My Lessons Learned: How Do I Really Prepare to Make this Transition Seamless?

By Faaruwq Muhammad, PMP

I hope this discussion provokes thought on a topic that many transitioning veterans think about with a sense of anxiety and fear. I am an advocate for the ACAP/TAP program, because there has been significant effort to make this valuable to transitioning service members. I personally believe these classes need to be completed much earlier than one to two years prior to getting out.

About me: I’ll retire after 20 years on 1 November 2014, and start terminal leave on 21 July. I start my next job, which I consider my “Dream Job,” on 21 July. I am actually turning down two other really good jobs. So how did I get my dream job and get to start exactly when I am available, which is months before I retire?

1. Develop and maintain strong professional relationships with people in the industry that you want to work. You have to join LinkedIn groups and be active, attend professional seminars and/or conferences, and link with professionals in the field that you want to work. Having a mentor in the industry that interests you is also a big enabler. You can’t just pop out of the military and expect people to give you a job… 90% of the higher paying jobs are based on referrals by people that know the candidate. This effort is the most significant and must start NOW if you are getting out in 2 years. You can’t cram this into the last 6 months of getting out because it is about building and maintaining relationships with people….you don’t want to look desperate.

2. Your reputation precedes you. If you are known as a hard worker who is efficient, lives by values, and is respected, references will be in significant abundance. You can use the LinkedIn Recommendation feature to get many people that know the quality of work you do and are willing to vouch for you in writing to write you recommendations on your profile. Those recommendations paint a picture about your work ethic, values, and character.

3. Having the appropriate credentials. Whether is civilian education, specific training, or certifications, you need to know what the industry you want to work in expects you to have. You have to do the research to see if you need specific training, certifications, and or degrees, and whether you can use your benefits to acquire them.

4. Have a complete LinkedIn profile. 70% of recruiters use LinkedIn now… in three years it will probably be over 90%. If you see “anonymous” viewers… they are probably recruiters, and that is an indication that you have some skills in your profile that are matching the key words they are looking for.

5. Complete your master resume now. You can use the CareerOneStop resume assistance to help you, and there are plenty of people that will review it on LinkedIn and give you pointers. Don’t worry about job-specific resumes because you need to do one for each job when you see the job description. You need to make sure you translate your experience into civilian terminology, and that is crucial. So using online resources like O*NET Online’s Military Crosswalk to translate your military experience is beneficial.

6. You have to start preparing yourself for the interview process. You get the job because of how successful an interview you have. Depending on the job, you may have to do more than one interview (I had to do numerous). You have to practice so that you get comfortable being potentially grilled by a panel or individual. I suggest being active in LinkedIn groups that talk about this because many companies are developing unorthodox questions and scenarios to ensure they don’t get canned answers.

7. Find me on LinkedIn (Faaruwq Muhammad – to request a copy of the list of over 85 websites I’ve compiled from the ACAP/TAP classes I attended. It includes topics and links to key Education, Job Search, Entrepreneurism, Veterans Benefits, and more.

About the Author
Faaruwq Muhammad is a Corporate Program Manager and Medical Device and Healthcare IT Specialist who retired from the U.S. Army after serving 20 years. He started preparing for his transition at the 13 year point of his military career and is now sharing his transition experience to try to assist as many fellow transitioning service members as possible.

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