Five Tips for Joining the Civilian Work Force

Here are five practical tips for transitioning and veteran job seekers in today’s challenging and highly-competitive job market. **STEP 1.** Determine your career goals. Deciding, even in a general way, what you really want to do next and what it takes to achieve this goal will help you focus your search. This decision should take into account a realistic assessment of your talents and attributes, education level, prior experience, and career preferences. Ask yourself: - Do I want a career similar to my military specialty, or do I want to take the opportunity to explore a new path? A person who served in a communications or public affairs unit might, for example, decide to go into sales and marketing. A platoon leader might opt for a career in management. An MP might be drawn toward law enforcement, a high-tech analyst to cybersecurity, and a weapons or ordnance specialist to a career with a military contractor. - If entering a new field, will I need further education and certification or licensing? If so, can I start working toward these goals, perhaps online, while still in the service? **STEP 2.** Plan ahead, and manage your expectations. Finding the right fit for your new civilian career will take time, energy, and a proactive approach. So it is important to manage your expectations. Do not expect instant results, and do not get discouraged if you do not find the perfect opportunity early in the search. Having a sound plan of action up to six months before your discharge date can help you stay on track and remain positive. And, if you have a spouse and/or family’s needs and preferences to consider, planning ahead can help manage their expectations and reduce the stress of the upcoming transition. Questions you and family members may want to answer include: - Can we be flexible about my post-military job location? - How much income will I need to generate in order to maintain my or my family’s lifestyle? - Would I consider initially taking a lower-paying job with greater opportunity for career advancement over a higher-paying position with little chance to move up? - Am I willing to spend some time in a training program, if required by a specific employer for which I would like to work? **STEP 3.** Prepare a smart, strategic resume. Tailoring your resume for the job you are seeking should be a top priority. Many transitioning servicemembers make one of two mistakes: They load the resume with incomprehensible military jargon, leaving the recruiter totally confused, or they over-civilianize it and neglect to focus on reasons why their military service gives them an advantage and sets them apart from other potential hires. Many employers report that they value veterans highly because of their leadership skills, strong work ethic, and commitment to accomplishing goals. Employers also cite favorable character traits such as integrity, discipline, reliability, and being a team player. Your task in writing a persuasive resume that stands out is to make an employer’s recruiter believe that the skills and experience you gained in the military would bring great value to the company. **STEP 4.** Be active in your search and prepared to start your new career quickly. Do not expect to send out a handful of resumes and then sit back and watch the offers roll in. Make an effort to get your resume into the hands of every recruiter who is hiring in your preferred field. Job fairs are a great way to get in front of numerous employers in just a couple of hours. At such events, do not hesitate to speak with recruiters who may have training programs for careers outside your previous experience or military field of expertise. They may be able to offer you a new career path that you never knew you were qualified for. You should plan to start your new career soon after discharge. Most employers are eager to work with transitioning servicemembers who can begin work within a couple weeks of their discharge date. **STEP 5.** Find employers that want to find you. Many employers, large and small, are specifically interested in hiring returning veterans. For example, the insurance company where I serve as national military program manager seeks returning veterans to apply for positions in sales, marketing, recruiting, administration, and management. We participate in numerous military job fairs around the country, and work with recruiters at federal agencies and private organizations. Through these recruiting efforts, we have successfully hired more than 2,500 new veterans since 2010. In 2015, 39 percent of our new hires have military affiliations. *Joseph Pennington (USN Retired) is national military program manager for Combined Insurance Company, an ACE Group company. [Combined Insurance]( provides individual supplemental accident, disability, health, and life insurance products. *