Thursday, September 27, 2012

Career Change Tips for Military Transitioners

I often work with people transitioning out of the military who have no desire to continue along their same career path in the private sector. I once had an Air Force aviation mechanic tell me he never wanted to touch an airplane again unless it was flying him on vacation! What does a military veteran do when all the training, experience and knowledge they possess is in a career field they no longer want? Try this step by step approach.

Step 1 - Determine what you DO want to do
You know what you don't want. However, until you figure out what career you want to pursue, it is nearly impossible to define your transferable skills. You can start by making a comprehensive list of your skills and examining which skills you enjoy using the most. In this previous blog post, I offer some additional resources.

Step 2 - Research your target career field
Use resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, O*Net Online, and to define what skills, qualifications, education, and certifications are required in your career field. This research process will help you focus your resume and remove any irrelevant information. Military members have so many varied responsibilities. If you try to tell a potential employer everything, you will overwhelm them into believing you are unqualified.

Step 3 - Look at your experience in a new light
If you look at your military experience too literally, you will automatically dismiss yourself as unqualified. However, try stepping outside your comfort zone and examining how similar your skill sets are to what the employer is seeking.

For example, an electronics specialist who has been fixing aircraft for the last 10 years may automatically consider themselves unqualified for a contract administrator position. However, this person can present themselves as a project manager - every time they fixed an aircraft they managed a project. Project management requires communication, planning, scheduling, budgeting, inventory management, documentation management, problem solving, and customer service. All of these skills are needed as a contract manager.

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