- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

The Best Job For You

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Midwest Dental

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One of the most important goals of the military-to-civilian transition process is landing a new job and starting a new career. Most conventional wisdom says you must figure out what you want to do before you interview. I tend to disagree, especially when the you in that wisdom is a military service member making the transition for the first time.

I believe it is much more important for you to know who you are, what makes you tick, what are your strengths, attributes, skills, traits, advantages, weaknesses and detriments. What are your needs and your wants? (No, they aren’t the same.) How about additional search and decision criteria? For example, where are you willing to live? What hours are you willing to work? How much travel can you handle? What is your minimum acceptable compensation? The greater your level of self-knowledge at the beginning of your search, the higher the likelihood you will end up in the best job for you, the first time.

As you begin the search, focus more on information gathering rather than the job title itself. Think of it as a two-way process. The potential employer interviews you to determine what you bring to the table in terms of skills, attributes, motivators, style, personality, drive and ambition. At the same time, you learn more about the company, the job, the culture and the people who work there. At some point, the employer will decide whether or not to offer you a spot on the team and, if they do offer you that spot, then you decide whether or not to accept the offer. Although the job title may have been missing or unclear at the beginning of that interviewing process, it will become perfectly clear to you by the time the offer is extended.

Here is another way to look at this: Your resume, assuming it is a good one, is a presentation of your past experience written in such a way as to indicate your future potential. That resume generates an interview, and the employer uses that interview to verify what’s on the resume and measure what no resume can convey - your personality, desire, interest, style and attitude. Are you the kind of person they want on their team? This works both ways. By the time that employer has found the answer to that question, you are also ready to answer this one: Is this the right organization and opportunity for me?

For some of you, this will not be much of an issue, especially when there is a direct or logical civilian equivalent to your military expertise and you want to continue your career doing that kind of work. Here are three examples of that scenario:

• Supply Chain Analyst for an International Integrated Logistics Company

• Quality Assurance Engineer in the Power Generation Industry

• Jet Aircraft Mechanic in the Field of Commercial Aviation

For the rest of you, it will not be that simple. You think of yourself in terms of your management skills, leadership, coordination, liaison, operations and mission-accomplishment abilities. You self identify as an honorable, reliable, ethical, loyal and hardworking individual. You want to be a part of something important where you can contribute and be recognized for the value that you add to the organization. Well-done! What company would not want you on their team? But here’s the rub: How do you convert that into a job objective?

How about this? The right job for you is one in which:

• You will be very good at it on a consistent basis.

• You will be content and happy, at least most of the time.

• You (and your family) will be afforded the quality of life you desire.

• The future prospects for those first three to remain true are positive.

I imagine that sounds good to you, but I also imagine that you feel something is missing, specifically what is that job actually called? That would seem to be pretty important, right? How are you supposed to convert those four bullets into a job objective on your resume or an answer to the “what do you want to do?” question in an interview? Try this:

OBJECTIVE: A job at which I will excel and from which I will obtain satisfaction, high quality of life and the opportunity for career growth.

That pretty much sums it up, right? No, not really. The person who sees that on your resume or hears those words come out of your mouth during an interview is highly likely to ask a follow-up question: “That sounds fine, but what would you actually like to do?” Hmmm… now what? There are two ways to handle this dilemma, your choice of which depends on the scenario.

Scenario One
: You are targeting a specific opportunity, about which you know enough to write a targeted objective and/or present yourself accordingly in the interview. The importance of the self-knowledge mentioned in the second paragraph is critical here. Say you are interviewing for Job X. Make the objective on your resume sound like Job X, give your resume an emphasis on X and make sure that when you find yourself in the interview, every attribute you highlight, every example you use, every question you ask and every question you answer in some way is flavored in terms of X. What if the next time it’s Job Y? No problem - just substitute your Y for your X.

Scenario Two: You have no idea what job you are applying for or being considered for. Now what? Again, your excellent self-knowledge will come to the rescue. When the interviewer asks you what kind of job are you looking for, you respond, The best job for me is one in which I can apply my talents and attributes, for example (finish the sentence with your best ones) and one that will also meet my needs in the areas of (fill in the blanks with what really matters to you). With luck, the company has just the right job for you. Lacking that, fine, it’s not the right place for you.

In summary, you must know yourself well enough to be able to make the interviewer see you in the job, doing it well and with a smile on your face. Yes, you are telling the interviewer exactly what he or she wants to hear, but it also happens to be the truth! This will go a long way to help you in landing a new job.

Thanks for your service and good hunting!

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

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