- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

10 Transition Tricks of the Trade
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: The GEO Group

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As you near your military separation, you will probably have many questions regarding the military-to-civilian transition. Below, I’ve compiled 10 tricks of the trade to help you successfully navigate to your new career.


1. Timeline. Don’t start too soon, but don’t wait too long. There are three phases to your search: preparation, execution and decision. Start the preparation phase well in advance of your availability date. There is plenty to do to get ready for the transition, the job search and interviewing. Use a 12-month countdown. Months 12 through 5 are the preparation phase. Months 4, 3 and 2 are interview months. Month 1 is the final phase - time to compare, contrast and decide. Month 0? Start your new job!


2. Self-knowledge. A lack of self-knowledge is a leading cause of interview failure. All of your company research, knowledge of products and industry, and diligent mechanical preparations will be for naught if you fail to know thyself. What are your strengths? Attributes? Skills? What do you bring to the table? What really matters to you? Without that self-awareness and the ability to relate those answers to the job and the company, it’s impossible for you to sell yourself as a great match for that opportunity. Also, do not overlook your deficits, weaknesses and failures. Your ability to discuss this subject shows self-confidence and creates empathy. Add in your strategies for correcting or compensating for them and they are less likely to be used against you.


3. Work smart. Focus on organizations that have a history of hiring veterans. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to convince a company to hire veterans and then will have to convince them to hire you. Skip that step. Chase someone who wants to be caught. Where do you find these companies? You already have! Take a look at the ones that advertise in or are featured throughout this and every edition of Military Transition News.


4. Network. Talk to those who have completed successful job searches and they will likely mention a single individual who was instrumental in making the connection. To be successful you, too, must find and develop that relationship at every one of your target companies. Add all of them together and you have your network. You either have contacts already in place or you will have to work hard to find and foster those relationships. How do you find them? Consider friends, neighbors, relatives, alumni groups, professional societies, social media connections, placement companies and recruiters. Each of them has the potential to become that instrumental person or connect you to someone who could fill that role.


5. Homework. Back in the olden days, researching a company was difficult. You had to go to the library and peruse business magazines and trade journals, visit a stockbroker and read annual reports. Frequently, the information you found was outdated or no longer accurate. However, the interviewers were aware of this and would often tolerate this inadequacy. Along came the Internet and the Information Age and everything changed. As hard as company research used to be, we now have the opposite condition - it’s easy! Insufficient or inaccurate research is now inexcusable. Find yourself guilty of that and you will be labeled as lazy, not interested or ill prepared - all legitimate causes for rejection.


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