8 Tools for Your Military-to-Civilian Job Search Toolkit

(Angelina Casarez/U.S. Air Force photo)

Transitioning from a military-to-civilian career is about much more than turning in your paperwork, dusting off the resume and putting a profile up on LinkedIn. There are numerous tools and resources available to you, which should be used strategically, in the right order, to leverage their usefulness.

8 Tools and Resources

To secure a career in the private sector, government or nonprofit world post-military, use these tools and resources:

Inquiry. This is probably the largest and most time-consuming step of your job search. Your research will be inside out and outside in. Ask and answer questions such as:

  • What do you care about? What are your passions?
  • What skills and experience do you want to continue in your post-military career?
  • How will you explain your value to your ideal employer?
  • Who do you want to work for? What do they care about and need?
  • What kinds of jobs are being recruited for? What do they look for in ideal candidates?
  • Who do you know at your ideal employer? Will they help you?
  • How are you positioned online? Are you seen as an attractive candidate?
  • What kinds of people are successful in the job you want at the ideal employer?

Informational interviews. These are a powerful part of the job search toolkit. Informational interviews are not job interviews. They are fact-finding missions where someone helps you find the information and insight you need to hone your messaging, position yourself successfully and network your way into the position.

Here's an article I shared on Military.com about informational interviews and the steps to take.

Resume. Yes, you need a resume. You'll need to outline and articulate your career, education, certifications, awards and credentials in a manner that your ideal employer finds useful and relevant. Keep your resume specific to the particular job you're applying to and updated to reflect new thinking or skills.

Use bullet points to highlight successes and quantify results in dollars and numbers whenever you can.

Wardrobe. What will you wear to job interviews, job fairs and networking meetings? Have you organized your wardrobe to reflect your new focus? Take the time to separate out your clothes from casual or play to work clothes, and then sort by type (dress shirts, suits, slacks, skirts, etc.) and season. Make sure items are cleaned and repaired, if needed. Have them tailored if you've lost or gained weight.

Be ready to go when the interviewer calls.

Applications. You will likely complete some job applications online. Companies use job boards, job search sites (like Monster.com) and their own "careers" pages on their websites to have candidates apply through. Create a sample or boilerplate language you could upload quickly. Then identify the sections of your experience, goals or objectives that you tailor to each job application.

Networking. Networking should be a big part of your job search toolkit. Your intentional network will provide you with guidance, insight, information, leads and endorsements when you interview or apply for an open position. They may hear of unpublished job openings and be able to refer you in. They may be inclined to walk your resume to the hiring manager and give you a glowing referral.

Focus on building and maintaining your network today, tomorrow and forever.

Support network. Similar to your intentional career network listed above, add a support network to your toolkit. These may include family members, friends or past co-workers. Their role will be less informative and referral-based, but more encouragement and emotional support. The job search process can be taxing and draining.

Surround yourself with people who will give you a pep talk when you need it, will push you when you slow down and congratulate you when you succeed.

Interviewing. Interviews are a natural part of the hiring process. Be prepared to have many rounds of interviews for one open position, and also to be interviewed in non-traditional ways. Phone, Skype, panel and off-site interviews are common today. Practice interviewing with friends and be prepared for the differences between a 15-minute phone interview and a two-hour panel interview.

There are significant nuances to showcasing your skills, experience and value to each.

The job search is not just dependent on the resume, or the interview or networking. Each of these tools and resources builds on, and relies on, the others. Use them all.

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