NEWS + ADVICE
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Military Transition
It’s important to start planning for your entry into the civilian workforce before your military exit arrives. Take control of your career strategy now by researching, preparing your marketing materials, and networking to ease the road to transition ahead.
1. Writing a resume without knowing what you want to do
Before you can write a resume that sells you to employers you first need to determine what type of job you’re seeking. Ask yourself what you’re interested in doing next. What are your needs and overall career goals? Once you decide what job you want, it’s time to write a targeted resume that demonstrates your value for that specific role.
2. Trying to capture all of your experience on your resume
How do you include everything you’ve done in the last 15-20 years in just one to two pages? You don’t—unless the job posting specifically asks for 15 years or more experience. Focus on the last few years and what you’re trying to do now. Delete all the information that does not directly support your value. Cut down on older jobs, especially if they are more than 10 years old. And don’t waste space on education or training that is irrelevant. Your goal is to create a resume that is tailored to the job you’re after now.
3. Using military lingo and acronyms
Remember when you first joined the service and didn’t understand what everyone was talking about? This is why you need to de-militarize your language and learn to speak civilian, on both your resume and in networking and interview scenarios. You can’t assume everyone you’re talking to understands military jargon or acronyms. Some lingo you should pick up though is the terminology of the profession you want to work in.
4. Listing salary requirements without doing your homework
Be careful listing salary requirements, as civilian compensation is very different from military pay and benefits. It’s important to do some industry research and learn what to expect in your chosen field. Civilian pay is tied to the value of the job to the company, and the skills and knowledge you bring within that. Weigh the importance of both salary and benefits. Does extra vacation time or having your health care covered make up for X dollars of salary? The type and size of an organization, the function of the job, and location all play a part in salary range, so do some homework to come up with a range that fits the market and makes sense for you.
5. Saying “I’ll go anywhere”
Telling an employer that you’ll relocate anywhere doesn’t make you more attractive—in fact, it can raise red flags. If you live in Virginia but apply for a job in Texas, you need to be prepared to explain why. Employers don’t want to hire you and then have you leave because you realize it isn’t a good fit. This is a risk for companies, so explain your reasoning from the start if you have an interest in a specific location.
6. Waiting until your military exit to start networking
Start networking now, no matter how long it is before you plan to separate. Especially once you know the industry or location you want to work in. You can start building your network by attending job fairs, conferences, and meetups, as well as through social media. Think about where people in your profession hang out and connect with them there.
7. Waiting too long to apply to positions
Don’t wait until your official military exit to begin applying to civilian jobs. Once you’re 3-5 months out from your transition it’s time to start applying. However, that 90-day mark is when companies will be most receptive to considering you for a particular position.
8. Mistaking activity with progress
Are the steps you’re taking moving your job search forward? If you don’t understand the system, the actions you take might be unproductive. If you’re not getting any traction, take a step back to reassess your efforts and pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.
“Finding a job where you can succeed and grow is not quick. It depends on your willingness to invest time and energy to learn about yourself, your chosen field, and the values and culture of target employers. This is your future we are discussing – learn as much as you can in the transition process for your own personal success in this next stage of life.”
– Patra Frame, Air Force Veteran and HR Exec