and may lead to an opportunity.
Network in the Real World
Although virtual networking is a big part of our lives, we can’t overlook the value of face-to-face networking. This activity comes in the form of networking groups, industry functions, and occupational-related professional association events. Go to your favorite search engine and enter key words to source local networking opportunities. Talk to your local VA Counselor to help you get uncover networking opportunities that may be a fit for you.
Join a job search support group. If you can’t find an existing group, start one. [See our article, For Networking and Support, Join or Start a Job Club.] You can form a group using sites such as Meetup.com or a military-based site such as Unite Us. Ideally you want a group of five to 12 people with common job-search objectives. Establish a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with an agenda. The best part of a support group is that you can hold each other accountable for weekly job-search tasks and serve as mutual cheerleaders.
Networking can expedite your transition, in some cases cutting your job-search time in half. Networking is reciprocal. It is not just about asking for introductions; it is about serving as a resource for others, as well. Always be authentic and honest. Genuine people attract other people and are more likely to make progress toward their goals.
Final Thoughts on Networking to Help Power Your Transition
As you launch your new civilian career and separate from the military, remember to follow these steps:
- identify your career goal;
- prepare your new resume;
- build your brand online;
- network online; and
- network in the real world.
Networks provide value in terms of knowledge, insight, connections, and support. The strength you draw from your virtual and real-world networks with catapult you to new heights as you make your career transition.
Check out all the Job Transitioning for Vets & Former Military.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2013.
Debra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is president of Careers Done Write, a premier career-services provider focused on developing highly personalized career roadmaps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries. Follow Debra on Twitter.
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