- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Match up! Finding the company that’s right for you
by Carolyn Heinze, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Capital One

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The reality is that we spend the bulk of our waking hours at work. If we enjoy our work, and the organizations for which we perform that work, we will be better professionals, spouses, friends and people in general while we are earning a living. That is why taking the time to find the civilian career that is right for you is so important.

military transition programs “You don’t know how different an organization is going to be from the military until you get there and realize, ‘I don’t like this,’” said Emily King, vice president, Military Transitions, a division of The Buller Group, LLC, a consulting firm in Herndon, Va., and author of “Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans” (AMACOM, 2012). “The problem is that a lot of times people misattribute those differences to a particular company, when in reality the differences they experience are probably going to be similar, regardless of where they work. It’s the difference between military culture and civilian culture.”

That said, it doesn’t mean that you won’t meet your match. “The first thing is to recognize that fit is a component,” King said. “When you join a civilian organization for the first time, you have the choice of whether you stay or go when you want to.” As you well know, you can leave the military, too...when your contract is up. In the civilian world, you’re the boss - even when you have a boss.

On a practical level, this means that transitioning veterans must grant themselves the power to seek out companies where there is genuine interest. “It comes down to passion,” said FrontLine Transitions President Kathy Malone, a military transition expert and a transition coach based in Albuquerque, N.M. In the end, she says, your passion and core values will count much more in finding the best fit than your skills and experience.

Ask yourself: What am I passionate about? What is important to me? What do I value? Then go and find a company that shares those values and that passion. “It will make it less stressful, there will be more opportunities for promotion, for productivity, there will be more joy in your life and you won’t dread going to work every day.” It’s likely that you will also be more successful in your job, and your career.

Asking yourself about your core values can be a pretty broad question, and it helps to narrow things down. To do this, Marcea Weiss, a former Black Hawk Helicopter test pilot and author of “Leaving the Military: Your Deployment Guide to Corporate America” (Calypso, 2008) offers this guidance: “Think about your best day in the military,” she said. “Think about a day, or a timeframe, where you had a job that you really enjoyed, where you were in the zone, you were getting things done and you were having fun, and your boss was generally happy and you were delivering results.” Then, analyze what skills you were using to get the job done.

Once you have established your own job criteria, Malone emphasizes the need to prioritize that list. “Sometimes, people will compromise on commute time and benefits, and other things that might be important to them, because they are too focused on the salary and the urgency that they feel in having to replace their paycheck,” she observed.

“Don’t compromise. If you have to have health care benefits right now, don’t compromise on that to get a higher salary.” Be clear on what is important to you, who you are, and who you want to be.

Finding the best fit requires a lot of effort, and transitioning vets should treat their job search as their current, well, job. Structure your life as it was structured for you in the military: If you are accustomed to doing physical fitness from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., then continue to do so. After that, carve our blocks of time for you to work on your search.

Utilize military transition programs and attend job fairs targeted just for transitioning military and attend an introductory TAP/ACAP seminar. Get on the Internet. Establish a profile on LinkedIn and see if any of the companies you are targeting have profiles as well. Join groups that reflect your interest and connect with members in those groups. Some may even work for a company you are interested in pursuing. Ask for advice.

Connect with companies like Bradley-Morris, Inc. or, and register as a job seeker. Organizations like these offer job search opportunities at no cost that can connect you with recruiters at thousands of companies around the world.

And most of all: Network. “Make some connections with people that work at the companies you like: What do you love about it? What don’t you love about it? What was it that attracted you to this company in the first place?” Malone advised.

King, too, favors networking. “Ask them what their insight is into what it’s like to work there,” she said. Ask them what the organization’s day-to-day reality is. What is rewarded? What is frowned upon? “That’s what tells you what it’s really like to work there.”

One of the challenges that job candidates face in finding the best fit is that job advertisements, as well as job descriptions, are more often than not written by the human resources department. Malone suggests that during that first telephone interview with the hiring manager, candidates ask this question: ‘What was it about my resume that made you call me?’

Not only will this offer you insight on the position, and possibly the organization, it will also give you feedback on your resume, which is your principal marketing tool in any job search. Next, ask the hiring manager why they were compelled to work for the company in question. You will learn a lot from their response.

Another factor to remember is that hiring is expensive, and employers are well-served by those candidates that explore whether or not the company is right for them. “What a lot of veterans, and a lot people in general, forget about an interview is that it’s a two-way evaluation,” Weiss said. “From the phone interview right to the on-site interview, half of it has to be you evaluating the company, because in the end, it’s got to be a good fit on both sides.”

“With what’s going on right now, veterans are very worried about what they read in the news,” adds Weiss, who works as a Midwest branch manager at Merendino Cemetery care. “There are companies like ours and others that sit on panels at these veteran career fairs that are really worried about how they are going to fill roles. There are definitely job openings out there, and we are trying to fill them, and we need candidates.”

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan G. Wilber/Released

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