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Making the Transition – The Career Search “Tools” No One Talks About

By Peg Titus-Hall, CPCC, ACC

In all the Internet and magazine articles I’ve seen about transitioning from military to civilian careers, virtually all of them begin with the importance of establishing a good resume. It’s true that a solid resume is a great tool in your job search. However, there are some other essential “tools” to add to your job search “tool belt.”

Knowing yourself and what you truly want in your career is as (if not more) important than the basic job search tools. Having a good idea of what success means to you, what’s important to you, and determining your ideal career, as well as who can help you and your skills and talents takes time and reflection as enter the job search arena. And it’s time well spent. As you enter the job search arena, take some time and reflect on YOU. What is important to you? What does success mean to you? Determine your ideal career, your skills and talents and who can help you. While this might take some time, it will be time well spent.

Virtually every career coaching client I’ve worked with comes to me with an immediate “plan”:

I need a resume…
I need to network…
I need contacts…
I want interviews…
I have to have a job within [X] days/weeks/months…

So we spend the first 15 minutes or so getting him/her jump started on these immediate items. Then, I pop the question:

“What do you do for fun?”

Once the client picks his/her jaw up from the floor, I explain how important it is to know what you want—in all aspects of your life—as you choose the right career for yourself. What you do for fun helps you see your career transition from a different perspective. There are other aspects that essentially address the question:

Do you want your work to be fulfilling as you enter your next phase of life?

Now I know what you’re thinking. Wait a minute! The resume, networking, and interviewing are very important and practical things to focus on. Well, you’re right. AND you need to focus on YOU. You have trained hard and worked long hours in your military career. As you move to civilian life, know that you get to choose the:

Work you do…
Impact you want to make…
Hours you want to work…
Time you want to play…

…and so much more!

Here are some important questions to consider BEFORE and AS you make the transition:

Clarify what success means to you. Look back at your military career. What has made you successful? How do you picture a successful civilian life and career? For some, success means a huge salary with lots of perks. For others, it’s flexibility and more time with family. How would you define it?

In a larger sense, what kind of impact do you want to make on the world? You’ve undoubtedly impacted the world as a member of the United States Military. You’ve served your country and won the respect of your comrades, your family, your friends, and the nation as a whole. How does that impact fit into your definition of success as you venture out into the civilian world? Answering these questions can help you to be more discriminating when opportunities present themselves. And they will!

Identify your values. Values are principles that guide you in every day of your life. So which values are significant to you? In your next career, how important is:

  1. Integrity?
  2. Flexibility?
  3. Creativity?
  4. Discipline?
  5. Meaningful work?
  6. Status?

 

These are just a few of many values that, once discovered, can help you choose the right type of and place to work. You’ll know in your gut—as you view an organization’s web site, walk into their facility, and sit for an interview—whether or not it is a place you’d like to spend 8-12 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. Understanding who you are and how you approach life is the key to discovering the kind of career that will bring you personal fulfillment.

Create your ideal career. What are your interests and what do you enjoy doing? What would constitute a really great day at work? What type of people do you want to work with? What do you see out of your office window as you sit there every day—assuming there is an office! What kind of money do you want to make and benefits do you want to have? How do you want to grow in your career? What long-term goals do you want for yourself and your family? When you see yourself 20 years from now, where would you like to be in your life?

Remember the “what do you do for fun” question? How can you incorporate fun into your career so that you can enjoy waking up every day and be excited about going to work? These are only a few of many questions you need to ask yourself when you create your ideal career.

Develop your own “Board of Directors.” Job leads, referrals, resources, information, and general emotional support and encouragement can come from everywhere—your fellow service men and women, family, friends, school chums, people in your community, hairdressers, dentists, physicians, lawyers—basically anyone you know. You can enlist these people on your own personal “Board of Directors”; namely, people who know people and people who will support you in whatever way you need to be supported. Give the gift of receiving. You know how it feels when you help someone. Let someone help you. You only have to ask. If the answer “no,” then the operative word for you is “next.” Find someone else who will.

By identifying members of your personal “Board of Directors,” you will create a solid foundation not only for developing your ideal career but also finding people who can help you stick to your goals.

Evaluate your skills and experience. Truly examine what you bring to the job. As you look through on-line job descriptions and/or talk to people who are doing work that you find appealing and exciting, learn what specific qualifications potential employers are looking for. Identify the skills you do have.

Check to see if you fit all the qualifications for the job. If you don’t, how can you fill in the gaps? Do you have other skills and talents that could fill in the gap(s)? Would you need extra training? If so, where can you find it?

There are many skills inventories and awareness tools specifically geared towards military personnel. Some of these valuable resources are listed below:

 HireVetsFirst [http://www.hirevetsfirst.gov/]: The Military Skills Translator (O*NET, the Occupational Information Network), is a comprehensive database of occupational skills, knowledge, and abilities that can help you align your military experience, education, and training with current civilian workplace needs.

TurboTAP.org [http://www.transitionassistanceprogram.com/register.tpp]: A.k.a., The Official Transition Assistant Program (TAP) web site is the Department of Defense's official website providing information for service members transitioning from military service.

 
Take some time to get to know yourself and identify what you truly want in your career. No doubt, you need to know the basic job search tools and there are a great number of resources for them. What success means to you, what’s important, and determining your ideal career are also vital career search tools. Make knowing your skills and talents and who you can ask for help part of your career search tool belt.

The world is waiting for you!

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