The “Ask Liz” advice column is a continuing G.I. Jobs series that will focus on specific answers to specific questions asked by transitioning military veterans.
How far out should I start prepping for transition?
Answer: Dear service member, the answer is that, truly, you should start prepping yourself for future roles the moment you enter the military. Your transition should offer a step of progression that stems from a culmination of experiences. The last year before you get out is the most critical for networking, building resumes and seeking potential letters of recommendation. The last six months are actually used for applications.
The key to any movement forward is building relationships and fostering your networks. This all circles back to being proactive. In general, it is accepted that military members are outgoing and have initiative…but for some reason, the transition process scares them into a state of complacency.
Here are some general guidelines to think about no matter what period of progression you are in:
- Do not consider it to be a bad thing to talk to mentors about career transition. Every member will transition at some point in their life, and it does not insinuate that you aren’t interested in military progression. Make your questions general until you have more of a plan, and always keep your options open.
- Don’t be fearful. Use your courage that you have in the field to feel confident about what you can do after you leave the service. Don’t doubt your abilities and take a broad look at all the things you have accomplished (or will accomplish).
- While you shouldn’t be fearful, you still need to remember to be humble. You need to be realistic about the type of compensation you can earn on the outside, and set yourself up for realistic expectations.
- Know that you can begin networking as early as you like in the military. You never know who may hire you later. This does not mean going out of your way to email everyone you meet….but making good impressions and keeping in contact is important. Don’t burn bridges.
- You can’t really apply to a position formally until about six months out, so don’t arbitrarily throw your name in the hat for a role when you don’t even have a timeline. Be methodical about your search. That being said, communicating directly with hiring teams is much better than throwing your resume in a pool of 200 applicants. You need to stand out. (Read: Straight to the Source: Get the Hiring Manager’s Name)
- Create your resume as you go along in your career. This can be a living document that you continuously work on. It is better to have it handy than to have to construct one at the last minute.
- Be thinking about what you do and do not enjoy in your career now. These are the areas you may gravitate toward or try to move away from in your civilian role.
- Know that you may not make the best decision the first time coming out of the military. Expect that your dream job may be a few stops away. Being realistic will help you to manage expectations.
- Don’t rely solely on the transition courses (TAP) to help you out at the end of your military journey. If you have waited until then…you are already behind.
- Sign up for career fairs about six months out from transition. You can go earlier, but as mentioned before…companies cannot typically hire that far out.
READ NEXT: 10 Things to Do Before Transition