10 Tips for a Successful Military to Civilian Transition in Corporate America

1. Be “The Early Bird”.

Don’t wait until you’re 30 days away from separation before starting the military to civilian transition process. The ideal time to begin preparing for your transition is one year before you are available to begin employment in the civilian workforce.

2. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

You want to give yourself as many options as possible. Applying for jobs with only one company, working with a "handcuff" or exclusionary placement firm or working with only one military to civilian transition resource is not in your best interest. Take advantage of all the free services that are available (military placement firms, military job boards, military job fairs, TAP/ACAP) and don’t be afraid to network on your own to find a military connection (VFW, former military you know, military associations such as AUSA, MOAA, Marine for Life, etc.).

3. Get ready for inspection.

Realize that the job search process opens you up to a new type of scrutiny from your perspective employer. Make sure you have a professional email address and answering machine message, and that you’ve deleted any inappropriate material (“cyberskeletons”) posted on social networking sites, etc. Better yet, don’t post any inappropriate material in the first place – it can live forever in search engine caches, even after you delete it.

(For more on Cyberskeletons, see article here.)

Shift your focus from social to professional networking sites. BMI recommends LinkedIn.com to our candidates.

4. Have a transition plan for your family.

Don’t automatically use your military move to go back to your home town. A huge advantage for a military-experienced job seeker is that many times, their military move can pay for relocation to the city of their new job. For a company that might have to pay for a civilian to relocate, this could be the leg up you need.

Make sure you sign up for gap insurance for you and your family. If you don’t, and your job search extends for more than 90 days after your separation, any pre-existing conditions that exist with you or your family may not be covered by your new employer’s insurance plan.

5. Civilianize.

Civilianize your resume, experience and verbiage during your interview. Be aware that most hiring managers in corporate America will not understand military lingo. Don't expect them to be able to translate - you must do that for them.

6. Sell yourself.

What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Why are you getting out of the military? What type of work do you want to do? These are all questions that you may know the answers to, but you don’t want to be thinking of them for the first time during the interview process. Ask yourself the hard questions ahead of time to make sure your answers are well-organized, positive, concise and genuine. Practice out loud.

7. Explore ALL of your options.

Keep an open mind. Don’t allow yourself to eliminate a company, a location, or even a particular type of job before you educate yourself with all of the information available. There are thousands of opportunities in corporate America, and many of the great places to work for former military are outside the Fortune 500. In fact, many former military find a fast track to success with jobs in privately held firms and/or with jobs located outside of major metropolitan areas.

8. Don’t be modest.

Don’t assume that the interviewer makes the connection between your military experience and how that has prepared you for the job in question. Show them examples from your work experience that correlate into exactly the experience for which they are looking. Tell the interviewer that you can do the job!

9. Don’t settle.

Ensure the job you take is the job you WANT. Take your time and thoroughly investigate your options until you are sure you’ve found the ‘right’ job. Accepting an offer for a job you are not really excited about is a surefire way to ensure you’ll be repeating the whole job search process earlier than you would wish.

10. Get off on the right foot!

Once you’ve taken your new job in corporate America, make sure you hit the ground running. Just like in the military, you only get one chance to get off to a great start.

Your first month on the job will likely set the tone for your entire career:
- Come in early and stay late.
- Ask questions and be enthusiastic.
- Volunteer for tough, demanding assignments.
- Be willing and eager to get your hands dirty.
- Solve problems rather than give reasons why things can't be done.