6 Ways to Get Career Ready for the New Year

From right to left: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Bryton Vanderloop, Spc. Alfredo Estrada, Lt. Col Alberto Rodriguez and Cpl. Kowshik Chowdhury work together in the Career Skills Program internship for Anheuser-Busch Hawaii. (Staff Sgt. Melissa Parrish/U.S. Army photo)

Question: With the holidays approaching, I've heard that I should hold off my civilian career transition planning until January. Is that correct?

Answer: Actually, there is a lot you can be doing to get ready for your post-military career now. Here are some activities that are ideal to pursue this time of year.

1. Networking

Do you know the right people? Is your network full of people who'll endorse you, refer you and provide you with critical and insightful information? How's your support system? Now's a great time to curate a well-designed network of contacts. When you meet a new contact -- online or in person -- ask them who else they think you should know. This will help expand your circle of influence and grow your network.

Remember that networking is a two-way street. While you're focused on how your network can help you, consider they're thinking the same thing. Pay attention to the clues they drop about how you can serve them, their career and their goals as well.

2. Informational Interviews

With many professionals working a slower schedule during the holidays, you might find this time ideal to begin or increase your informational interviews. Reach out to people you know online or in person and always follow the rules of informational interviews to gain value and hopefully also a great, new networking contact.

Read: 5 Components of a Successful Informational Interview

3. Social Media Updating

When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Have you touched your Twitter page since you started it? Update your online profiles to reflect your upcoming exit from the military, your career focus and goals and show your current employment results.

Embed any keywords and key phrases you've learned are important to employers in your new career focus into your profiles where they fit organically. Never lie or mislead on your profiles, but if you can switch out a military term for a civilian one your next employer will recognize, that's a good step.

4. Interview Prep

Practice interviewing now, before you need to be good at it. Consider doing in-person, video and phone mock interviews with a friend or family member who can play the part of the employer. Practice answering both functional interview questions (based on your work experience, training, certifications, etc.) and behavioral interview questions (more open-ended questions that offer a situation and ask you to respond. These types of questions help employers determine how you think, make decisions and lead).

Take note of which questions fluster or stump you and work on those. Get input from the person acting as the interviewer about your approach and communication.

5. Wardrobe Inventory

Do you have a clean, tailored interview outfit ready? Identifying one outfit that you feel confident in and making sure it fits you well and is cleaned ensures you'll be ready for that first interview.

Also consider looking through your post-military wardrobe and organizing your clothes to be civilian work ready. Do you need more suits? Are your dress slacks outdated? Do your shoes need to be resoled? Taking care of these details now ensures that when you start your new career, you'll have some clothes to get you going.

6. Gratitude

This is an ideal time to reflect on what you are grateful for. While you might be focused on finding that next job, exiting the military and feeling secure, you also have a lot of positives in your life that support, encourage and offer you the ability to make choices. Whether you journal, meditate or just reflect on what you have to be grateful for, shift your mindset from fear to gratitude.

While the holiday season offers more distractions and celebrations, it can be a great time to get ready for a career change in the new year. Focus on what you can do now, what you can get ready for and enjoy the time with family and friends.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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