Whether you're facing military retirement or you're about to complete your contractual agreement in serving your country in the Armed Forces, you now face a tremendous opportunity to start using your skills in the civilian market.
Where do you begin?
I would highly recommend you start by taking advantage of the available time to make an assessment on how marketable you are: skill sets, experience, both here in the States and abroad, and the coveted government security clearance. For most, especially those in IT, having experience working within a military environment and understanding the military culture goes a very long way in finding DOD contracting opportunities.
Here are some points to consider when facing post-military career opportunities:
· Take stock of existing skill sets
o What industries use your skills?
o Do you possess "hot" skills that companies are in dire need of hiring?
· Do you have "hidden" value?
o Do you possess peripheral skills that "bleed" into other areas diagonal to your existing skill set? For instance, you may have experience configuring and deploying SharePoint portals (SharePoint Architect). But, you quite possibly possess peripheral skills that would satisfy a job description for a SharePoint Administrator (get the picture?).
· Develop a Portfolio of Yourself
o Remember: you are marketing yourself!
o Develop an "Elevator Speech" that describes who you are as a professional and what accomplishments you have made to organizations you've worked for. How did this impact the overall mission of the organization? Dollars saved?
o Create an iron-clad resume for EACH career path (i.e. job position) that you are about to apply for.
§ Create a great cover letter
§ Be ready to network with people face-to-face. Remember the 6 degrees of separation concept and employ it within your working life
§ Develop your online marketing presence. There are many quality professional networks available.
· Be ready to Provide Samples of Your Work
o If you deal with deliverables, its not a bad idea to showcase them on a personal website. Be sure not to include any material that could violate federal, state or local laws and always remember to scrub all content to preclude sensitive content covered under the Privacy Act, 1974.
· Reacclimatize Your Mindset Toward a Civilian Environment
o Rank is not worn on the shoulders or sleeves
o Rank still exists but is more subtle (i.e. position title, etc).
o Remember, your industry usually dictates the type of environment you will be working within (i.e. financial sector is conservative, whereas a creative company (i.e. google, apple) tends to be more liberal.
· Find a Mentor
o There is not enough space on this article to state the importance of this recommendation. A great source for mentors is those that went before you. Locate a friend that recently retired and find out how they are fairing - find out what worked for them and see if you can apply the tactics to your situation (strategy).
§ Note: there was a point in my professional career where I wanted to boost my salary and therefore hired a professional career manager (a very expensive thing to do, silly me). I partook in the seminars and one-on-ones. There were many good nuggets of information but hindsight, I could have found that information through networking and saves many thousands of dollars. I did get the salary I wanted but could have done so without paying to know how to go about it.
· Go Back to School
o This is a favorite of mine and for good reason. Recruiters and clients love the idea that a potential candidate is always willing to learn new things and what better way to show them and prospective employers! I can tell you that after receiving my undergraduate degree (bachelors) my salary increased by 15K and after receiving my graduate degree (masters) it more than doubled! I also noticed that fortune 100 companies started calling on me! It is truly wonderful to get contacts from companies like Microsoft and IBM - it validates all the hard work, expense and personal sacrifice that goes into getting a higher education.
There is no easy formula to finding career success in a volatile market.
One helpful concept is to realize that the business world has and continues to be extremely competitive and a "differential strategy" is a sure fire way of separating you from the rest of the crowd so companies can see you.
What you are facing is nothing less than reinventing yourself which can be quite unnerving and stressful.
When you feel as though the world is being pulled from underneath your feet, remember the wise words of a great American and one of our Founding Fathers:
"When you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."Ben Franklin
For more information on how you can market your skills, please contact us, email@example.com.