Medium 9781593577315

Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide

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This handbook provides a career transition framework for service members and their families. Readers are given exit strategies for gracefully leaving the military; charts, checklists, and worksheets for planning each transition aspect; resume and cover letter samples and strategies; and interviewing and salary negotiation tips.

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INTRODUCTION

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Change is a concept that you live and breathe. It is one that will continue to stay with you as you transition professionally from the military to the civilian side of the house.

Will it be easy to make this big change in your life? The answer depends on you and on what you have experienced, how you have internalized it, and how you can use that to your future’s benefit. I’m betting that, no matter who you are, the process won’t be without its bumps in the road. It can be successful, however, if you make up your mind for it to be so from the beginning.

Like the first edition of the Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide, this second edition can help you

Let this book be your companion in your transition. The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide, Second Edition, was written by someone who has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt as both a military spouse for nearly 22 years and as a military career transition counselor for more than 8 years.

I can relate to the uncertainty, fear, excitement, and sometimes pain that accompanies a military career transition. Throughout the course of preparing the first edition, my husband and I experienced our own retirement transition from the military to civilian life. It wasn’t easy. Things didn’t always go as we had planned, but here we are five years later, alive, thriving personally, and content professionally. We’re living proof that life does indeed continue after you take off the uniform, but you have to be able to withstand the twists and turns that you may not initially expect. You can’t let them sidetrack you; you just have to adjust fire and drive on. You’ve had a lot of experience doing that in your military career, no doubt.

 

CHAPTER 1: Act II, Starring You

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Not just anyone is capable of answering the call to serve his or her country, but you did. You had your reasons. Perhaps you put on a uniform, like so many others, after September 11, 2001, when innocence was lost and a nation was somehow changed forever. Or maybe you signed up because it was your turn to follow in the footsteps of a parent or grandparent who served honorably before you. Perhaps a savvy recruiter convinced you it was your best career alternative at the time. You might have joined the military to offset the ever-rising cost of higher education or simply to become a student of life itself.

Whatever your reasons, altruistic or not, you answered the call to selfless service for our nation, and that makes you very special indeed. Pat yourself on the back.

You proudly served your country for however long your body, your mind, your soul, and/or the Department of Defense allowed you to do so.

And now you find yourself standing boldly in the wings, eagerly waiting to walk onto center stage for the next exciting act of your career. Maybe you wonder exactly how you’re going to get there from here without really breaking a leg in the process.

 

CHAPTER 2: Your Transition Mission

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Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to create a highly effective and flexible military-to-civilian career transition strategy. You’ll have a wealth of resources available to assist you in this life-altering task, if only you proactively choose to take advantage of them.

Lucky for you, this message won’t self-destruct in 30 seconds, and no one will ever deny knowing you in the first place. The success of this mission, however, depends on you alone and your willingness to create and execute such a plan.

This chapter helps you establish a timeline of required and useful transition activities. Essentially, it suggests what you need to take care of and when. Furthermore, it clues you in on what to expect at the military transition office when you finally grace that doorstep with your presence.

Consider these your first and most important steps in a long process.

You should not be surprised to learn that timing is a key element in the career transition process. Equally unsurprising is the fact that your timeline and the military’s aren’t always the same.

 

CHAPTER 3: VA Benefits and Other Opportunities

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As a veteran, you are afforded a number of potential entitlements and opportunities through different agencies. Take the time to explore those offerings and take advantage of them. In recent years, they have been greatly enhanced just for you.

In your postmilitary life, the Veterans Administration (VA) will play a larger role in the facilitation of various benefits and entitlements that may be due you upon your separation from the service.

To investigate or apply for these benefits, contact any VA office by calling toll free 1-800-827-1000. You can also visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about them and more. Most of the required forms are available online, and you can apply for many of the benefits online as well.

Please note that every effort has been made here, as throughout this book, to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information concerning the subject at hand. As in life, however, the rules, regulations, eligibility criteria, and availability are subject to change. Always check with the VA or the benefit source directly for the most current information.

 

CHAPTER 4: Job Search Basics You Need to Know

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In case you carry any iota of doubt, relax. Landing a job after being in the military is more than possible. Depending on your chosen career path, it may even be easy. You certainly have to consider the current economic environment as you begin to objectively analyze your situation, but consider is the operative word here. Don’t let the situation paralyze you.

You are a doer, and doers make things happen.

Look at this moment in time for the unique opportunity that it is. You have the chance now to do anything you’d like to do with your career and indeed with your life. You can choose to stay in your current career path, or you can boldly go where you have never gone before.

Although the task in front of you might appear overwhelming at times, take comfort in the fact that others have done it before you and will most certainly do so after you. Approaching this task may be new territory for you, but not for long.

You’ve surely heard this adage: Give someone a fish, and he’ll eat for the day. Teach him to fish, however, and he’ll never go hungry again.

 

CHAPTER 5: Writing Effective Resumes

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Soon to be gone are the days when you can size up a person’s basic qualifications by looking at the rank worn on his collar or the insignia on her uniform. Instead, you will need a resume.

A resume is a funny document. You can spend literally hours writing, editing, and rewriting it only to have a potential employer glance at it for a mere 20 seconds or less. Writing it hardly seems worth the effort given the eyeball to resume ratio, but write, edit, and rewrite you must.

Before you begin the excruciating process, you need to keep in mind several key concepts.

