Transitioning from a military career and culture to a civilian one means you must clearly and consistently communicate your value to potential employers, investors, networking contacts and colleagues. To create your value proposition, start with a personal definition statement.
What Is a Personal Definition Statement?
Your personal definition statement is a way you will clarify your offer to yourself. It will likely roll into your elevator pitch, onto your resume and become part of your communications toolkit, but the statement is a core foundational element of what you do and who you serve.
Creating Your Statement
To understand who you are and what you're looking for in a next career, begin by taking a step back. Assess your military career, successes, challenges and the opportunities you pursued. Then ask yourself:
- What drove me to join the military? (Identify the values, beliefs and goals you had.)
- What led to my success in my past careers? (Look for patterns of goals and skills.)
- Where have I fallen short in achieving my goals? (Identify internal and external roadblocks that hinder your success.)
- Have I compromised my values? (Clarify what the driving factors were. Did you feel pressured? Was it for the betterment of the group? Were you afraid?)
Next, articulate what you do: What problems do you solve? If you are a logistician by training, that means you were paid to analyze and coordinate a chain of equipment, people or products. But what problem did you solve for the people who needed to rely on you?
Using the logistician example, consider what would have happened if you'd not been good at your work. Missions could have been thwarted, materials destroyed (at a high cost) and lives could have been lost. While the tactical part of your work was to ensure items got from Point A to Point B, the problem you solved was to ensure the success of the mission and the safety of those involved.
Let's look at another example: As a reputation management and personal branding specialist, I am hired to help individuals set themselves up for career advancement, manage their online reputation, revise their resume, etc.
But what problem am I solving? I help these individuals gain control over the way they are perceived -- in their work, career, online and in their network. That control is valuable. If I were to market my services as "resume writing," I could fall into the commodity sale (lots of people do this). Rather, I sell the value of solving the problem I fix, and my clients see that.
Your personal definition statement should also include proof that you have, and can, solve those problems. Think about specific examples of times you've deployed your skills and talents to solve these problems.
Then your statement should clearly speak to the individuals, groups or communities you seek to attract. Be as specific as you can. This is not the time to be generic. Picture that person standing in front of you, needing you to help them with your gift. What do they need, like, fear and embrace? Crystalize in your mind who your target audience is.
Your personal definition statement will empower you to make good choices, form emotional connections with people around you and stand in your values as you build your life outside of the military. It becomes your mantra, your narrative and how others will describe you over time. Take the time to craft it well and update it as needed over your life.
Lida Citroën is an international reputation management and branding specialist, and CEO of LIDA360. Citroën serves her corporate clients with personal branding, reputation management, online positioning and reputation repair strategies and implementation programs.
Citroën is passionate about helping our nation's veterans navigate the military-to-civilian career transition and is a popular speaker at military installations and events on veteran hiring. Her best-selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," offers veterans the tools to successfully move to meaningful civilian careers.
Citroën is a regular contributor for Military.com and Entrepreneur.com, and is the recipient of numerous awards for her service to our veterans.
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