So, you’ve decided to make the transition from the military to the civilian world. First of all, welcome! Your T-shirt is in the mail. Second of all, there are many resources to help you make the civilian transition a successful one. So we came up with the most important things to do while you’re making this sometimes tricky transition:
Find the Gap
And no, I don’t mean the clothing store (although you could pick up some business casual khakis there if you are so inclined). One of the biggest hurdles transitioning service members face is transferring their military skills to the civilian equivalent. Sultan Camp, a military recruiter for Orion International, has this advice: Once you’ve identified job titles you want, Google them to find vacancies and incorporate the language from the job description into your own experience to identify the gaps between your experience and the job description. This way, you’ll know what to work on.
Read the Job Description
Camp estimates that most people only spend 30-60 seconds reading a job description. He recommends spending at least three minutes to determine whether or not your skills are a match. Unless you are a 90 percent match or better, don’t apply. You don’t want to jump in over your head by faking skills you don’t have. Really make sure you are confident your skills are a match.
Cover All Bases
Camp also recommends learning the basics of social media, how to work with headhunters, and negotiating salary, to name a few things. The job skills you have are important, but will only get you so far. While some workshops may just focus on resume-writing and interview skills, it’s important to develop broader communication skills so that you’ll be comfortable discussing salary or networking with various recruiters. They are looking for more than just someone who is good on paper. However …
“A lot of times, military members think their military certificate will replace a civilian certificate,” Camp explains. But that’s not usually the case. Think about if the situation were reversed: If a civilian wanted to join the military and have a specific job, they would need to get the proper certification as well. Your gap analysis will help you determine what certification you will need.
Be Social, but Professional
Social media is great. If you use it in the right way. While oversharing about the screaming match your neighbors are having may be fun and entertaining, it’s not helping your job search. “Lots of service members are not using social media in a professional manner at all – and may screen themselves out of a job opportunity as a result of what they post,” Camp says. This means you need to have your filters in place. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Tumblr are great ways to connect on a professional level with companies or people you may want to work for. Just remember that before posting anything to social media, a potential employer could see it. Before you post anything, make sure it’s something you could say or show to your mom without horrifying her. Or, basically the opposite of anything Charles Barkley would say – a good example of a person with no filter. Picture of palm tree good. Keg stand, bad.
A LinkedIn Profile is Essential
Probably 60-70 percent of transitioning military members are not on LinkedIn, but Camp estimates that 92 percent of hiring managers are. I may have had to repeat algebra, but if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, those numbers are not in your favor. Recruiters love to not only find potential people they’d want to hire, but to also pre-screen them by getting in touch with mutual connections. So get that profile created as soon as you can, and start connecting with people who will sing your praises. Which brings me to my next point …
A Little Help from Your Friends
A huge part of the hiring process is checking a candidate’s references. Hiring managers want to make sure they are hiring the right person who not only has what it takes to be the top gun, but has the personality to succeed in the company’s culture. The best way to do this is to call people who have worked with you in the past, or have an idea of what you bring to the table. But, Camp notes, one of the most common mistakes candidates makes is assuming their references will say good things. Someone may agree to be a reference for you, but instead of singing your praises, they will rant worse than an ex airing their dirty laundry on Facebook. To avoid this unnecessary detour to gainful employment, have a professional-sounding friend call your references pretending to be someone who wants to hire you, to see what they say, and report back. This will save you a lot of hassle in the long run, knowing who you can trust to say the positive things you asked them too. And while we’re on the subject …
Live in the Past
A lot of companies will do background checks on finalists for their jobs. Make the effort now to pull your driving record and police reports to ensure there is nothing false about you floating around on the interwebs or elsewhere. Part of making this transition is making sure you do so with a clean slate.
Take the Classes
Take full advantage of Transition GPS before you separate. Also, there are many resources out there that offer free classes to help you prepare for a landing a civilian job. Orion offers transition workshops, in addition to webinars that will help you assess your skills, provide tips to finding a job online, and negotiating your salary.
Be Open to New Locations
“Lots of people want to stay in the same area they separate from,” Camp explains. “But this results in a surplus of labor.” Which leads to a smaller paycheck. Which no one wants. Camp recommends looking elsewhere. If you can find a match for your unique job skills with a company that needs them (Google, for example), you could end up making a whole lot more.
The bottom line: Use the resources at your disposable. They’re usually free, and people will want to help you. While the idea of starting over and finding a civilian job may seem intimidating, once you have a resume, a solid LinkedIn profile, witty Tweets and completed courses, you’ll wonder why you were ever nervous to begin with. Happy transitioning and good luck!