Let’s start by being completely honest. One of the easiest ways to streamline your transition from the military is to take your last tour in the location you plan on staying in. The logistics are simpler, you can network like a professional, and your address and potential start date will be much more palatable to an employer. But it doesn’t always work like that.
Perhaps you have one last deployment overseas, you have been offered your dream job in Europe, or your family wants a chance to experience the culture associated with living abroad. Rest easy — an OCONUS tour will not be a showstopper for your job hunt.
Realistically, the Internet age has made retiring or separating overseas easier than it has ever been. In most cases, you will need to report to a stateside location for your final paperwork, but the majority of your job hunt and interviewing can be done from abroad.
So how can you ensure a successful OCONUS transition to civilian life stateside?
Explore Permissive TDY and make a pre-transition stateside job-hunting trip.
There is no better way to show how serious you are about job-hunting in a specific location than being there in advance. Consider combining a networking and house-hunting trip prior to moving back stateside.
Retirees and those being involuntarily separated are often approved for up to 30 days permissive TDY—an administrative absence which can be taken in conjunction with terminal leave. Use Space-A travel and you have a low-cost trip which will pay serious job search dividends.
Reach out to recruiters and hiring managers outlining your travel plans and seek an informal discussion, an informational interview, or tour of their facilities. This in-person networking may be all you need to secure a tentative job offer.
Nominate your target destination as the stateside location you wish to transition from.
Service members separating or retiring overseas are usually transferred to the nearest port of debarkation in the continental USA, but it is possible to apply for your separation paperwork to occur in a different location. Taking your terminal leave and finalizing military administrative processes in your target location will allow you to network and conduct interviews economically — saving you time, money and stress in the job hunt.
Tap into Virtual Job Fair and Recruitment Programs.
If you are lucky, your overseas base will schedule occasional recruiter briefs and job fairs, but these will only expose you to a limited number of stateside opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to network in person, but the majority of your networking effort should be online.
Virtual job fairs offer you the opportunity to speak with recruiters from the comfort of your own home. They usually require you to register in advance to access an online portal, and then allow you to navigate to “booths” or private chat windows with individual recruiters.
- Veteran Recruiting offers a number of virtual job fairs.
- Bradley-Morris, Inc. works with 4,000+ companies and offers a specialized recruitment program where you conduct an overseas interview 90 days prior to your return stateside.
Make your digital footprint “look like a local.”
There is nothing more off-putting to a potential employer than a complicated-looking phone number with a foreign area code. No matter how qualified you are, you have just advertised that you are in a different time zone and would need to move mountains to get to an interview next week.
Overcome this disastrous first impression by registering for a U.S. phone number. Vonage, Viber and Skype allow you to register a virtual phone number and nominate the area code prefix. There are free apps like Talkatone and Magic Jack that offer similar options, but the reliability and quality may not be worth the risk if you are serious about the job hunt.
It is also worth reviewing the location listed on your LinkedIn profile and resume. Recruiter searches may “screen you out” because you are not in the same location as the job. If you are within a 90-day window of returning from OCONUS, change your LinkedIn location to reflect where you are headed. Leave the address off your resume, or replace the address field with a phrase such as “Targeting Denver Metro.”
Ensure your cover letter is laser-focused on your target location.
One of the big disadvantages of job-hunting from abroad is that you have no tangible “claim” to the location you are applying in. A hiring manager will be wondering why you want to move, if you have ever been there, or if you are spamming resumes to locations across the country.
Use your cover letter to talk about “roots and networks.” Explain that you grew up in that location and discuss why you want to return, mention the family connections, or name drop the colleagues you know there—find something that ties you to the job location and use it, or you risk missing out to a local with a similar skill set.
Transitioning out of the military from an OCONUS location does add some unique considerations, but with a few smart moves — and a little extra thought to online interview formats and time zone conversions — you will be well on the way to securing your post-military job.