Are you starting to daydream? The wind in your hair and the base in the rear view mirror as you accelerate toward your new life? There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming about getting out. It’s vital to start exploring what post-military career path you will pursue — both mentally and financially. But there are some practical things that you MUST be doing in between those bouts of daydreaming when you’re one year to transition.
1. Take a Career Suitability Test
Your transition from the military marks a major fork in your career path. Same field, different employer or completely different career path — a few years from now you will look back and won’t see the transition as an ending, but as the beginning of something new.
So how long should you spend exploring a career path you may spend the next 40 or 50 years following? I would say at least a few hours! Is it where your strengths lie? What type of work really suits you as an individual? Where will you be most happy?
Take advantage of the free resources available to you. Your Transition Support Center offers monthly courses like “Do What You Are” and uses Myers-Briggs style profiling techniques to recommend suitable career paths. Pick up a book on the subject at the library, or use online testing through your prospective college or sites like My Next Move and 16 Personalities. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just make sure you invest in your future happiness by taking the time to evaluate your daydream alongside your fit.
2. Register with a Placement Specialist
One of the best ways to explore your “ready to go” options is to register as a potential job seeker with one of the firms specializing in military placement. It is obligation and cost-free but will give you an insight into how marketable your current skills are.
Don’t wait until you are actively seeking a job. Establish a connection with placement specialists a year out. Learn about what they need from you and what sort of opportunities they offer. Many firms will hold information sessions where you can tap into their advice for successfully positioning yourself for a civilian job.
Orion International, Bradley-Morris, Lucas Group and Focus Military are some of the many firms that work with veterans. As with any commercial employer, evaluate if they seem to be a good fit and ask how they work. If they seem like a good match, use them to introduce you to the job market waters.
3. Start Leveraging LinkedIn
Did you set up a profile because someone told you to but have no idea what you are doing? Is this the first time you have heard of LinkedIn? Either way – it is time to get serious about the number one online professional networking site. (Read: Networking 101- How to Use LinkedIn)
It is not just about establishing a well-developed profile with recommendations, and it is definitely not just about randomly connecting with as many people as you can.
It is about launching a strategic campaign to connect with people who work in the companies and career paths you are targeting. Set yourself a goal to connect with 10 to 12 people a month and make sure you take the connection further with at least two of them. Ask for advice, seek their recommendations or request an informational interview.
4. Meet with a Mentor
When you thought about joining the military, you asked people for their thoughts. You spoke to them about their experiences and you verbalized the pros and cons with someone you trusted. Who is going to be that person as you go forward in a civilian career?
Your mentor should be someone who is familiar with the civilian world you are about to enter, but they don’t need to be a veteran. They should have an understanding of your background, but their focus is on where you are going, what resources can help you and what you need to be successful.
LinkedIn offers connections to industry mentors through the Veteran Mentor Network and organizations like American Corporate Partners have programs that connect you with business leaders. You could also reach out to someone you know. Just make sure you identify a mentor and start talking to someone who knows the lay of the land in this new civilian world.
5. Vet Your Social Media Accounts — Yes You…Right Now!
Remember MySpace? What can an employer see on your Facebook feed? Are you on Instagram? Pinterest? Twitter? It doesn’t matter whether you use the account now or not. What matters is your viewable electronic history and what impression it will make on an employer.
The fact is, 98 percent of hiring managers will google you before they bring you in for an interview.
Google yourself and learn what a stranger can see. Consider more restrictive privacy settings on your profile, and remember that your first impression will not be made in an interview; it will be made online.
Check in next month for your six-month checklist…but for now — as long as you have these five items completed — get back to that daydreaming!
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