Key Concept #1: Your resume is written about you, not for you.

You already have a high impression of yourself, don’t you? Now it’s time to make an impact on someone else who can give you a good job or lead you to one. Keep in mind that your resume should be targeted to the reader, not the writer.

After you’ve written your resume, you’ll want to get a knowledgeable and objective second opinion (perhaps even a third) before you hand it out to anyone.

 

CHAPTER 6: Creating Effective Job Search Letters

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At this point in the job search process, you have a clue about what you are supposed to do to land a decent job. You realize that you have to be able to sell your skills, abilities, and experiences as they relate to the position available to a potential employer.

You may assume that the resume is the dedicated workhorse vehicle for accomplishing this feat. No one will dispute the importance of the role of the resume in this process; however, it’s not the only written aspect of your job search with the power to influence an employer, positively or not.

Whether the end result is an e-mail or a letter, how you express your words matters in a very big way.

You take your resume seriously. Give your cover letters, thank-you notes, and other job search letters the same respect.

You craft the perfect resume for what appears to be the perfect job. Unless it isn’t expected of you under the circumstances, you will want to include a cover letter along with that resume.

Your cover letter isn’t a novel, and it shouldn’t be a mirror image of your resume. It should be brief, no longer than one page, and it should clearly and effectively convince the employer to give your resume the time of day.

 

CHAPTER 7: Winning Interview Skills

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If you stick with your job search efforts long enough, they will ultimately result in an interview. This is your time to shine and to show a potential employer that you would be an incredible asset to his or her organization. It is also a time for you to fully investigate whether an opportunity is suited to your talents, skills, and taste. A job interview is truly a two-sided event, and if you keep that thought in mind, you’ll minimize the stress of it all.

You may have sat on military board reviews before, but civilian interviews have nothing in common with them. Keep in mind that there are different types of interviews, each having a different purpose. The three basic types are the informational interview, screening interview, and employment interview. Any one of these types of interviews may occur over the telephone, in person, via e-mail, or using video-teleconferencing technology.

The informational interview is an excellent way to gather—you guessed it—information about a particular employer or career field. It is an equally excellent way to network into a circle of influence that could prove far-reaching in your own career endeavors. Don’t underestimate the value of such an interview. It could open doors for you like no other.

 

CHAPTER 8: Negotiating Job Offers

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No doubt about it. Being offered a job is a real thrill. It is a signal of success. It means that you did your part well in the job search and an employer wants to bring you on board with the company. Maybe there is even more than one employer out there vying for your presence. (May you be plagued with such problems throughout your whole career!)

The temptation to accept any offered job right away is great. With so many layoffs being a part of the corporate landscape these days, it seems as though grabbing the first offer makes sense, doesn’t it?

Doing so means you can just get on with things and let life take its natural course. After all, bills have to be paid, children must be fed and clothed, and the sooner you can land a decent job outside the military the better, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is certain. There is more at stake here for you to consider than the depressing headline du jour. You need answers to some questions before you accept or decline a job offer.

For example, is it the right job for you? Should you say thanks, but no thanks and just wait for a better offer to materialize? Would that be wise? Or should you snatch this one and keep looking on the side for your ideal job? How do you know you’re getting a good offer to begin with, anyway?

 

CHAPTER 9: On-the-Job Survival Skills

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You did it. Despite the economic gloom and doom broadcast 24/7 to the world in general, you have a job, are happy about it, and are soon to receive your first paycheck. Don’t spend it all in one place. In fact, you might want to keep in mind a few cold, hard facts as you begin to enjoy your new career as a true blue civilian.

Fact #1: Your new job is not perfect.

At first, it may seem that way, but the “honeymoon” will eventually end. You’ll see your new job for what it is, and although you may genuinely like it, it is just another step along the way in your career. It will have good days and bad ones, not unlike your life in uniform.

Fact #2: This won’t be your last job.

Although it may be a good job, it probably won’t be your last one. Chances are good that you will change employers several times over the course of your career. Accept this fact and keep your resume updated at all times. You never know when you will need it for an internal opportunity or something bigger and better elsewhere.

 

APPENDIX: Career Transition Resources

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About.com: Career Planning
www.careerplanning.about.com

America’s Career InfoNet
www.acinet.org/acinet

Career Guide to Industries
www.bls.gov/oco/cg/

Civilian Job News
www.civilianjobnews.com

DOD Dictionary of Military Terms
www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict

JobStar
www.jobstar.org

Occupational Outlook Handbook
www.stats.bls.gov/oco/

O*NET
www.onetcenter.org

The Riley Guide
www.rileyguide.com

Salary.com
www.salary.com

Salaryexpert.com
www.salaryexpert.com

Wages, Earning, and Benefits Data
www.stats.bls.gov

Wall Street Journal Job Services
www.careerjournal.com

American Council on Education (ACE) Transfer Guide: Understanding Your Military Credit Recommendations
http://www.acenet.edu/Content/NavigationMenu/ProgramsServices/MilitaryPrograms/Transfer_Guide.htm

CollegeNET
www.collegenet.com

Federal Children Scholarship Fund
www.scholarshipfund.org

GI Bill Information
www.gibill.va.gov

U.S. Department of Education
www.ifap.ed.gov

Annual Report Service
www.annualreportservice.com

BizWeb
www.bizweb.com

Business.com
www.business.com

CEO Express
www.ceoexpress.com

 

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