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Feeling that nervous tension in your gut about moving out of the military? Finding yourself a little on edge? Six months. 180 days. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem very long.
It is likely that you will feel a few nerves as the date races closer, regardless of whether leaving the military is a personal choice or something outside of your control. The military may be the only employer you have ever known, and perhaps the grass doesn’t seem as green on the other side anymore. Don’t panic! These feelings are completely normal.
So what would you do if you had a major deadline looming in your current job? This same strategy will work just as effectively if you apply it to your transition deadline. Assign yourself some deliverables and start checking them off the list. Here is our military moving checklist.
1. Make an appointment to sit down with your current supervisor. This needs to be at the top of your list. You have a lot going on in your life and your supervisor can’t read your mind. Think about what you need — time away from the workplace for leave, a salary negotiation workshop, or an upcoming job fair. You are far more likely to have your supervisor on your side if you present your requests in writing and in advance.
The other issue that is critical to discuss is your turnover. You know your major projects, your staff, and where the problem areas lie. Start setting up your workplace for success after you leave. It will reduce your workload and your supervisor will thank you…which is important, because guess who you need as a job reference.
2. “Become a local” if you know where you are headed. Have you been carrying around a Pittsburgh cell phone number but know you are moving to Texas? Nothing screams outsider more loudly than an interstate phone number on the top of the resume. Get yourself set up with the phone number you plan to use and a post office box address in the new location.
Check out the career and hobby sections of meetup.com and reach out to people who may be interested in your skill set. Is there a local military affiliated group that you could contact or a professional association of people in your field? Do you need a state license to practice your trade? Start lining up the paperwork so that when you put boots on the ground, you will look like you have been an insider for months! We recently published a great article about professional networking which will also help you integrate into your local community.
3. Start firing out your resume and cover letter. Many transitioning veterans assume that six months is too early to start applying for advertised positions. In some cases this is true. A company advertising for a construction foreman or healthcare manager probably wants them on board within a month. But remember that one of the most effective ways to get a job is to target the hidden job market of NOT advertised positions.
Requesting informational interviews with your target employers can be a great way to reach out and let them know that they have a talented individual about to arrive on their doorstep. It gets them thinking about you before they even know they have a vacancy. Make sure you check out these ten ways to civilianize your resume!
4. Trim that budget. Transition is expensive. Remember how your savings account seemed to shrink every time you PCS’d because of rental deposits, replacing food, and re-registering your car. It is likely you will face all these same costs, have no guarantee of when your next paycheck is coming in, and no idea how much it will be. Check out our military-to-civilian pay calculator and we will help you figure out exactly how much you’ll need to make in a civilian job to equal your current military pay. We take things like your current pay grade, dependents and location, and factor in civilian costs including health insurance, taxes and more.
If you don’t have a thorough understanding of your spending habits and how much you need to survive each week, visit your Family Readiness Center. Do a comprehensive budget, look for opportunities to make extra contributions to your savings, and resist impulse purchases. Make sure you have a comfortable safety net in place to cover you until you are established in your next job. We have a must-read article about managing your finances after you exit the military!
5. Evaluate your wardrobe. Like it or not, people will make a judgment about you before you have the chance to speak to them, and these first impressions are critical. Think about the type of position you are seeking AND the season and location you expect to be interviewing in to ascertain the type of attire you will need.
Remember that you may attend a two-day recruiting event or be called back for a follow-up interview, so more than one outfit may be needed. You should also have a backup plan in case an enthusiastic preschooler gives you a “good luck” hug on the way out the door and leaves a few remnants of crayon on your jacket.
Finally, don’t just think clothes. Consider your belt, jewelry, shoes and the professional folder you will carry to an interview or job fair. With only six months to go you may well attend one next week, and the night before is not the time to be shopping for interview clothing.
6. Maintain your hobbies and interests. It goes without saying that life does get a little hectic during your last few months in the military. One of the first things many transitioning service members drop from their calendar is their hobbies and interests.
Remember that your hobbies and interests are part of who you are. They provide stress relief as well as networking opportunities, both of which are critical to you at this stage of your career. So have a look at what your “free time” looks like now, and make sure you keep “doing what you are doing” over the next few months.
Enough reading. Check these six items off your “To-Do List” and make sure you check in next month for your three-month checklist. We have an entire page of G.I. Jobs called “Getting Out,” where we have a variety of great articles that deal with your military-to-civilian transition!
READ NEXT: Transition Readiness Quiz