Allow me to introduce myself. I am you, three years in the future. I was an active duty Infantry Officer who transitioned from the Army in 2017. During my transition, I did a lot right, and I made a lot of mistakes. I learned from the mistakes I made, and I’ve now made it my career to assist others in this same pivotal moment in their careers. I help military Officers and NCOs find civilian careers.
I thought I would be fine applying for jobs on my own
I must have applied for thousands of jobs on LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, company websites, etc. It was like I was sending my resume into a black hole. What I did not know is that some companies do not see the value in hiring military. That is their opinion, and they are allowed that opinion. There are also companies who want and need military talent. Where do you find these companies? I started contacting military headhunters, and within a week, I had more interviews than I could keep up with. My advice is to maximize your options and choose what is best for you. If anybody is offering help in exchange for money or wanting you to sign a contract of exclusivity, walk away. Why would you limit your options?
What do you want to do when you grow up?
This was one of my mistakes. I went around telling people I wanted to be a project manager. The TAP program told me that my skills would transfer well into project management. However, in hindsight, I did not even know what a project manager was. What I should have been telling companies was that my skills translated well into operations management. There are a lot of soft skills from your military background that companies covet. If you think about it, the US Government invested a lot of money and years of leadership training on you. This can be worth a lot more to a company than industry knowledge.
My first job
I worked for a global concrete / cement company as a regional training manager. I was very attracted to the job title and the location. I did enjoy my job but there were a lot of factors that were not great. I quickly realized that I went from one bureaucracy to another. Furthermore, this company had no idea what to do with me. Not once was I spoken to about my future within the company. I was one of the only Veterans in the company and was asked very odd questions every day, “How many people did you kill? Do you have PTSD?” It was an odd situation, but I felt loyalty to them because they took a chance on me. I worked there for a little over a year and organized their training program. What is the lesson learned here? A company’s culture is extremely important! I recommend focusing on that versus job title, pay, etc.
The Right Company
Almost everyone who has transitioned has mentioned wanting to work for one of the big-name companies. Be wary of this. Just because you are a customer does not mean you would enjoy working there. Most of the big-name companies have reputations you can research online. I recommend doing this and ensuring you would enjoy that specific culture. Also, do not exclude a company just because you have not heard of it. Often, these are the companies who have the better culture. Personally, I have worked for a giant and I have worked for smaller sized company. I have preferred the smaller sized company much more.
I only searched for jobs in California. Although California is the largest economy in the country, I often wonder what I missed out on. The more locations you are open to, the more jobs will be available.
I originally joined the reserves to finish my twenty and retire. Although I do not love giving up one weekend a month, this was one of the best decisions I ever made. (1) It is nice to still be a part of the military. Although it is not active duty, it is still something I take great pride in. (2) The medical insurance is phenomenal and beats almost every private company’s offered benefit plan. During this recent recession, I have met a lot of good people who lost their jobs and are worried about medical insurance for their families. The folks in the reserves do not have that concern. (3) It is a good way to network. Everyone in your reserve unit has a job / knowledge of a profession outside of the military. This can be very valuable to your professional and personal life.
This is a complicated topic. My advice here is to make sure it is worthwhile. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. However, I looked at the starting salaries out of law school and saw that according to US News, the median salary was $75K. I thought, why would I put in all that work in school only to take a pay cut. I have a lot of friends and clients who got their MBA after the military. The ones who have benefited from their MBA are the ones who went to a big–name school. There are the others who went to a small state school or an online program and it has not paid off. I am not knocking graduate school and think the GI Bill is an amazing benefit. However, ensure it is going to benefit you by: (1) Getting you into your profession of choice or (2) Increasing your financial worth.
I hope this article helps you move forward as you get ready to make your transition. As I mentioned before, I help military Officers and NCOs find careers after the military. If you are in or are coming up on a transition, we should talk. I have been in your shoes and now have a behind the scenes view. I will offer you advice and eventually get you interviews with great companies.