Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.
Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.
1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.
LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry's hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.
2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.
Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.
3. When you interview, play up your strengths.
Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.
4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.
It's important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company's benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.
5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.
This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It's important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.
6. Don't seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.
While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.
7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.
People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. "One team, One fight" is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a "team player," make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation's measure of trust with you.
8. Research your state's requirements for terminations and layoffs.
Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It's important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.
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