Transitioning A to Z
by Military Transition News Staff
Article Sponsored by: MilitaryResumes.com
In past issues of Military Transition News, we have listed everything a service member needs to know about transitioning, from A to Z. Please find the full list below.
A (July/August 2012)
Don’t wait until you’re 30 days away from separation before starting the military to civilian transition process. ASSESS your options and create an ACTION plan.
The ideal time to begin preparing for military transition is one year before you are available to begin employment in the civilian workforce. Take ADVANTAGE of all the free services that are available (military placement firms, military job boards, military job fairs, TAP/ACAP) and don’t be afraid to network on your own to find a military connection (VFW, former military you know, military associations such as AUSA, MOAA, Marine for Life, etc.).
B (September/October 2012)
BE BRAVE. BE CONFIDENT. BE POSITIVE.
“The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on the one side, and the voice of your conscience on the other.”-General Douglas MacArthur.
No pressure, but your whole life is about to change.
Of course, your whole life changed when you joined the military; when you got married; when you had children; when you witnessed the frailty of human life. You are a soldier, and far more capable at meeting life’s challenges head on with a goal to win. As you begin your job search, BE CONFIDENT. You have the experience needed to score a top job in any company you choose. BE POSITIVE in your thoughts. It will lead to the BRAVERY that you will need as you transition from like today. Nothing can stop you. Nothing can break your spirit. More importantly, you are about to embark on the first day of the rest of your life! Use it wisely. Good luck!
C and D (July/August 2013)
“C”: CONNECT. CONNECT. CONNECT.
In a job search, one can never Connect too much. It’s also important to remember that you must be easy to connect with as well.
Connect: Make sure you have a professional email address for your military to civilian career search. Use your first and last name. It’s not easy these days to get the user name you would like, but you have several options. First, play around with underscores and dots at sites like Google and Yahoo, attempting to secure your professional email: Joe.Smith@gmail.com, Joe_Smith@gmail.com, JSmith@gmail.com, J.Smith@gmail.com, or J_Smith@gmail.com. Don’t use a family account: TheSmiths@gmail.com, KarenandJoe@gmail.com. Don’t be cute: TopDog@gmail.com, FoxyMarine@gmail.com or LovetheLadies@gmail.com.
Connect: Join LinkedIn. Join Groups. Connect with people in groups. Connect with CivilianJobs.com on LinkedIn. Connect with other veterans. Attend mixers. Join professional business groups like the Rotary Club or Kiwanis.
Connect: Work backward. Instead of looking for a company that might be hiring someone of your skill set, research companies that interest you. Review their job opportunities and contact the hiring manager. You might even ask if they have a special initiative for hiring veterans. If so, ask to speak with their contact.
Connect: Write a personal handwritten thank you note to whoever interviewed you. Personal notes are rarely done anymore. A brief email directly after the interview is fine, but if you want to stand out, a personal handwritten note will do it - don’t forget to check your spelling!
“D”: DON’T GET DISCOURAGED.
One of the most stressful times in one’s life is looking for a job. It’s subjective and often has so many moving parts. It’s difficult to know the best course of action. If you don’t get that job you thought you were perfect for, it’s ok. Don’t get Discouraged. You’re in great company.
Walt Disney lost his job with the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1919 because his boss said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Sidney Poitier, one of America’s most respected actors, was once told in an interview, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”
Steven Spielberg tried three times to get into the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television and three times was rejected.
Babe Ruth struck out a record 1,330 times, but also hit the most home runs when he was playing. Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected 37 times, yet he went on to sell over 600 million copies. And, Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections before becoming President of the United States.
Like these figures from history and culture, don’t get discouraged - stick with your search to find a great civilian career.
E and F (September/October 2013)
“E”: Explore and Eggs
You’ve probably spent the past few years thinking about your transition to civilian life, but thinking isn’t actually transitioning. Now that you are in the window of opportunity, Explore all your options from location and industry to job market and position. There are job opportunities available for veterans, but they may not be in your first choice of location, industry or position.
And as you continue with your search, don’t put all your Eggs in one basket or allow yourself to eliminate a company, a location, or even a particular type of job before you educate yourself with all of the information available. With thousands of opportunities in corporate America, many of the great places to work for former military are outside the Fortune 500. In fact, many former military find a fast track to success with jobs in privately held firms and/or with jobs located outside of major metropolitan areas.
