How to transition into your civilian career after life in the military
Transitioning out of the military is a huge step. Not only must you re-establish your place at home or join a new community, you also need to enter the civilian workforce. This includes translating your military experience and skills into a civilian résumé to search, apply and interview for jobs – things many veterans haven't had to do for years.
To help you ease that transition, here are a few tips on how to take advantage of the skills you've honed in the military to market yourself to employers.
How to mentally prepare for your job search
A job search is essentially a mission, and every mission needs a plan. Having a good outline of how you'll go about achieving your goal can keep you focused on the right things.
“Plug into the existing network you built throughout your military career," says Alex Verhulst, talent acquisition military program lead for Operation MVP at Leidos. “Let them know you are transitioning.”
He also recommends focusing on your own value as you'll need to prove your individual worth to a company. It's great to be part of a team, but while searching for your next job, you need to concentrate on selling yourself.
“Start marketing yourself as an individual leader and how you'll fit into a role and an organizational culture," Verhulst says.
Finally, don't get discouraged. When you apply for jobs, there may be times when you don't hear back. This is not personal. Don't be afraid to follow up and utilize your network to get feedback on your applications and help you navigate through the hiring process. Once you're in the interviewing stage, employers are looking for reasons to hire you, so be ready to show your best self. Demonstrate enthusiasm for the role and the organization.
Do a self-assessment ahead of your job search
Verhulst suggests a three-step assessment to ensure you land somewhere you want to be.
He suggests asking yourself three questions:
- What do I want to do?
- What am I best qualified to do right now?
- Where do I want to be geographically?
The Veterans Employment Center offers resources to assist your job search, including a military skills translator and a résumé building tool.
Where and how to look for jobs
Once you've determined your career interests and narrowed down where you'd like to live, it's time to look into organizations with relevant career paths that are located where you want to be. A great option for many veterans is the defense contracting industry, which works primarily on government contracts, providing a smooth transition for veterans' careers and fully utilizing their military training and clearances.
Now that you've identified a number of companies you'd enjoy working for, it's time to start connecting with them. One of the best ways to do so is by having an online footprint, especially on LinkedIn, which offers one year of free job training for veterans.
After building your profile, connect with people with whom you served. Ask them to endorse your skills and swap recommendations. You can also follow company pages, many of which have career tabs that you can follow to get alerts when there are new job opportunities.
Leidos values veterans
The good news is that many organizations put a high value on military experience, including Leidos. In fact, Leidos has Operation MVP, its company-wide program designed to hire, train and provide ongoing support to veterans. Through this program, and its various pledges to hire military veterans, Leidos has more than 7,000 veteran employees (20 percent of its workforce). In addition to these “Heroes of Leidos," the company aims to hire an additional 2,000 veterans by the end of 2020.
Once employed at Leidos, veterans get a designated on-boarding representative to assist them for the first 90 days of their new career. Veterans also have the option of joining the Leidos Military Alliance Group (MAG), a network of employees who served in the military. MAG's goal is to "serve those who have served," says Dale Crewe, MAG president
“One of the most stressful and important decisions when transitioning out of the military is making your next career move. After 12-plus years with Leidos, I have no regrets with my decision.
“Our work leverages my military experience, is always challenging and rewarding, and provides camaraderie and teamwork similar to what I experienced in the military and still enjoy today.”