There are 3 essential questions to ask yourself when navigating through your transition to the civilian workplace. These questions can help you to know your skills and interests so you can choose the civilian career path that’s right for you, communicate your skills and experience through an effective resume, and use your network to help you find opportunities and obtain your career goals.
1. WHAT ARE MY SKILLS AND INTERESTS?
Think not only about what skills you acquired from your military service, but also consider what you enjoyed doing. Keep your strengths and your interests in mind when considering your next career. You might consider taking an interest inventory, such as the O*Net Interest Profiler, to help you find out what your interests are and how they relate to the civilian workplace.
Take stock of what skills you have and what you need for the civilian career you are targeting. Is additional education required? It may make sense for you to pursue a certificate or earn civilian credentials in your field. Having the right credentials can give you a competitive edge for landing the job you’re after. But how do you know what civilian credentials you should acquire? Check out these websites to research civilian credentialing requirements: www.cool.army.mil , www.cool.navy.mil, www.careerinfonet.org, www.careeronestop.org.
Be sure you clearly understand and take advantage of the excellent educational benefits you earned through your military service. Use your G.I. Bill and Tuition Assistance benefits to get the education and training that will help you land a great job.
2. DOES MY RESUME EFFECTIVELY PRESENT AND TRANSLATE MY SKILLS?
There are three types of resumes, chronological, functional, and combination, which can be used to present your skills and experience to hiring managers. Consider your years of experience and the relevance of your military experience to your civilian career when choosing which type of resume to use.
If you have many years of work experience in your targeted career field, a chronological resume works well to list your experience in reverse chronological order. If you are changing careers or have little experience, consider using a functional resume which focuses on your functional or “soft” skills as well as your education. For most military members leaving the service, a chronological or combination resume is most appropriate.
Search online for many free resources available to help you create and format your resume. There are downloadable sample resumes on Corporate Gray Online that you can use as templates. The
Resume Writing Academy website has free resources available to career coaches and job seekers to assist with resume building. The Career One Stop website also has tips and helpful links for resume writing.
Translating your military skills into civilian language can be challenging. You need to convey your skills in terms that a prospective civilian employer will understand, which means removing the military jargon and acronyms that may not be properly interpreted.
The process starts with researching the civilian occupations to understand the language and skills relevant to your civilian career field. The military skills translator, found at www.military.com/skills-translator/mos-translator, can help you identify civilian jobs that are similar to your military occupation.
List the skills and requirements for those civilian occupations that are similar, and match the list with those skills you’ve acquired in the military. Now you can incorporate the appropriate civilian language into your resume.
Ask your civilian friends and colleagues who are currently working in your employment field of interest to objectively critique and evaluate whether your resume conveys your qualifications in terms relevant to their industry. Adjust your resume based on their feedback, and thank them for their assistance.
More details on translating your military skills can be found in the article, Translate Your Military Skills into Civilian Language in 6 Easy Steps.
3. WHO IN MY NETWORK CAN HELP ME ATTAIN MY GOAL?
Networking is essential to a successful job search. It is estimated that 80% of jobs are found through networking. Growing your network and connecting to those who can help will increase the opportunities for job leads, advice, and support in your job search.
Who are the people in your network best positioned to help you connect to opportunities? Are you continually working to grow your network? Networking can be as informal as striking up a conversation with the person next to you on a plane, or as formal as attending a business social or association event. Networking is also done effectively through social media, especially via LinkedIn.
As a military veteran, one of your greatest resources is your fellow veterans. They are a nationwide network that has a common interest and that looks out for one another. Make it a priority to connect with other veterans through veteran networking websites, such as benefits.military.com/vcn/search.do or www.vetfriends.com, and through LinkedIn veteran groups, military associations, and fellow military colleagues.
Use LinkedIn to grow your network to include fellow veterans, industry experts, recruiters and hiring managers. Join groups on LinkedIn to connect with people you have something in common with. Do a group-search on veterans and keywords in your industry. Use the search box to find people. Click the Advanced link to tailor your search. By using the “Past Company” filter you can see who was in the U.S. Army, for example.
Veterans have the opportunity to join a variety of military associations, such as the Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA) or the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), just to name a few. Many of these offer some form of job search assistance. Being a member of such an association significantly expands your opportunity to network with other veterans.