“F”: Focus and Foot
Your Focus will be tested in your job search, especially when it comes to your resume. Remember that to a large extent, resumes aren’t there to help you get a job - they are there to potentially eliminate you from a job. When a recruiter or HR administrator is trying to pare down a stack of resumes from 100 to just a few for consideration, one misspelling or grammatical mistake can be the reason a resume ends up in the “circular file”. As you are working on various versions of your resume, find a place where you can truly focus on your task. It’s not something any of us are used to doing in our everyday lives, so it requires extra concentration. After you are done, have someone else read over it. Then focus, and re-read it for yourself. Come back to it later and re-read it again. This focus will help your resume stay in the “keeper” pile.
Get off on the right Foot! Once you’ve taken your new job in corporate America, make sure you hit the ground running. Just like in the military, you only get one chance to get off to a great start. Your first month on the job will likely set the tone for your entire career:
- Come in early and stay late.
- Ask questions and be enthusiastic.
- Volunteer for tough, demanding assignments.
- Be willing and eager to get your hands dirty.
- Solve problems rather than give reasons why things can’t be done.
G and H (November/December 2013)
"G”: Goals, Game, Gain
As you begin to transition, set your Goals beginning 18 months prior to separation. The goals will be likely to change, so it is important to make a fluid checklist and stay focused. Goals are separated into long and short term opportunities, and then add the End Game - Job Gain - as the target. To facilitate your end game - gaining employment - you can create a checklist or a diagram with gaining employment in the middle and your goals listed separately. Suggestions for goals around the target include:
GOAL: Determine job sector(s)
GOAL: Identify two or three locations in which to live
GOAL: Research companies
GOAL: Set up professional social media accounts and emails
GOAL: Create resume(s)
GOAL: Find potential networks, i.e. LinkedIn groups; no-fee, non-handcuff career placement services; veterans groups; chamber of commerce; etc.
“H”: Humor, Honor, Handled
your next interview.ut there are no assurances. Transitioning military are Honored for the sacrifices they have made and the skills they have gained, something that is unique to you. You are in a class and position all your own. As you work to gain civilian employment, don’t forget that you offer something that other candidates do not. Be confident. Ask questions. Be brilliant and you’ll get it Handled. If you aren’t the right fit, address it with a bit of good humor and a positive attitude and move on to
I and J (January/February 2014)
“I”: Impress Them
Anyone can look good on paper, but what a company wants is someone that truly impresses them! It’s not easy to do, because it requires a confident feeling from within, not a perfectly coiffed look on the outside. Companies want people that fit in with their team. Be the kind of person that they can’t do without. Impress the civilian interviewers and they will do whatever it takes to sign you on.
“J”: Job Search, Job Fairs, Job Boards
Transitioning from the military to a civilian job can be difficult. It’s not always easy to find a civilian job that matches a military rank or MOS exactly. One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the workplace is to consistently conduct your Job Search via Job Boards using “civilianized” keywords that best match your current and past job responsibilities. Similarly, try to investigate every booth at military Job Fairs to see if there is a match at those civilian employers for someone with your background. Savvy employers sometimes send recruiters who come from a military background, so make good use of your conversation time with them, especially if they are from your branch of service. With persistence, you should be able to find a great fit for your work experience and skills.
K and L (March/April 2014)
“K”: Know your value
You’re transitioning into the civilian job market from the most powerful military organization in the world. The United States military is more than 1.4 million “workers” strong, packed with the world’s most technologically advanced systems anywhere. No other nation comes close to these cutting-edge resources. When it comes to business, you have served with the number one employer, sometimes under very demanding conditions. You had to show up to work on time. You had to get the job done. You had to be a good team member, or lead your group. The experience and skills you’ve gained are tools that companies hope to acquire and they are setting up initiatives in order to find ways to hire you. Your background and experience in the U.S. military gives you the highest recommendation as a leader, organizer and achiever. Make sure you Know your value.
