How to Fail Your Military Transition

Posted by Patra Frame

Where does your military transition leadWant to ensure you have trouble finding a civilian job? Looking forward to months without a job? Ready to go through 3-4 job searches in your first few years after the military?

Probably NOT!  But those problems are quite common.

Failure 1: Defining a Specific Career/Job You Want

I see comments like this regularly in many LinkedIn military transition groups:

“We (military) can do anything. All we need need is the opportunity.”

“Employers ignore my military work just because I don’t meet their requirements, but I can do any job.”

Many of the transitioning military I talk with and whose resumes I review say something similar. They say they do not know what they want to do. Or, what they want to do is generic stuff: Manager, Leader, Senior Role, High Pay. It’s not going to happen!

The BEST thing you can do to make your transition go well is to figure out what you want to do next in very specific terms. You have to focus and choose a career field or a specific job or two. Assess yourself and your interests. Evaluate your skills, knowledge, strengths, weaknesses, education. Then define your goals.

Failure 2: Lack of understanding and preparation

You are used to planning. Operations, actions, training. Why would you think you could skip that step in your transition? Once you have selected some potential career paths and goals, research is critical. What do employers usually require when they hire people for that work? What organizations hire people in that field? What are your potential work options? Are there jobs in your field in the area you want to live in?

Then you need to learn the common requirements of that field and see if you need added skills or education or certifications. Plus research potential employers to find those you really want to work with.

The transition program your service offers is a good first step but YOU need to do the work and find your focus. Join groups on social media in the field you want to explore and learn. Ask questions for additional help. Search online for professional groups, military alumni organizations, non-profits or trade associations that offer programs for veterans in your field and see if they have information or help you need to transition.

And then act on what you learn!

Job search is difficult enough if you work it well. Don’t make yours harder by thinking someone will offer you a job because you are a vet or that a recruiter will see your value in that pile of stuff you tossed into a resume. Make your plan, do your homework, and get the job you seek with an employer who values you!

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Specialist. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


This entry was posted on Monday, July 07, 2014 9:38 am

3 thoughts on “How to Fail Your Military Transition”

  1. I am definitely in the first failure part. and halos second for not planning what I want to do when I figure it out. I was able to get a very high paying job in the month I was retiring. I never really changed what specific thing I was doing, from military to civilian was doing same thing. living overeas on Europe still seeing same people I worked with. Then my three year contract became 2 and I didn’t accept the GS-11 position at a significant lower pay. So I decided to try my luck back I. the US and it has been since sept 2012, have not found anything close to being comparable. I picked up a part time job at The Home Depot as a cashier. Even though I had applied for manager positions, and operations positions. it’s definitely something I am missing but not sure what that is.

  2. Larry, yes, the contraction in defense and intel spending in past 18 months has hit a lot of people hard. Start to look at your job search via

    Join some LinkedIn veterans groups for more ideas and help too.

    And look at some of the CJN videos too for ideas on how to figure out what you want to do next and how to get there. Not so easy to get back from longer unemployment but you can do it. Here’s a video on asking for help in your job search more effectively:
    good hunting!

  3. Patra, great advice. We military types have a tendency to be very self confident, well educated, and have tackled jobs of significant difficulty and diversity. Why wouldn’t we think that we can pretty much do any job if given the opportunity? Well, the answer is, the majority of prospective employers don’t think the same way. They are seeking people who have experience in their market area, or area of expertise, services, product. Sure, you may have led hundreds, or even thousands of people, be very analytical, have a great background of accomplishments and successes, but have you ever managed a big box retail store? Most likely not. Guess what? The owner(s) of that big box are not wanting someone is only smart, analytical, or a proven leader, they want someone who knows retail and has experience having worked in/managed a retail store. Consequently, your chances of being hired to fill that position, or hundreds of others for whom the hiring managers are seeking qualified and experience employees in THAT area of expertise are pretty much nil.

    Instead, look for training or entry level positions … internships or company training programs that develop leaders into managers or other positions of authority. Or, better yet, find that job where the expertise and knowledge of a particular Service or the military in general is needed, even valued. In my book, that still means taking a hard look at defense contractors, even with the budget draw down and shortfalls impacting those contracts. The Govt is NOT going out of the contractor business, not with the Armed Forces also drawing down to pre-WWII levels.

    Bottom line: learn where your expertise is needed … or where you can get on board and get trained for the position you wish to eventually obtain.

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