The time has come. You have made your decision to leave the military and now the reality of the whole situation hits you right between the eyes like a mallet on a croquet ball: you have to go get a job.
The military is a tough profession. It is rife with conflict and stress and danger; anyone who finds wearing a uniform and easy way of life isn’t doing it right. The hours are long if you are lucky enough to be at your home duty station and the deployments are even longer as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines find themselves shuffled off to distant parts of the planet for months – and in some cases years – at a time. It is a truly arduous line of work.
The one thing that military folks are not fighting for, however, is their paycheck. As long as they are in the service they will receive their pay and allowances. Unless they do something very wrong or fail to meet promotion requirements they can stay in until they decide to leave. Generally speaking they cannot be fired; they may be relieved from their specific duties but they still are employed as they move to another job. Unlike the civilian world there is rarely an existential crisis that finds military personnel wondering where or when their next paycheck will arrive. Sure, they move around from job to job and from base to base, but always within the context of continued employment and service within the Department of Defense.
Then comes the day when your next job is not assigned to you by some faceless bureaucrat in Washington. On that day you realize that the next job for you is the one that you find.
That can be very daunting! I have previously posted about the Transition Assistance programs that the services offer, so I won’t go into detail on those programs. What I will start going into detail about, however, is the process that you will need to follow in order to take advantage of your military experience and leverage it into finding a job, and who knows? Maybe even a new career!
Too many people leave the service with the unfounded expectation that there are jobs-a-plenty out in the civilian sector and that companies are foaming the mouth to hire veterans. After all, who has greater leadership skills and management expertise than someone who has led their peers and subordinates into combat or supervised teams of highly trained people and maintained millions of dollars worth of equipment? Which firms wouldn’t want to fill their plants and factories and businesses with former military professionals and make them into run like little armies?
The answer to that is pretty simple. Almost none of them.
The cold hard truth about the business world is that companies exist to do one thing and one thing only; they are there to make money. Sure there are nonprofit companies that aim to accomplish other things, but they need money to be able to meet their lofty goals. The coin of the realm, if you will pardon the pun, is the mighty dollar.
If you cannot show to a potential employer how you will help them make more money or how you can assist them with saving money then they really don’t need you.
It is quite a shocking realization to learn that no matter what your skills are, no matter how many deployments you made or how many medals you have nobody on the outside really cares. Sure, they are respectful of your service and sacrifice and will gladly buy you a drink, but they are not going to put you on the payroll unless you can show how you can add value to their firm.
This is why it is critically important to do a couple of things before you start heading out into the job market. Here are the most crucial things that you MUST do before you start jobseeking:
1. Get over yourself. You have served your country and you have gone places and done things that civilians will never experience. Guess what- if they want to hear all about the military and what it is like to serve they will go to the movies. You need to move on from being Colonel Soandso or Sergeant Highspeed. I guarantee you will never find a good job if you cannot let go of your military past. Employers want to hire you for what you will do for them, not who you used to be.
2. Figure out what you want to do. This is not as easy as it sounds. I strongly recommend that you find the time to sit down for a few uninterrupted hours and really analyze what you would like to do with yourself now that you are out of the military. Ask yourself a few questions, such as where do I see myself in five years? Ten? What am I good at? Do I want to find work in the areas I am familiar with, or do I want to strike out in a totally new direction?
3. Start planning. Now that you have an idea of which direction you would like to steer your ship you need to chart a course. What companies are doing work that interests me? Are they hiring? Do I need to get some specialized training or education in order to pursue those goals?
Once you have worked through these three points you will be much more ready to start looking for a job. In my next post we will focus on step 2: figuring out what to do.
1. Getting a job once you get out is not easy. It takes work, and you will waste a lot of time and suffer from some pretty significant blows to your ego if you think that the civilian world owes you something for your service. They don’t. If you want a job, you have to get out there and earn it.
2. You need to do three things before your first interview: Get over yourself, figure out what you want to do, and start planning. We will talk about these in greater detail in future posts.
3. Take a deeeeeeeep breath. It’s going to be OK. Trust me.