“L”: Don't let your insurance Lapse
Transitioning out of the military means research, paperwork and details, some of which will wear you down. Health insurance is one of those tasks that sometimes can be so exhausting that it gets ignored. Don’t let it Lapse! Most of you are familiar with TRICARE, part of the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP) that will bridge the health insurance gap between transition and your new civilian job, which should offer you some form of health insurance. According to Military.com, TAMP “offers transitional TRICARE coverage to certain separating active duty members and their eligible family members. Care is available for only 180 days.” There are four categories of eligibility, so make sure you log onto the Benefits tab at Military.com to view the fine print. Other programs include the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) for a select group of former military beneficiaries. You can also compare insurance costs at eHealthInsurance.com, HealthCare.gov and the Veterans Affairs web site to learn about options.
M and N (May/June 2014)
“M”: Mind your Move
Don’t automatically use your military Move to go back to your home of record. There is no better way to expand your job possibilities than to open yourself to new geographies. Consider some new states or regions to live in, then wait until you have a job in what could potentially be a new location.
A huge advantage for a military-experienced job seeker is that many times, their military move can pay for relocation to the city of their new job. For a company that might otherwise have to pay for a civilian to relocate, this could be the leg up you need.
“N”: Network outside of the Nest
Looking for a civilian job is in itself much like leaving the military nest - will I fly or fall?! As it pertains to networking, this is certainly true. Networking is one of the hardest tasks for job seekers whether they have a military background or not. Unless you possess a naturally outgoing personality, networking feels a bit out of our comfort zone.
However, some key job leads can be developed from this type of in-person interaction. So it is important to find opportunities to Network. While previous advice discusses seeking military connections in the civilian world, in this case we are suggesting to look for civilian professional society meetings in your area, outside of the military Nest, that you can attend. The great thing about some of these societies (such as the American Society of Transportation and Logistics or the American Marketing Association for instance) is that the local chapters have affiliations with national organizations. So even if your preferred market is not local to your area, one of these local networking connections could lead to an out-of-market opportunity. Plus, the only way to get more comfortable with in-person networking is to do it!
O and P (July/August 2014)
“O”: Be Open and Organized
Job hunting is difficult on many levels, beginning with how it affects your self-esteem. Transitioning military go from having job security and an expert level of job knowledge to being a new employee just starting out in a company. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Every single person seeking employment, military or not, is working with the same level of anxiety. That kind of nervousness might lead to narrowly focusing on potential jobs. It’s important to be Open to all opportunities. Look at positions you might not otherwise, especially if it fits with your interests and skill set. Job interviews are for you to learn about the position, just as much as it is the hiring manager’s goal to learn about you. And also, be Organized as you transition out, separating out companies, job descriptions and industries. Keep detailed notes and make sure you indicate follow up needs on an action plan for each. This step will provide a great reference point as you learn about corporate America.
“P”: Polish, Present and Process
What’s your elevator speech? The one you use when a hiring manager asks, “Tell me about yourself?” You’re selling a very high value commodity - YOU - and it’s important to keep focused on the selling Process. How Polished is your speech? Do you change it up with each interview? For the most part, don’t - stick with what is comfortable. Having a good opening that sells yourself to the interviewer will set you at ease and show the confidence that is important as you begin. Present yourself as natural and not rehearsed.
Remember, great sales people maintain relationships. As you interview, even if a job doesn’t work out, stay connected if appropriate to the interviewer via email or LinkedIn. Networking is a powerful tool in today’s social media age. Stay grounded about who you are and what you have to offer. Job hunting is a Process. Keep to the mission. You will be employed.
Q and R (September/October 2014)
“Q”: Quick, Query, Quell
Transitioning out of the military is not something that you might think of as Quick or rapid, but by the time your exit date arrives, it will seem as though it went by in a flash. Setting a timeline for each step is extremely important and requires immense discipline. Remember to Query everything. Don’t assume that you should know all the answers. Be careful to communicate plans with your spouse and family, ensuring to Quell any fears or anxiety. Moving is one of life’s most stressful events. Don’t let it get the better of you, physically or emotionally. Be prepared to separate from the military and make sure your family is in on the plan.
“R”: Relax, Regroup, Remind
There is something freeing about starting a new life. It can be equally unnerving. Relax. Looking for a job is something nearly everyone in the civilian world has done. As a member of the military, you understand how to create a strategy that will work to accomplish a set goal. You understand that some plans will require you to Regroup before you go after your target again. Remind yourself that nothing is impossible and that as a member of the U.S. Military, you are sought by thousands of America’s top corporations, many with veterans at their helm. Relax. You got this.
