- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Time for Your Annual Tune-up!
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Dale Carnegie

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Performing planned or scheduled maintenance is part of the daily routine for many military personnel. We learn very quickly that proper and timely upkeep on equipment and systems will go a long way to reduce downtime. It also leads to stellar scores on those pesky operational readiness inspections. A funny thing happens when we focus on and discover the value of planned maintenance – it carries over to our personal lives: Getting your car’s oil changed every 3,000 miles or so. Draining your garden hoses before the first winter frost. Scheduling your annual physical. Replacing your smoke detector batteries. Getting a flu shot in the fall. See what I mean?

Although you are probably very good at applying the principles of planned maintenance in your military occupation and your personal life, some of you may have neglected to do so in another critical application – career transition.

Preparing for and accomplishing a successful military-to-civilian career transition requires hours of physical and mental preparedness. No matter how much we do to get ready for and execute this process, mistakes and disappointment are inevitable. Successful job hunting and interviewing is more than just preparation and perseverance; it is also about control. If you don’t perform up to your potential in an interview because of something you could have controlled, you may beat yourself up. On the other hand, if you fail for reasons out of your control, that is called life. Since your degree of operational readiness is within your control, you must pay attention to this critical mission.

Let’s say that you were military-to-civilian “mission ready” in 2014. Does that same status apply in 2015? Maybe yes, maybe no. As we kick off the new year, make sure the answer is “yes.” Here are 10 tips for your transition tune-up:

1. Review your network.

Does it need a jump-start? Has it gone stale? Did you give up on some of those contacts? Did any of them ask you to reconnect after the first of the year? Seek to make some new connections through alumni associations, professional societies, job fairs, networking events, friends, family, social networking, neighbors and church. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Remember: Who you know and who they know can have a big impact on developing leads and getting your foot in the door.

2. Personal appearance.

Military personnel are known for excellent grooming and pride in appearance. Do you live up to that expectation? Take a look in the mirror. Would you hire that person? Would you even want to meet that person? Evaluate your haircut, facial hair and fingernails.

3. Your resume.

Have you tweaked your resume recently? When was the last time you had a fresh set of eyes review it? Does it reference the year 2014? Maybe that needs to be changed to 2015. Does it require any job title and description updates? Are your achievements up to date? Did you receive any awards or accolades at the end of 2014 that should be added? Are your address and phone number still accurate?

4. Interviewing attire.

Has your suit been cleaned recently? Do you need to update your interviewing attire? Does everything still fit well? Maybe a new suit is not in the budget, but a new shirt and tie or blouse will spruce up or modernize an old suit. Also, take a look at your shoes. Do they need to be polished? Are the heels and soles in good shape? Are the laces frayed?

5. References.

Review the people on your list of references. When was the last time you checked in with them? Do they know your search has started and continues? Has their contact information changed? Have they changed their preferred method of being contacted? Do they remain willing to act as a reference for you? Do they need any information from you that will assist them in giving a reference if asked?

6. Online presence.

Google yourself. What comes up? When was the last time you did some housekeeping on your social networking pages? Do you have a Facebook page? Will it make a potential employer more or less interested in you? Inventory your online photos and make sure you’re comfortable sharing them with a boss and co-workers. Do you have a presence on LinkedIn? You should because it’s a powerful job search tool. In addition to crafting a LinkedIn profile that represents you well, identify and join any special interest groups (including, publisher of Military Transition News) that have the potential to expand your network.

7. Reading.

What books are on your nightstand or in your e-reader? Are you keeping up with trends in your industry or specialty? How about special interest groups and postings on social media sites? Do you read business periodicals, professional publications or trade journals? How about job hunting and career transition guides? Looking for a great place to start? Check out my book:

8. Physical fitness and wellness.

Job hunting is a stressful time in your life. It requires a lot of mental and physical energy to support it. Do not neglect your personal needs. Take 30-60 minutes each day to move your body. Walk, run, jog, bike, swim, stretch or even dance. The physical and mental benefits of this short break in your daily routine are equally important.

9. Give back.

It’s very easy to get tunnel vision during a job search. It’s perfectly natural to focus on selfish issues. It’s also easy to get down on yourself when things are not going well. You need to shake it off. Physical activity will help, but so will volunteerism. Get involved in community service. Most people feel better about themselves when they are helping others. Although it should not be your sole motivation, volunteering is also a good way to expand your network.

10. Refresh.

For many companies, a new year also means a new budget. Maybe a company you’ve had your eye on couldn’t fund a key job last year but now it’s a possibility. Just because a company couldn’t hire you in 2014 doesn’t necessarily mean 2015 is out of the question. Follow up on previous interviews. Re-apply at the company’s website. Review past correspondence to see if additional follow-up might help.

In summary, simply apply the Five P concept to your military-to-civilian career transition – prior planning prevents poor performance – to enhance your readiness for success. GOOD HUNTING!

Tom Wolfe is a Career Coach, Columnist, Author and Veteran, and can be found at

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