by Janet Farley
Whether you planned for it or not you are getting out of the military. Maybe you have even already walked through that door.
Welcome to life on the civilian side where showing your ID card means flipping out your driver’s license and the only camouflage anyone else has ever seen is on Duck Dynasty.
Your new mission in this surreal existence?
Survive the military-to-civilian career transition. Land a great job or at least a decent one. The following do’s and don’ts will help you.
Critical Transitioning Do’s and Don’ts
Tip #1: Do commit to the military transition program.
Whether your branch of service knows it as TAP TAMP or ACAP… JUST GO to the transition-assistance classes. Be open to learning something new. You have to go anyway. You might as well try to get something useful out of it. Chances are that you only think you know everything there is to know about your potential benefits and how to conduct a job search. You don’t. [See our article An Inside Look: Going from Active Duty to Corporate Life.]
Tip #2: Do take your spouse with you to the classes.
Two heads are better than one particularly when your head is already crowded with multiple transition to-do lists. Invite nay beg your spouse on bended knees to suffer through the transition classes with you. You’ll both be glad you did in the end.
Tip #3: Don’t procrastinate starting the transition planning process.
Starting the process begins with accepting its inevitability. Denial may be a comforting concept in the short term but in the long term it hurts you. You are getting out. Accept it. You have a life to plan. If you wait until the last possible moment to start thinking about it you will risk limiting your options.
Tip #4: Do create a basic resume that you can later target to specific job openings.
If you are contemplating federal employment you’ll need a “federal” resume. If you are targeting jobs in the private industry you’ll want to craft a “civilian” resume. Don’t think for a minute that one resembles the other. The transition-program counselor or the employment-readiness program manager at the family-service center will help you figure it all out. [See our expert resume resources.]
Tip #5: Do learn the civilian language of your chosen industry.
You say reconnaissance. Civilians say analysis. You say subordinates. Civilians say employees. You say potato. Civilians say po-tah-toe. You get the idea. Start to acquaint yourself with the language of chosen civilian industry so you’ll fit in better. Join industry-focused groups on LinkedIn and learn from the discussions. Review job ads for civilian jobs that incorporate their terms. Find a mentor in your chosen career field who will enlighten you. [See our expert mentoring resources.]
Tip #6: Don’t misunderstand the concept of networking.
If you think that leveraging your professional relationships is tantamount to using people for your own greedy purposes stop. You don’t understand the true concept behind networking. Networking is a good thing. You take. You give. You grow. Repeat that mantra until you truly accept it. It’s not something you just do when you’re looking for a job either. It’s a professional skill that you develop and use throughout your entire career in or out of uniform. [See our expert career networking resources.]
Tip #7: Do invest in civilian business attire.
The shiny black shoes issued by Uncle Sam don’t count. Consider the industry you’re targeting and organize your post-uniform wardrobe appropriately. Watch and learn from other civilians in the workplace. [See our Dress for Success resources.]
Tip #8: Don’t put all your hopes on one employer or one specific job.
You may have your heart set on one particular employer and on one particular job. That’s fine; however don’t limit your job-search activities because you are waiting on that opportunity to pan out. You never know when a “sure thing” will crash and burn.
Tip #9: Do focus yourself.
At the very least know what you want to do next where you are willing to do it and how much of a salary you will need to earn.
Tip #10: Don’t settle.
You might be stressed about finding a civilian job and that’s perfectly understandable. Don’t settle for the first job that comes your way just because it is offered though. Think through the process before you’re forced into making a hasty decision. You may not land the perfect job right out the gate but at least make it a job that you can be content with professionally until the better one comes along.
Maximize your use of the many no-cost veteran and career resources — including career consulting to resume-writing to job placements. These resources are there to help empower you to success in your transition from military service to civilian worker.
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.
Janet Farley is the author of Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Works Inc. 2013). Follow her on Twitter @mil2civguide. Follow her blogs ResumeRx and Life’s Too Short to Hate Your Job.