Leaving the Military: Your New Career Checklist

by Barbara A. Adams, MFCA-T, MMRW, MFRW, CPRW, CEIP

www.militaryresumewriters.com and www.careerproplus.com

It’s a new year and you’re scheduled to retire or separate from the military.  Congratulations–and thank you for serving our country in these uncertain times as part of the military. Civilians probably don’t say it often enough, but I’m sure it’s factual to say that we’re all grateful for everything you do to defend our nation’s freedom.

As you prepare to transition from your military career to life as a civilian, it can be a scary time. Questions abound about where you will live, what your life will be like, and most importantly, what career path you will need to take.

We at militaryresumewriters.com suggest it’s never too early to start preparing for your post-military life or post-military jobs. You will find that by taking a few proactive steps now, your transition will be virtually flawless as the day comes when your DD-214 is finalized. (We generally suggest you begin planning for your post military life no later than 180 days or even one year prior to your separation, but you can of course begin the process earlier if you wish.)

Below are some suggestions to help you begin for your life and jobs after the military:

Gather your paperwork into a personal portfolio.

You’ll want to make sure you have copies of all past performance appraisals (NCOERs, EVALs, EPRs, FitReps, OERs), awards, citations, and decorations, training certificates, letters of appreciation, your VMET (Verification of Military and Education Training) and any other documentation that you find important such as an article or other write up that has your name on it.

I suggest taking all of this information and scanning it into your computer to build a Military Career file, or put these documents into a loose-leaf binder. It’s helpful to place them in chronological order within broad category sections (i.e. “Awards,” “Training”, etc.) or in separate electronic files within the primary file. This way you not only have a comprehensive historical account of your military service, you have a valuable reference you can use for the next step, which is…

Begin thinking about what you want to do.

You have acquired some of the best training and experience this country has to offer, thanks to your participation in the military. However, one of the biggest challenges for people about to transition to civilian life after the military is that they struggle with translating the military jargon, which has become a second language, into the civilian language that is customary for human resource managers.

By reviewing your paperwork assembled in step one (above), you can quickly put together a list of skills and strengths you have acquired while in the military. Once you have this list, translating it back to civilian experience should be relatively easy.

For example, if you operated machine guns, chances are you won’t need that skill in your civilian position unless you’re pursuing a career in security or law enforcement.  Actually there is a $1.6B security and law enforcement career industry that exists post 9-11.  Other transferable skills include experience you gained in logistics, supply, electronics and mechanical maintenance, personnel administration, intelligence, information management, and many more that are certainly good transferable skills to offer the civilian world.

As you translate your military experience to civilian-speak, make sure that you remove any specific military terms, e.g. instead of “commander” write “senior manager” or “director”. Spell out all acronyms and if they’re too “military-esque,” try to find a civilian equivalent. For example, instead of saying, “Led a battalion through simulated warfare exercises with no loss of life or equipment” you might say “Led a group of 75 personnel through high-risk field exercises with zero incidents.”

Determine where you want to work.

This is probably the toughest decision you’ll have to make because you have many options. Let’s look at the decisions that fall under this category in more detail:

Federal Government: Many transitioning military personnel first look at the federal government for employment for several reasons. One, their Veteran’s points usually give them an advantage in qualifying for a position over someone who has not served in the military. Second, certain positions more closely align with the training and experience received in the military; for example, an Army intelligence-gathering specialist would probably have all of the requirements necessary for a similar position with the CIA, FBI or DHS. Third, the benefits, while not an exact match, are usually structured similarly. Fourth, the government pay scale, like the military, is structured based on experience and knowledge.

Private Sector: The civilian or private sector is a little more challenging to get into because every company pretty much has its own way of doing things when it comes to the hiring process. Whereas the federal government is standardized in terms of job descriptions, pay scales, interviewing and evaluation, private companies (and we include publicly traded companies) are not regulated by one central hiring office like the federal government. I recommend that you post your resume on military friendly job boards and search for military friendly employers, which can both be accomplished at www.taonline.com.

Lastly, if you have doubts about whether your military background will fit in, be assured that it will. . Employers generally appreciate the discipline, training and attention to detail our former service personnel bring to the work environment and there are numerous private employers who are considered “military-friendly” when it comes to hiring former US Service personnel. You can find this list at http://taonline.careercast.com/texis/ed.

Determine if you want to go back to school on the GI Bill.

Once your military service ends, you are under no obligation to pursue a career path that mirrors what you did in the service. So if, for example, you were a food preparation specialist in the military, but you really aspire to be an IT support desk technician, there’s certainly no reason why you can’t acquire the training you need to make this successful transition.

Under the terms of the GI Bill, you might be eligible for full or partial reimbursement on accredited education programs offered by nationwide institutions. This means that if you put college on hold for your military career and now wish to go back to complete a degree, you can do so without taking on the added debt of student loans. For more information about the GI Bill and your rights, please visit the US Department of Veterans Affairs web site at http://www.gibill.va.gov/.

The most important thing to remember, as you prepare for post military life, is to not wait until the last minute to get started thinking about your future

Here’s wishing you much success with your military career transition!

Barbara Adams is the President and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG). She has been on the leading edge of SES application development for decades. Committed to providing world-class service, she has also built an SES writing team that has assisted more than 2,500 clients develop their application materials. Ms. Adams has been featured on TV and radio and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. She is the co-author of the book Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application. – See more at: https://www.careerproplus.com/blog/department-of-homeland-security-dhs-candidate-development-program-cdp/#sthash.jnRECNog.dpuf

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