Transitioning Out of the Military: the Next Phase of Your Career
By Lori Norris
Are you preparing to leave the military but not quite ready for retirement living? Are you wondering where to begin this process of transitioning to the corporate workforce? Following are some step by step instructions to make this process easier for you.
STEP 1 - FIND A FOCUS
The first step for any job seeker - but especially former military members - is to determine the focus of their job search. In order to be effective, a job search and a resume must have a target. A critical error made on military transition resumes is lack of focus. Generic resumes just won't make the cut. Military personnel learn a wide variety of skills. In addition to your duty title, you often have countless additional duties or "duties as assigned." It would be nearly impossible and certainly ineffective to try to fit all your previous military experience into one resume.
Determine which of these skills you enjoy and how to translate them into the civilian world. Resumes should only include relevant information. This may mean leaving out some skills or possibly having multiple resumes targeted to different careers. Always keep in mind, the more irrelevant information a resume contains, the harder it is to find the relevant information.
STEP 2 - "DEMILITARIZE" YOUR RESUME
Secondly, you must strip away the military language (think acronyms) in order to highlight your skills in your resumes. Most military experience transfers easily to the corporate world with the right language. Instead of saying, "Acted as the battalion secretary to create schedules", quantify this statement for people who have no military knowledge. Alternatively try, "Created calendars and organized training schedules for 150+ personnel." Many of the people who will screen or read your resume have no concept of life in the military. As a job seeker and resume writer, it is your job to ensure they gain a clear understanding of the relevant skills and experience you gained while serving in the military. You must make the employer see that you will easily make the transition into their organization by using civilian terms and language.
Additionally, many military job titles are meaningless in the civilian world. As an example, in the Air Force the civil engineering field is much different than it is in the civilian job market. Do your research to determine what potential employers are calling the positions for which you are qualified. Take the following example of how we related the job title of a First Sergeant in the USAF: Employee Relations Manager (First Sergeant), United States Air Force. As you can see, the official title is still included on the resume, we just highlighted the "civilianized" job title by bolding it.
STEP 3 - PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE JOB HUNT
Whether you are using networking, applying to jobs online or responding to newspaper articles (or all three), the bottom line is that looking for a new job is a time consuming process. Your search must be well organized and strategized to reap maximum benefits. One of the biggest mistakes military members make is starting too soon. For a civilian position, you should start looking 6 to 8 weeks before you are available for work. For a government service, or federal position you should start the process 8 to 12 weeks in advance. Don't start too soon or you may knock yourself out of the running with some companies when they find out you can't begin working for another 6 months. However, it is never too soon to start networking with friends, neighbors, civilian contractors and other professionals with whom you come into contact. To effectively network, you must have a well-written resume.
Although the transition from military to corporate may be stressful and uncertain, the bottom line is you are walking out with an amazing array of skills. Learn to communicate these skills effectively in your résumé and the sky's the limit.