Transitioning Military Members: Your Planning Guide For Success

I receive a number of questions from transitioning military candidates asking when they should begin to craft their resume and apply for jobs. In response, I have created a practical guideline (below) to help keep candidates focused and on track.

1 year out: Map Out Your Plan Of Attack

Now is the perfect time to narrow down your career objective. Consider whether or not you’re interested in federal, civilian, or contracting opportunities (or maybe all the above).  Do you have any geographic preferences that could limit your options? Do you want an immediate transition or can you afford to take some time off? These are just a few of the difficult questions every job seeker must carefully consider.

11 months out: Create Your Résumé

After attending an ACAP/TAP military resume writing class, you should be comfortable with the basics of résumé writing. If you experience difficulties or have specific questions, (where I work), offers free résumé consultations. For those of you who’ve hit major roadblocks or don’t know where to start, we also offer professional military resume writing services for those looking to gain a competitive edge.

Insider’s tip: As a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, it typically takes me 10+ hours to craft a résumé (and I’ve written hundreds of military resumes!). Take your time when building your document and avoid rushing through. It’s best to revisit it several days after completion to make adjustments and edit as needed so you have focused and fresh eyes.

10 months out: Network, Network, Network!

This is one of the most critical ongoing aspects to the job hunting process: as the old adage goes, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know.” I highly suggest setting up your professional LinkedIn profile for starters. Connect with former colleagues who’ve already transitioned and talk to them about their personal successes and recommendations.

Insider’s tip: Ensure your LinkedIn profile reaches 100% completeness. Based on algorithms, this percentage can help determine when HR managers or recruiters will pull your information when they conduct searches – the higher the level, the better chance you have of being one of the top profiles.

7 – 9 months out: Do Your Homework

Researching current industry standards and practices will be beneficial for you, particularly when it comes time to mapping out your job hunting strategies and salary negotiations. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of what companies meet your specific needs. Build a list of companies and find out what kind of jobs they have available, what their company culture is like, and if any career development opportunities may exist. If you’re open to relocation, try to narrow your search to the top five cities to avoid overwhelming yourself. Know what the median salary range is for each job title within those cities to keep your search within your parameters. Visit Glassdoor to calculate salaries and get a better idea of specific company practices.

Insider’s tip: Visit the following websites to help launch your hunt and research on hiring companies: Monster, Indeed,, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, and

3-6 months out: Put Your Best Boot Forward

This is the time to hit the ground running. Attending job fairs is the perfect occasion to network and get a good feel for what job opportunities are available. Talk to company representatives to practice your “elevator pitch,” and learn about what industries will be a good fit for your skills and abilities. Distribute your résumé as much as possible and pay attention to any recommendations or suggestions they may offer.

Insider’s tip: hosts military job fairs on many bases and installations throughout the U.S. Visit their website to connect with companies looking to hire military talent and don’t forget to post your résumé.

2 months or less out: Fire Away!

This is your big moment to finally submit your résumé and see how the job market responds – post your military resume to all of the major job boards and apply, apply, apply. It’s important to be methodical with this process, so you may want to keep an active spreadsheet of companies you’ve applied to and track the number of interviews you receive. Keep in mind, many organizations can have lengthy hiring processes, and it may take upwards of 6 weeks to get an offer.

Insider’s tip: Follow up with HR managers to ensure you don’t get lost in the cracks and stay fresh in their mind. Always prepare for interviews by conducting mock interviews with a friend or family member to help rehearse your key skills and prepare responses for common interview questions.

A caveat regarding the above list: This proactive timeline is suitable for the majority of military transitioning members, but keep in mind that you may need to tweak certain areas based on your personal needs.

In summary, job hunting can be an exhausting and overwhelming process for many, but if you plan for your transition with this methodical approach, you will equip yourself with proven tactics that will ease your process. Happy job hunting!

Image courtesy of Zyada