A job-search campaign after leaving the military is likely to seem fraught with more peril, heartache, and hardships than military life ever did. Here are some tips to help you sail through the transition.
Most service members, particularly enlisted personnel, lack adequate civilian job-hunting skills so are ill prepared for the current rabid competition for decent jobs. Even successful companies and agencies at all government levels are “right sizing” to remain profitable and competitive. Meanwhile, many professionals and managers have had to lower their career expectations and accept lesser positions to remain employed. In some cases, positions normally considered “enlisted turf” are being accepted by retiring officers and highly qualified civilians.
These trends can dampen the hopes of former military personnel who are trying to get it right the first time out of the chute. The truth is, many former servicemen and -women will be unemployed, partially unemployed, or underemployed during their first years out of the military. This is particularly true for enlisted, junior, and less well educated men and women. A disproportionate number will accept jobs not commensurate with their skills and abilities, because few employers understand or will compensate adequately for maturity, development, and leadership qualities. Often, prospective employers offer lower wages to retirees knowing they are receiving retired pay, and falsely believe retirees do not merit the same compensation as civilians applying for the same positions.
The best advice for those leaving the armed forces is to take their job searches seriously. The military does not prepare servicemen and -women to look for jobs effectively—the best positions go to those who are best equipped to find them. A good deal of homework and a determined, disciplined effort will be required. Someone with average skills and salary requirements should spend 30 to 40 hours a week on his or her search. Someone who wants to earn a high salary, is more than 40 years old, or is in a minority demographic should spend 45 to 60 hours weekly.
A job-search campaign likely will last between three and nine months—or about a month for every $10,000 in salary desired—and longer for older or minority candidates or those with less education or without recent training. Transitioning personnel should begin planning a year before their departure dates, investigating relocation, occupational aptitude, additional training and education, and adjustment to civilian life. Depending on circumstances and finances, some may need to begin transitioning sooner.
Take-home pay decreases significantly when a service member separates or retires from active duty. On separation or retirement, military personnel lose housing and subsistence allowances, family separation pay, health coverage, death gratuities, and a host of other benefits. Sufficient funds should be set aside to cover mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, car expenses, food, and any required debts. In addition, it is important to reserve job-search expenses, which can include:
New clothing and interview attire Career development and job-search courses, seminars, and workshops Counseling and employment agency fees Books, publications, and periodicals Administrative or secretarial assistance (for resumes, cover letters, typing, printing, document reproduction, answering service) Postage, telephone, and fax costs Networking and socializing expenses Membership dues and fees.
A properly conducted job search is a multifaceted process that can be simplified by understanding the answers to three questions:
What kind of work do you want to do?
Where do you want to do this work?
Who is the person with the authority to hire you?
The three fundamental skills for a successful job search:
Resume writing skills
When it comes to clinching the job, it boils down to answers to five employer inquiries:
Why are you here?
What can you do for us?
What kind of person are you?
What distinguishes you from other applicants?
Can I afford you?
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