Transitioning out of the military and into the civilian world is a reality for 200,000 service members each year. At some point, you will be one of them, but will you be ready when the time comes? Many service members are not prepared because they start planning for their exit too late.
While in the military, we were taught to always plan ahead – have a Plan B to fall back on in case Plan A went south. In Operation Order briefings, the ops people planned missions 24, 48 and 72 hours out. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) usually starts 18 to 24 months out – and for good reason. But as good as the program is, there are some things you should be doing on your own to make you stand out from the crowd.
1. know your goal
Just like preparing for combat, you should have a “battle plan” for job searching in the civilian world. Start by making sure you will have enough funds to carry you through for a while as you might have to “weather the unemployed storm” anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Also start figuring out what you would like to do for a job. Research the basic requirements of the position to figure out if you have the schooling, training and experience necessary to meet the qualifications of the job. If not, keep reading!
2. Be ‘COOL’ – Get Credentialed
If you do find that you have some gaps to meet the basic qualifications of a job, getting a credential or two through Credentialing Opportunities On-line (COOL) can help fill in the gaps. Credentialing used to be limited to professional, health-care and technical-type jobs, but that is no longer the case. All military branches offer some form of credentialing, and the good news is in many cases the cost is covered through tuition assistance or under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
The process usually requires requesting funding, doing the coursework, passing the exam and the awarding of the credential. Then you have a credential you can highlight on your resume that civilian hiring managers will understand, and the supporting documentation to prove it.
For some civilian jobs, completing an apprenticeship while serving can help prepare you for a job on the outside in that field. If completing an apprenticeship is right for you, you can get one through the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP). Upon completion of a USMAP program, you will be registered as a Department of Labor apprentice in that filed with documented proof.
4. Toot Your Own Horn
This is an area where many of us fail – we are too humble. The military instills in us many of the values civilian employers salivate over when they can find them; things like teamwork, loyalty, adaptability, leadership, problem solving – and the list goes on and on. Yet, when preparing for finding a job, we fail to expound on these values and how we used them while serving.
Another area not used to its fullest extent are experiences and training. While you don’t want to cover every little thing you did, capitalize on the relevant ones – the one that will make you stand out in the crowd – the ones where civilians not having served in the military will not be able to compete.
5. Network, network, network
Many of today’s open positions are not listed through normal sources. But staying in contact with military buddies and friends that have gotten out before you can give you an inside track on these unlisted jobs if they are working in that company. And if you are trying to get a job in the same company, they can be a wealth of information, including the tactics they used to get hired. Just be sure to pay it forward to other military members who are either already out or thinking about getting out if they contact you.
Being able to execute a plan successfully is what got you through your military service and it is what will position you at the top of the job search process. Just be sure you don’t start too late!