What to Do if Your First Civilian Job Doesn’t Work Out

OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert visits with veterans and community leaders in San Antonio.
OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert visits with veterans and community leaders in San Antonio.

You've followed the experts' advice on de-militarizing your resume, networking, job searching and interviewing. You got your first civilian job, hooray! It's going OK for about six months. It doesn't seem to be your dream job, but you figure it takes awhile to get trained and on board, so you're giving it the benefit of the doubt.

At about the eight-month mark, you realize, this job is not for you. Maybe you're not using your skills. Maybe the job seems boring to you. Maybe the culture or people aren't a good fit. Or maybe it's just not what you thought it would be.

It could also be that your manager has decided that, while you seemed like a good fit from your resume and the interview, after sufficient training and on-boarding, perhaps it's not as good of a fit as they originally thought. And so, regretfully, your manager has to "let you go," and once again, you find yourself on the job market.

That happens sometimes, whether you're a veteran or civilian. Either things aren't how you expected they'd be at the job, or you aren't exactly what they expected. You can only tell so much from a job description and an interview. Likewise, they can only tell so much from a resume and an interview.

The important part is that you can move forward and determine what your next step is going to be. Here are four tips on what to do if your first civilian job doesn't work out.

1. Get Feedback

If your manager didn't feel like you were a good fit for the job, talk to them and ask the honest question: Why not? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Feedback is a gift. You can take the feedback and learn whether there's something you can do differently to make your next civilian job more successful.

2. Write Down Your Likes

What are the things you liked about the job? It may not have been a good fit, but I'm guessing you liked certain aspects of the job. Make a list. When you're looking for a new civilian job, look for those things you liked in a new job.

3. Write Down Your Dislikes

If you didn't feel like the job was a good fit, make a list of why it wasn't. If the culture was not a good fit, write down what the culture was like, why you didn't like it and what you would rather it be. If you didn't like what your job responsibilities were, write down why not and list what you would like to do instead. Taking note of these things will help guide you on what to and what not to look for in your next civilian job.

4. Get More Information

Perhaps if you had more information before taking the job, you would have had a better feel for what the job was really like, and you wouldn't have taken it. Before taking your next job, try to collect more data. Informational interviews are always a good way to collect information from the company and what it's like to work there. Try talking to some of the other employees who work there and ask them honest questions about the culture and position. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn from their answers and even their personalities when talking with them.

The bottom line is, don't get discouraged if that first civilian job didn't work out. It happens to everyone at some point. It's important to learn a lesson from your experience and use what you learned to make the next experience on your journey a better one.

Lida Citroën is an international reputation management and branding specialist and CEO of LIDA360. Lida serves her corporate clients with personal branding, reputation management, online positioning and reputation repair strategies and implementation programs.
Lida 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.

Lida 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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