- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Your Career Transition Alphabet - Part Two: P to Z

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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In the last issue of Military Transition News, I shared with you the Career Transition Alphabet, letters A to O. Now it’s time to finish up with letters P to Z.

Preparations. Your job search has four phases: research, preparation, interviewing and decision. The preparation phase has two components: mechanical (or physical or external) and mental (or internal). Do the mechanical preps first. Once you have your resume, documentation, wardrobe, references, etc., you can put them on the shelf in your closet and forget about them until you need them. Learn how to research a company now so that when you have to do it for real it will be much easier. Now it’s time for the mental preparations. Self-knowledge is central to this. Who are you? What makes you tick? What are your skills, traits, attributes and positive characteristics? What’s important to you? What are your search parameters and priorities?

Questions. These are the most important tools inyour career transition toolbox. There is much in the way of job search guidance regarding the importance of preparing for and being able to answer questions in an interview. This is very important.

The interviewers use questions to get to know you, fill in the blanks, see how you think and figure out if you are the kind of person they want on their team. At some point, they may also use them to send you a message: We are impressed by you, we like you and we can see you in this job.

You ask questions for two reasons. First, the obvious - to get answers, specifically information about the company, the job, the opportunity and the people who work there. Second and not so obvious - to ask timely and appropriate questions that show interest. Showing interest is absolutely critical to interview success.

References. Checking your references is usually the last thing an employer will do before extending an offer. Doing so earlier in the process is a waste of time and money. Learning that your references are being contacted is a good sign that an offer is right around the corner, assuming that those references will endorse you in the way you thought they would! Creating your reference list is a mechanical preparation that you can and should do early in your military transition countdown. Select three professional and three personal colleagues (no relatives), contact them and ask them to do you the honor of being a reference for you. List them on a single sheet of paper with their contact information (with their permission, of course), relationship to you and the duration of that relationship. Provide this document to the employer when asked, not before.

. Patriotic, good citizen, flexible, great work ethic, self-sacrificing, healthy and fit, reliable, ethical, leader. Would you hire that person?

How about this one? Rigid, formal, lacking creativity, autocratic, inflexible, needing structure.

Most employers would want to add that first person to the team, but the second person - no way. Guess what? It’s the same person, at least as far as common military stereotypes are concerned. I know that not all of them apply to you, but some may. Other than carefully chosen words on your resume, there is nothing you can do to control those perceptions before the interview. However, duringthe interview, there is something you can do: Reinforce the positive stereotypes that do apply to you, and defeat any negative ones.

Timing. When hiring civilians, guess how much time a company needs to fill a job, i.e., how much time elapses between the day they identify an opening until the day the new hire starts the job? Six weeks! So, how would you like to wait until your final six weeks of military paychecks before you have your first interview? Fortunately for you, that will not be the case, assuming you target companies that have a history of hiring people out of the military. For that target market they bend the rules. Every company does it differently, but here is a rule of thumb. Starting one year out from your earliest availability date, designate months 12, 11, 10 and 9 as your research phase, months 8, 7, 6 and 5 as your preparation phase, months 4, 3 and 2 as your interviewing phase, month 1 as your decision-making phase and month 0 as the time you start your new job.

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