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Your Career Transition Alphabet - Part One: A to O

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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According to lexicologists, there are more than 20 alphabets in use in the world today, the most common of them being Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Armenian, Georgian and Korean. Today, I will introduce you to a new one, the Military to Civilian Career Transition Alphabet.


Appearance. When you interview you must make a good impression. Being memorable is a key component of a successful interview. Your appearance will be part of that memory. Wearing appropriate interviewing attire and your personal grooming is critical. Military personnel are known for being squared-away and having pride in their appearance - make sure you live up to that standard.


Body Language. In addition to the message your words convey, consider the message delivered by your body language. Your eye contact, the way you sit in your chair, gestures, mannerisms, handshake and posture will all send one of two signals to the interviewer. Are you nervous, fidgety, tense, unsure of yourself and/or lacking confidence? Or are you self-assured, friendly, approachable, relaxed and self-confident?


Cover Letters. A resume cannot say it all. Frequently there is additional information required and a cover letter is an important tool in this regard. Use a cover letter to bridge any gaps between your resume and the targeted job. A cover letter that is carefully crafted will have four components expressed in four paragraphs: impetus (what caused you to apply for this position?); focus (call attention to the content most relevant to the job); amplification (provide additional information not already apparent on the resume); and action (what will you do next to follow up on submitting the resume?).


Documentation. When it comes to paperwork, the resume gets all the attention, but there is more to consider. Cover letters, reference lists, performance evaluations, college transcripts, writing samples, your DD214, certificates of qualification, diplomas, citations, awards and more. Gather it all together, organize it logically and be prepared to provide it when asked.


Empathy. Most of what you focus on in your search is selfish in nature. However, you must also keep in mind what matters to the potential employer and the interviewer. This is called interviewing empathy and it is critical to interview success. What matters to the interviewer? What are his or her hot buttons? Is the interviewer dealing with deadlines or other time-sensitive issues? Building empathy creates likeability and being likeable enhances your chances.


Filters. Interviewing is a basically a dual filtration process. When inserted into any system, a filter will have both a quantitative and qualitative impact. Although the primary goal is to eliminate unwanted elements (enhancing quality), there is a subsequent reduction in rate of flow (quantity). Companies use filters in candidate selection and you will use them to hone in on the right job for you. Both parties will apply the most critical or non-negotiable filters first. By being as (truthfully) flexible as possible, you increase the odds of passing through these filters.


Grade Point Average. Your GPA or any other measurement of academic performance is a very common candidate selection filter. There are three reasons for this. One, if all of the applicants have one, then it is a convenient way to compare them. Although not necessarily accurate or fair, it is easy. Two, the GPA can be an indicator of brainpower, although that too is suspect. Three, a candidate’s GPA could correlate to his or her potential for development. If your GPA is good (3.0+ undergrad; 3.5+ grad), do not worry about it. If it’s not so good, then make the interviewer aware of what you do have that may be a better indicator of your smarts and potential.

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