Learn from U.S. Military Veterans: Get Your Mindset Ready to Compete for a Job
Changing careers, industries, companies or geographies can be overwhelming. This is especially true for U.S. Military service members transitioning from the military to civilian employment. An important step for them is to get in the right mindset when preparing to compete for their next career move in the civilian world.
I work regularly with Veterans and Military Spouses by giving them instructions and downloadable templates necessary to make the move from military to civilian work. Although the following lessons were originally written for Veterans who have served our country and are about to embark on a job search in civilian life, they apply to all job seekers.
Lori Norris, the founder of Get Results Career Services, is on my Advisory Board and compiled these lessons. Since 2005, Ms. Norris has dedicated her career to assisting Veterans in successfully transitioning out of the military. She counsels: “Veterans know the importance of planning, preparation, practice and having their head in the game at all times. Although the stakes of this job search “mission” are different than the missions they went on in the military, we are talking about their career and livelihood.”
Developing the following mindset and belief shifts can make a major impact on future career success. According to Lori:
- Put your job satisfaction first: Rarely in the military are people asked what makes them happy. Once out of the military, Veterans become their own career managers and need to ask themselves this essential “happiness” question. Veterans should ask themselves: Do I want to work inside or outside? Do I want to work with people or with equipment? What are my interests and passions? What are my strengths and what kinds of tasks do I want to avoid?
- Communicate: Communication is key during the transition to civilian life. Veterans should be open and honest about expectations regarding what life outside of the military will look like. Veterans need to discuss where to live, a realistic expectation for the first few years of salary, and what’s been gained or lost when separating from the military.
- Gather your support system: For Veterans, the military is like a second family. This doesn’t go away when they take off the uniform. It is important to identify and stay in touch with key people, peers and military friends. Use social networks, especially LinkedIn, to keep in touch with former co-workers and supervisors and connect with other Veterans through LinkedIn groups. Take advantage of the multitude of mentorship programs available to Veterans such as ACP and Veterati. Veterans need people in their corner rooting for them—especially during big transitions.
- Value your military skills and experience: Even if Veterans are making a complete career change from their specific role in the military, they bring valuable skills to any team. They possess problem solving and effective decision making under pressure, adaptability to new environments and tasks, a focus on teamwork, persistence and determination. Veterans need to objectively evaluate their skills and experience and believe in the value they bring to their future career field and employer.
- Learn to be your own champion: Veterans are taught to focus on team accomplishments; taking credit and self-marketing may not come naturally. However, they must learn to take credit for what makes them good at their job. They must be able to communicate how they can be of value to a future employer.
- Hop on the social media train: Using social media, specifically LinkedIn, as a job seeking tool may be new for many Veterans. When preparing for a career in the private sector, having a LinkedIn presence is mission critical. At a minimum, everyone needs a LinkedIn profile in order to be found by potential employers and take advantage of the platform’s robust networking opportunities. An account is free and LinkedIn’s help function will walk you through every step.
- Learn to adapt: Veterans have adapted to different jobs, different countries and different working environments. Now it is time to adapt to the civilian workforce. They must learn to fit into the civilian workforce and bring their discipline, work ethic and can-do attitude to their next career.
While Veterans face unique challenges in the job search process, anyone looking for a job today will benefit from having a clear and focused job seeking mindset.