One of our specialties here at Potomac Recruiting is helping people looking to transition out of the military and into the private sector, so this week we asked our experts to put together some straightforward tips aimed at candidates with a military background. Though transitioning out of military service and into civilian life can be daunting, conducting a job hunt as a veteran is not substantially different from any other search – but it does require a different type of mentality from what you might be used to in the military.
Tip 1: Research Common Job Requirements
Unfortunately, many of the jobs in the private sector will require qualifications that military veterans might not possess, which can make applying more difficult. Before you start sending out résumés, do some research online and consult with career counsellors to find out what kind of qualifications you will need for the job you want, what your options are, and what is your best course of action. It may be that you will have to complete a certification course of some type, or it may be that you have received a similar qualification that can be easily substituted.
Tip 2: Translate your Experience
The civilian workforces uses a lot of different terminology from that used in the military, so in order to make a good impression, you will have to translate your experience into something private employers will understand. There are resources online, such as the Department of Labor’s Military to Civilian Occupation Translator and the Military Skills Translator, to help translate military occupations into civilian job titles and identify relevant skills. Brush up on civilian speak and try to adjust military jargon appropriately: for example, a “Commander” might be the equivalent of a CEO or simply a “Senior Leader.”
Tip 3: Make a Plan
Every job search requires a solid plan, and a military to civilian search is no exception! Before you make the first move, you will have to devote some time to coming up with a strategy for your job search. Figure out where in the civilian sector you think you would be a good fit, what type of position you would like to be in, and what sort of company you would like to work for, and then do some research on possible leads. Whatever your goals when transitioning into a new career, it’s always important to have a plan that includes people in your network you can reach out to for assistance and advice, networking events you can attend, companies and positions you would like to apply to, and milestones to ensure you are working at a good pace.
Tip 4: Expand your Network
Networking is a huge part of any job hunt, and if you’re in the process of transitioning from the military sector to the civilian workforce you may not know a lot of people outside the service. Chances are, though, you know at least a couple of former colleagues who have made the transition, and that you have friends and family unrelated to your military career that might be able to help. Reach out to all of these people and ask if they can connect you to their networks of civilian contacts, especially those related to your chosen career path. Additionally, keep an eye out for networking events in your area that are tailored towards your desired field, as these will be invaluable as you search!
Tip 5: Practice Interviewing
Interviewing as a civilian requires a different set of skills and traits, and if you come off as too “military” it may be confusing or off-putting to your interviewer, especially if they do not have a military background. You can find plenty of guides online with tips for interviewing (we even have a few here on our website!) and as a veteran, you have access to many resources that civilians do not. Do a search for organizations in your area that provide career services for veterans, and they will likely be able to find someone who can provide interview coaching and run through practice questions with you.
Tip 6: Pace Yourself
Job searching can be a difficult process, especially if you’re trying to learn a whole new set of skills and terminology along the way. It’s important to pace yourself and to try not to become overwhelmed by all of the new information, choices, and options out there. Similarly, don’t get discouraged if your search does not seem to be going well at first! Job searching is a long process, and even highly qualified candidates can find themselves rejected from their top job choices for reasons beyond their control – internal hiring, personality clashes, etc.
We hope these tips are useful to you as you begin your transition from the military to the civilian workforce! If you have any additional questions, or if there is anything else you would like to discuss, please reach out to Potomac Recruiting today!