Article_Opinion, Energy

7 ways to go from the military to your next career

Employers may not know what to expect and need help understanding how skills, experience and character transfer

11/22/2020 6:30:00 AM

OPINION: Retiring from the armed forces and into the civilian workforce can be challenging, Kerry Hannon writes. Here are ways to transition to your next career:

Employers may not know what to expect and need help understanding how skills, experience and character transfer

His secret weapon: “I wore many hats while in the military, and was stationed in more than a dozen places around the world, but there was one common denominator-music,” said Quiñones. “I played for, conducted, and helped lead Army bands.”Not bad preparation for a project manager who has to juggle lots of moving pieces in his new civilian position, plus it was a talent that helped him standout.

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That said, it was his focus on continuing his education during his Army career that laid the groundwork for pivoting to a post-military career in the private sector.By tapping college tuition reimbursement programs during his service years, Quiñones earned a bachelor’s and a master’s of science degrees in computer information systems, as well as a master’s of education and certificates in distance education and e-learning design. He also took free courses offered by the military that helped certify him for cloud computing, cybersecurity, server hardware, and computer networking.

With Veteran’s Day on my mind, I thought about the vast number of workers who transition to civilian employment after retiring from the military. Roughly 200,000 service members transition from military service to civilian life each year, according to the Department of Defense. But it’s not an easy skate for many veterans who want to start a second career.

You’d think companies would be eager to hire a veteran. The boxes are checked-–team player, loyal, committed, security clearance, and so on. But the reality is the career shift to a post-military position can be fraught.Employers may not understand how a military background translates to their needs in terms of experience and skills. “Few employers have many vets on board, or understand anything about the military,” consultant Patra Frame, a U.S. Air Force veteran and founder of Strategies for Human Resources in Alexandria, Va., told me. Frame, who works mostly with small businesses, has a side passion for helping veterans transition to civilian jobs.

Employers do not know what to expect and may need help understanding how someone’s skills, experience and character transfer to a certain position that meets their needs, she said.Here are seven ways to help make the shift from military service to a second career.

1. Run an MRI on your skill-set. Write down those action qualities that describe your work in the military. These might include such things as instructed, executed, mentored, operated, planned, spearheaded, supervised, and trained. You’ll want to incorporate these action verbs into your new résumé. Drill down to specific skills, accounting, engineering, computer software maintenance, security, logistics and so forth. One website that I encourage you to check out is Job-Hunt.Org. It is absolutely one of the best sites I know for great career advice for veterans and transitioning military.

2. Seek guidance on military-friendly job boards. Quiñones connected with Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiative, which led to a four-month corporate internship at IBM. That opportunity, in turn, landed him in his current position, where he manages projects that upgrade software that powers the advertising posted on Weather Company digital channels. Quiñones redeployed the skills gleaned from his military career: data analysis, research, reporting and scheduling.

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Here are some other sites to consider:3. Get help via government programs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Transition Assistance Program offers a variety of workshops that help you examine your skills, job interests, and compose a résumé.

4. Seek out employers that hire veterans. These employers include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, The Boeing Company BA, -2.94%, Deloitte Consulting, General Electric GE, +1.03%, Google GOOG, -1.23%, IBM, J.P. Morgan Chase JPM, -0.85% and PNC Bank PNC, -1.07%.

As I pored over all the job listings on the remote job board FlexJobs during my research for my book, Great Pajama Jobs, I was reminded how remote work offers opportunities to veterans with unique challenges segueing back into civilian life, such as injury, disability, or purely adapting to corporate culture. FlexJobs offers 50% off a FlexJobs subscription for veterans.

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Onward to Opportunity provides training programs, career coaching and services to match program participants with employers and job openings.5. Add necessary skills. Corporate America Supports You (CASY) provides a job board, in-person and online training for vets and spouses, including online access to IBM’s free SkillsBuild career platform. Subjects covered in the coursework for vets include data management, artificial intelligence, web development, cloud administration, customer support, and cybersecurity. The courses concentrate on technology skills, but also remote team collaboration, time management and presentation skills, and for job seeking skills like networking and interviewing.

It’s a good idea to start ramping up skills before you step out. Randy Sharpe, 42, a cyberspace operations and chief information officer based at the Shaw Air Force Base in S.C., plans to retire from military service in mid-2021, after two decades years in the armed forces.

In July, he signed up via CASY for a SkillsBuild course in technical cybersecurity fundamentals. While he has two master’s degrees — one in project management, and the other in information systems, he knew he need to do more prep work on cybersecurity–an area he might pursue post- military.

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Next up, a program to polish his presentation skills. “I will need to market myself aggressively in the private sector, something that I haven’t needed to do in the service, where my accomplishments speak for themselves,” said Sharpe. “Military service members are reluctant to brag, and I know that I need to learn skills like giving an elevator pitch to help me parlay my accumulated expertise in a new career.”

6. Network. Connect with past colleagues and managers on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Tap into military-focused groups. The Military Officers Association of America offers webinars, help with résumés and a job board for members. It also has a LinkedIn Career Networking group.

7. Seek a mentor. The nonprofit American Corporate Partners (ACP) offers veterans year-long formal mentoring arrangements, career counseling and networking.Employees from such firms such as Amazon AMZN, -0.56%, AT&T T, +0.14%, IBM, Northrop Grumman NOC, -0.98%, PNC, Schneider Electric and UPS UPS, -1.63% now participate.

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