More than 200,000 active service members leave the military every year and embark on the difficult journey to obtain civilian employment. There are a number of missteps that you can make during your job search that could prevent you from finding the career you want. By knowing where things can go wrong, you can dramatically improve your job prospects.
Here are a few mistakes to avoid when looking for employment in the civilian sector:
Starting your search too late
Don’t wait until your last day in the military to begin searching for a civilian job. Ideally, you should begin considering your future career options between 12 and 24 months prior to separation. While you don’t necessarily need to have a job lined up so far in advance, you should consider taking this time to address a few crucial questions about where you would like to take your career after the military.
Has a particular industry piqued your interest? Is there a certain company you would like to join? Are you looking to live in a specific city? You can also consider whether you’d like to go to school and what salary you would like to earn. Addressing all of these questions can help to put you on a path toward finding your dream civilian job and give you plenty of time to get there.
Not taking full inventory of your marketable skills
During your time in the military, you’ve acquired valuable expertise in every area ranging from leadership to teamwork. As you prepare to embark on your civilian career, it’s time to take inventory of all the skills you’ve gained. Looking back at all of the roles and responsibilities that you held in the military will help you to highlight your most valuable skills and determine how they could translate to civilian jobs.
Try not to leave anything out that could be of note to a civilian hiring manager. Perhaps you served in supervisory roles in which you were responsible for leading subordinates and writing procedures. Or perhaps you oversaw valuable military equipment. Looking at the skills you used in each of these roles will make it easier to demonstrate your value to civilian employers.
Creating a poorly constructed resume
After conducting an inventory of your skills, you will then need to create a civilian resume. However, there are many mistakes that you can make during this process that could hurt your job prospects. For instance, you should never fill your civilian resume with military jargon that will be confusing to civilian hiring managers. Demilitarizing your roles and skills will help them to understand your capabilities and increase the chances that your resume will make it through the screening process.
There are several other things that you should avoid if you want your civilian resume to shine. Hiring managers don’t want to read through resumes that are longer than two pages, so try to cut out information wherever possible. You should also refrain from using the same resume when applying to different companies. Every job is different, so you will need to change your resume to demonstrate why you would be the best fit for each position.
Foregoing additional education
While many service members receive GI Bill benefits upon retiring from the military, not everyone takes advantage of them. If you’re looking to gain an edge in the job market, then you should use these benefits to pursue a higher education. The GI bill covers everything from degree programs to certification, so you can find the right type of education to fit your career goals.
Continuing your education after transitioning out of active service will not only make you a more competitive job candidate, but it can also help you to secure positions with better pay. As such, you should consider factoring school into your transition plan.
Neglecting the importance of networking
Failing to make connections with other civilian professionals can hurt your job prospects. As such, you should begin networking as soon as you can. Begin with friends and family who may know people in your desired field, and branch out from there.
As part of the networking process, you should begin building an online presence through social media. LinkedIn is a great way to find likeminded professionals and begin making meaningful connections. However, the Internet shouldn’t be your only source of networking. Participating in classes, attending career fairs, and engaging in freelance work can all be great ways to build your network and expand your career opportunities.
Allowing rejection to get the better of you
Joining the military isn’t the same as applying for a job. When you enlist in the military, you don’t submit a resume or go through a traditional job application process. You also don’t experience the rejection that so often accompanies a job search.
As you transition into a civilian career, you will need to be prepared to hear “no” from employers. In many cases, you may not hear back at all after submitting an application. When this happens, it’s important for you to keep moving forward. Use rejection as a way to adjust your expectations and re-evaluate your candidacy before trying again.