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VOL. 38 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 21, 2014

Secrets to a successful career transition from military

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Veterans Day served as a reminder of how important it is to honor our military personnel. It also was a reminder of a problem many former military members face: underemployment.

Underemployment is defined by Merriam-Webster as “having less than full-time, regular or adequate employment.” This can happen when someone is only working part time, but desires to work full time. It can also happen when an employee is overqualified for their position.

When separating from the military, servicemen and servicewomen are offered transition assistance. Unfortunately, this is often not enough. Once in the civilian world, they often find themselves lost with nowhere to turn.

In fact, rather than feeling the private sector opening up for them, they often feel it closing.

On more than one occasion, veterans have told me they felt they were not selected for a job due to their military career.

It seems many employers have misconceptions about what sorts of jobs military members held, or what emotional issues they may or may not have after service.

Veterans should acknowledge they’re not alone. This is a systemic issue that impacts many people in transition. It can be frustrating and demoralizing.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to seek help.

One great place for free resources is the Internet. There are many websites and podcasts offering free advice about interviewing and careers.

Look for other veterans to network with who will share their experiences and maybe help you to get your foot in the door for an interview with their company.

Finally, seek out an individual career coach or interview training courses.

Focus on translating the skills listed in your resume so they are understandable by someone who has no military experience.

Be sure to include numbers, such as how many people you managed. Often, those in the private sector would not imagine you had managed large groups at such a young age. Adding quantifiable information will help the private sector to understand your role in the military.

Start early. If you plan to leave the military in six months, start looking now. You will need time to build your network, refine your resume and your elevator pitch. There also are situations in which you may want to take additional training to expand your skillset. Be prepared for this possibility.

Do salary research. I’ve been told the military gives a salary estimate of what you’d be making at a corporation for an equivalent job. Unfortunately, the job market is tough. Check out sites like Glassdoor.com for actual salary data being reported by current employees.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. The long-term answer to your problem is not a part-time job or a job that’s beneath you. Continue to grow your network and reach out for help translating your skills. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in an entirely new and fulfilling career.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” She also hosts the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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