- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Your Career Transition Alphabet - Part One: A to O

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Spartan College

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Health. Career transition is hard work. This will be a very stressful time in your life. The learning curve is steep and the unknown can be intimidating. Rejection is commonplace. It is easy to get frustrated, down on yourself and perhaps even a little depressed. Your mental health can impact your physical and emotional health. Dedicate at least 30 minutes of every day to your mental and physical well-being. Exercise, eat right, get off the grid, power down, relieve stress, do volunteer work, give back to your community. These activities will make you feel better about yourself and help you stay energized and positive.

Interviews. You applied for a position that appears to meet your needs and the company responded with an invitation to interview for the job. Both parties have passed through each other’s filters, at least the ones that can be applied before actually meeting face-to-face. This meeting allows the interviewer to add your personality, style and attitude to the equation and gives you the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Job Fairs. A great way to jump-start your search is to attend a job fair or hiring conference where you can participate in multiple initial introductions or even interviews in a single day. These events are typically held in hotel ballrooms or conference centers. Cost of attendance is minimal if not free. These events can be sponsored by private companies, placement agencies, veteran services organizations or government agencies such as the VA or DoD.

Knowledge. To interview successfully you must present yourself as an excellent fit for the opportunity. That presentation depends on your ability to match what you bring to the table with what the company needs in the job. This requires insight on your part, specifically knowledge of the company and the industry it represents, knowledge of the targeted position and self-knowledge. Which is most important? Self-knowledge. Why? No matter how well-versed you are in the first two, how can you possibly sell yourself for the job if you do not know yourself well enough to present the relevant information and hit the interviewer’s hot buttons?

Location. Where are you living now and where do you want to live? The answers to those questions influence the tactics and parameters of your search. If you are stationed in the same town in which you intend to find a job, then your search is simplified. If you are open geographically for the right career, then your search is more complicated but will almost certainly result in more opportunities. The location of the job is a common filter for both you and the employer. You should identify early on where you prefer to live and structure your search accordingly. If you have the luxury of flexibility, use it to your advantage. If you do not, then don’t waste time pursuing jobs in towns where you will not reside.

Manners. Job hunting and interviewing involves much personal interaction. An interview allows both you and an employer to add personality to your resume and the employer’s working environment. Much like the rules of dining etiquette or military etiquette, there are rules of job search etiquette. These rules revolve around common courtesies, good manners, politeness, timeliness and respect. Taking the time to become familiar with these standards and expectations will go a long way toward accomplishing a successful search.

Network. When your job search ends and you will look in your rear view mirror and see a people who had an impact. Maybe they counseled, trained, prepared or steered you. Perhaps they introduced you to their connections. They could have pushed the buttons to get you interviews or shepherded your application file through the process. It’s possible it was their endorsement or sponsorship that got your foot in the door. They could be family members, neighbors, classmates, shipmates, church congregants, club or association members, headhunters, recruiters or even random connections on a plane or the subway. Add them all together and you have your network. Identifying, expanding and developing that network in the early stages of transition is a critical component of your ultimate success.

Objective. What do you want to do? What kind of job are you looking for? Some of you have a specific answer to that question, especially when there is a direct civilian equivalent to your military specialty: you are good at it and want to continue to do it. The rest of you - the majority, in fact - are not sure. At the beginning of your search, that is okay. Think of job hunting as an information gathering process, a by-product of which, if done correctly, will be your next job. Consider this: at the end of your search your job objective will sound exactly like the job you are about to accept.

A thorough understanding and implementation of these concepts will enhance your chances of winning interviews and landing the right job, the first time. Please look for Part Two, P to Z, in the January/February 2016 issue of Military Transition News.

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


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