The best way to start your transition from the military to the civilian work force is before you even enlist. By picking the right military career from the beginning will put you a step ahead of most people whether they took the rout of the military or college. By studying for the ASVAB and taking it a few times to get the best score possible is something a huge step towards this goal. You will need to score high enough to qualify for the career you choose. You should take the time to find a career that is compatible with your personality and that has a good job growth rating by the Bureau of Labor. I go into much better detail on how to choose your military career in the article, “How to Get The Most out Of Joining the Military”. Once you are have started your career it is already time for you to start planning for your transition into the civilian work force. It does not matter if you plan on only spending four years in the military or twenty because the things you do to prepare yourself for the civilian job market will help you have a successful military career. The military looks at schooling just as much as companies will when you enter the civilian work force. The more classes you take and the more certifications you can get will significantly increase your chances of getting promoted sooner rather than later.
Go To School
The military is very supportive of those who want to take college classes or certification exams. Depending on your job will determine what path you should take. If you have a job that requires certifications in the civilian sector you will want to get a few of those certifications as soon as you can. Once you have a few certifications you can then decide whether you want to take some college courses as well. You can never go wrong with a college education and it is a great compliment to any certifications you have. You can choose to major in the same field of expertise that you have your certifications in or you can find a major that compliments your skill set but is in a different area of expertise. For example if you are a network technician and major in a field in electronics or computers your collage courses compliment your certifications even though they may be in a different field altogether. If you are not sure what kind of college courses you should take a business management degree is a very good choice. A degree in management can compliment any area of expertise and is a good degree by its self. Because you will be going to college part time while you are in the military you can take it nice and slowly. Start by taking one course for a semester and see if you could fit in a second one the following semester. It may take you four years in the military to get an associate’s degree but you are not in a hurry because you can continue your education once you are out of the military. If you decide to stay in the military continue to take courses throughout your career at the same time you update your certifications when required.
Treat your time off as you would in college and spend a lot of time studying. When you are unable to take courses because of mission requirements get a text book of the next class you are going to take or study up for a certification you can take when you get back. Even though you may be in an area you cannot take classes you will more than likely have a lot of down time you can spend studying. When you are at work take the time to learn everything that you possibly can about your job. When they need someone to take classes make sure you always volunteer so you can become as proficient as you can at your job. By getting better at your job and accumulating certifications and college credits you are not just making yourself more marketable in the civilian sector you are increasing your chances of getting promoted in the military. While you are doing this keep an eye out for others doing the same thing you are. These are people you will want to build a network with. A network is very important and by starting your network while you are in the military you will have a decent sized one when you are ready to look for a job later on down the road.
Building A Network
If there are civilian contractors in your area try to strike up a conversation and if they work on equipment in your area ask some questions. Most civilian contractors who work on government contracts were prior military and would be more than happy to teach you a few things about your equipment that you may not have learned yet. Remember that military personnel rotate quite a bit and the civilian contractor is there to add stability to the work station. The civilian contractor may have been working on that equipment longer than you have been in the military so they will know more than most other people there. Ask about their day and how things are going and try to find a common interest so if you get their card you have something to write about when you email them once and awhile. Build up a contact list with people you meet in your industry and try to keep in contact with them once every six months or so. That is why it is important to find a common interest so when you send them an email once and awhile they remember who you are. Even if it is an email about a game or event you know they would be interested in or a question about a place they went on vacation as long as you make it something they have an answer for so you get an email back. This way you can make sure your email contact list is up to date. When it comes time to look for a job in the civilian sector you can send them an email and ask for career advice. Do not ask them if they know of any jobs because you would be putting them in a situation where they feel like a jerk if they do not have one for you. Just ask for advice like good job sites or advice on how to make a good resume and if they remember you and liked the kind of work you did they may very well ask you for your resume to show to their boss or may decide to hire you themselves if they are in a management position then.
Do not forget to keep the contact information of the friends and colleagues you meet while you are in the military. Most of the people you will meet in the military will be those who work in the same industry as you do. This way you can contact each other down the road if any of you need to be pointed in the direction of companies that are hiring. Still never ask if a friend has a job opening where they are working because if they say no they could feel like they disappointed you. Just find a way to let them know you are out of work. If they know of any job openings for you they will let you know without you having to ask. Colleagues you have contact information for should be treated the same way you treated the contractor. Ask for advice and if they remember that you were very smart and pleasant to work with they will let you know if they know of any job openings without you having to ask. You will find one thing rings true no matter what industry you work in. People will choose someone they know they can get along with who is qualified for the job over someone they only know by a resume. People do not want to take a chance of working with someone who will make the work place miserable. If you treat everyone with respect throughout your career and are someone who gets the job done you will get much better results from your network.
Put Your Resume To Work
You should constantly update your resume throughout your military career. This is because it is good to get things down on paper before you forget about them. If you worked on a specific kind of equipment in the begging of our career you may not work on it later on in your military career. When it’s time to start looking for a job you may have forgotten some of the things you have worked with. You should make a master resume that is as long as it needs to be to fit everything on it. Even if it is thirty pages long keep adding things. This way when you are applying for jobs you can tailor make resumes for each job positions by cutting and pasting things from your master resume to the resume you are going to submit. This allows you to build a resume tailored to its job description by only placing experience that the job calls for. If you still have room add a few things that compliment the skills you have already added. By doing this you have created a resume that is very similar to the job description but different enough that they know that you did not just copy it. The first people to see your resume are recruiters and they may not know too much about the kind of work you do. When they see your resume closely matches the job description they will push it up the later and better your chances of getting a phone call.
It is good to start applying for jobs about six months before you get out of the military. When you apply make sure you annotate your availability date so they know you are not ready to start right away. Go to the websites that you have your resumes posted on and about once every two weeks edit it. If there is nothing for you to update do it anyway. If you resume sits on a site for more than a month with no updates companies figure you have already found a job. Just like you look for job postings that have been posted recently companies look for resumes that have been posted recently. By clicking on edit and saving it companies see that the resume was updated recently and they are more likely to look it over. Do this on every site you have your resume on even the resumes you have posted on company websites. To ensure you remember every place you have your resume posted keep a list of the websites either in a job folder under your favorites or in a note book. It can take up to three months for a company to contact you after you submit your resume so you want to start applying for positions about six months before you will be available.
What You Need To Be Ready For
Because you may be out of the military before you get a new job you will want to make sure you have a savings with a good chunk of change in it. If you do not take leave your last year in the military they will buy it back from you when you process out. Along with that if you saved just $50 a month for four years you will have saved about $2400 and that can help out a lot when you are just getting on your feet. Saving $50 a month is a bare minimum though and you should save as much as you can each month so when you are ready to transition into a civilian career you have as much money as possible to take care of expenses that will come your way. Things you will have to plan for are housing, vehicle, utility, and moving expenses along with the cost of insurance for yourself and your car. If you are retiring from the military there is no reason why you should have less than $20,000 in savings and a master’s degree in your chosen profession. You will have an added buffer of a pension but you will still need to be smart with your money. It does not matter if you spent four years in the military or twenty years in the military as long as you stick to a good career plan you will not have much trouble transitioning into the civilian workforce.