S (July/August 2015) and T (November/December 2014)
“S”: Be a STAR
Think back to all the interviews you’ve had. Does any one thing stand out? Some job seekers feel a need to try and squeeze all of their experience and accomplishments into every question, often veering off into a circle of topics that rarely ties up into a complete thought. One way to avoid this issue is to become a STAR!
The STAR Method can be used when crafting your resume, developing a presentation and answering interview questions. It is not rocket science, but something that, as adults, we often forget to follow when we engage in some form of sales. After all, job interviews are all about selling ourselves as well as our skills, and it is important to demonstrate the how our past experiences relate to our overall career progression.
The STAR Method can be summarized as follows:
S – Situation: A brief introduction
T – Task or Target: What/why the situation presented itself
A – Action: What actions were taken to affect the situation?
R – Result: How well did you resolve the situation?
Tying an interview answer to your actual experience and communicating the results of that experience helps provide your interviewer with a greater understanding of your value. For instance, if asked, “Have you ever managed a long-term project”, you could answer using the STAR Method as follows:
S – Yes, in my previous job, I was responsible for implementing a new maintenance plan.
T – I was given the project in January with a May 1 rollout goal. The plan was to cover the entire facility.
A – I assembled a cross-functional team that covered all of the key systems and implemented project milestones.
R – The maintenance plan was rolled out a week early and to date has resulted in a 15% improvement in system uptime compared to the prior time period.
The STAR Method is not meant to be a lengthy story. Make sure you are communicating in a manner that is easily consumed. Then, STAR can provide the best opportunity to be heard and understood.
Argh! There is nothing more frustrating during the job search process than printing out copies of your resume or even sending it out to recruiters, only to find a Typothat becomes so glaring, you wonder how you missed it!
Part of our penchant for typos could lie in the overly-casual everyday emailing and texting styles (with heaps of auto-correct lumped in) to which we’ve become accustomed.
So it’s important to realize that every form of communication is important when looking for a job. Hiring managers want to know what kind of importance you place on your work and how that would translate as a member of their team.
Because your first impression will most likely be through something you’ve typed – a resume, an email, a cover letter, your LinkedIn profile, an online application, etc. – spend extra time polishing and editing. Consider if it meets the standards of the position that you’re applying for, then ask for constructive criticism from a co-worker or family member. No hiring manager wants to bring in a bad speller with poor English skills and sloppy work. Show that you take pride in how you present yourself when job hunting and your credentials will be more likely to make it to the next phase of the job search.
Here are a few proofreading tips:
1. Read the content backwards from the last sentence to the first
2. Read it out loud
3. Cut and paste any text into a spell checker program before sending/saving
U and V (January/February 2015)
According to HealthStatus.com, moving and job loss are two of the top five stressors for an individual. Military transition not only weighs heavily on the Airman, Marine, Sailor or Soldier, it also affects the people he or she loves the most. It doesn’t take much to imagine the scenario played out when an entire family is dealing with such upheaval and how it impacts the psyche of the service member.
Take a deep breath. Not just you, but everyone in the household. If anyone knows the adversity that life can bring, it’s the families of the U.S. Military. But you’ve undoubtedly witnessed examples of how clear thinking and an ability to stay focused on a task can assist in overcoming difficult obstacles. In addition, keeping communication lines open and collectively taking small steps toward a successful transition are key. When the entire family can exhibit these qualities, then staying Unified as a unit will make the transition manageable.
Volunteering comes naturally to veterans – you volunteered to serve your country after all! It’s the nature of the service member.
When transitioning, Volunteering is also a great way to network and meet potential job leads. In addition to doing work that’s close to your heart, consider volunteering for positions that might be strategic in terms of your professional goals with an eye to assisting in an introduction to a decision-maker.
Volunteer at a local theater to usher for a special event; volunteer to lead a committee for a relevant civilian professional association; volunteer to give out water at local runs; volunteer to help an association put on a parade or craft fair. There are so many ways volunteering can help build your network. A day out volunteering can be strenuous, but hard work diminishes stress, which could help put you in the right frame of mind for your civilian job search. And it might result in great networking contacts, as well.
W and X (March/April 2015)
“What is your biggest Weakness?”
“Tell me about a time you failed.”
These questions or some form of them, have plagued interviewees for generations. How do you best answer this type of question?
Try to develop one or more situations in your past where the result wasn’t exactly what you expected. Maybe it will be an example where you didn’t necessarily do something wrong, but you weren’t prepared for an unplanned contingency.
So for instance, perhaps a weakness is budgeting: “I was in charge of a project that went over budget due to an unexpected expense. Afterward, I identified the cause of the cost overrun and documented it for the next time I was in charge of the project. I then took a financial management online course to be more aware of other budgeting contingencies. And the next time the project occurred, I helped it come in under budget. So while it may not be my strongest current skill, I am progressively improving as I’m sure that it will be good to know moving forward, no matter what my specific role is.”
The key to the weakness question is to show that once you became aware of the weakness, you addressed it and improved because of it.
“X”: Roman numeral for 10
We are using “X” in its Roman numeral form to represent our 10-point interview checklist:
I. Arrive at least 15 minutes early
II. Wear a dark-colored conservative suit; white or blue shirt; and if a male, a red or blue subtle tie
III. Bring copies of your resume
IV. Research the business you are interviewing with as this is something interviewers frequently ask: “What do you know about ACME Global?”
V. Make sure you have thought of some of your past successes and can describe them in challenge/solution/result scenarios
VI. Rehearse to sound natural; ironically, you need to rehearse to be able to sound unrehearsed during your interview; practice talking about your education, background and work experiences out loud
VII. Prepare questions so you will be ready when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?” Make the questions about the work and the position (which demonstrates your interest in the role), not about how much vacation time you will get or what the benefits plan is – save those questions for after you receive the job offer
VIII. Keep eye contact when speaking and listening
IX. Display confidence in your abilities, skills and readiness to do the job
X. Tell them you want the job; those are powerful words which let the hiring manager know you are very interested.
Y and Z (May/June 2015)
So you’ve been given a job offer. What do you do next? If you haven’t already been provided a written offer, ask for one. Before you answer YES, it’s important that you understand the job offer, the benefits associated with the offer and any other information that affects how you are expected to perform in your potential new position.
Nearly every state recognizes the “at will” doctrine that simply says that companies can hire and fire employees at their own discretion. So it’s important to note that an offer letter is not a guarantee of employment and often will spell out stipulations required to successfully begin the job, often referred to as “Conditions of Employment.” These conditions can include a reference check, drug testing, education verification, criminal background check, a financial overview and even a review of your driving record, especially for jobs that require travel by car. Each of these can mean the withdrawal of your job offer, so before you give notice to a current employer or decline a second offer, make sure you can meet the conditions of employment.
Other pieces of information that can be provided in an offer letter are your job title, duties and compensation. Additionally, there may be a mention of benefits including a brief outline of your insurance, retirement savings plan and vacation/sick days.
Before you say YES to any offer, talk it over with your spouse and if you are not comfortable with something in the offer letter, bring it to the hiring manager’s attention.
Our last letter of the alphabet for our popular A to Z column is, perhaps, the most important. Take care of yourself and get a good night’s sleep before any job interview. In other words, make sure you get some ZZZZZZ’s.
This advice might be easier said than done. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) Sleep in America Poll, more than two-thirds of respondents report getting a good night’s sleep only a few nights a month; forty percent take 30 minutes or more to fall asleep and more than one third sleep less than six hours a day on work days.
But there is hope. Before you let a job interview or the pressure of transitioning to a civilian job take over your sleep, here are a few tips from Sleep.org, the National Sleep Foundation’s online network, to get you off on the right foot.
1) Stay on a schedule: Get in the habit of going to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. Your body likes routine and adjusts your body clock to the schedule you impose, helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
2) Adopt a relaxing nighttime ritual: Getting your mind and body ready to fall asleep requires complete absence of stress or anxiety. Figure out a ritual that works for you.
3) Exercise every day: Your body needs an outlet for physical energy. Working out, walking, biking or running helps to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. It’s also a healthy way to tire yourself out.
4) Organize your room: Trying to fall asleep with clothes on the bed or a cluttered floor will not make you feel relaxed. Make sure your bedroom is tidy and your bed is comfortable.
5) Don’t smoke, drink or eat too close to bedtime: Anything you put into your body has to be digested and worked through your bloodstream. Do your best to be free of anything that can alter your state of mind including a very large meal.
A good night’s sleep will have an effect on your quality of life and your ability to successfully land a civilian job. Do what you can to let rest be a top priority.
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