NEWS + ADVICE
Professional Development Eases Your Military Transition
Your transition to the civilian world is an exciting and challenging process. You should realize, though, you’ll bring with you a big plus on this journey — the leadership and team skills you have developed during your military career. This advantage is a skill set that will serve you well in determining your career trajectory.
The important thing is not to let your professional development end with your military service. You need to create and implement a distinctive plan that will fuel your professional growth.
The initial step you need to take in creating this plan is a rigorous self-assessment. Have an honest conversation with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of those discoveries. Elaborate on the list by recalling times during your military service where you have performed successfully as a leader or team member, and those times when you have not.
After you have concluded this authentic assessment you will then need to request input from others regarding your current career strengths and weaknesses. Ask those you served with to give you a fair assessment. If they’re willing, have them recall examples where they can offer either praise or suggestions for improvement.
Once you’re comfortable that you have a good picture of your level of leadership abilities, you can start to build your new professional development plan. Begin by affirming your areas of strength. Your valuable service in the military has allowed you to experience these successes.
Next you should study the weaknesses that have been acknowledged. This is where you will have the best opportunity to grow both as a person and as a professional. Improvement to these weak areas will need to be addressed in your professional development plan during your transition.
Here are some suggestions for accelerating your career success as you transition:
- Look for opportunities that offer a way to grow career skills: As you review those areas determined to be weaknesses, you should look for targeted training or volunteer opportunities that will address these issues. This is particularly important if the weakness will have direct bearing on your success in the private sector. Professional development is your biggest ally when it comes to reversing a weakness. Industry associations often offer seminars for career-specific skills. If you’re in IT or cyber security, certifications may be critical to your success. There are countless educational programs, some of which are free, available to help veterans pursue these options.
- Seek a mentoring relationship: Direction and guidance from a mentor is an important asset as you work to build on your career. As you think about those areas where you need improvement, look for someone who excels in the skills you need to improve. Your mentor can be a former service member, someone you know within your chosen industry, or a friend. Talk to them and learn from their successes and failures. And please know that it is fine to have more than one mentor, each of them addressing an area where you’re looking for improvement. You also don’t have to set up a “formal” mentoring relationship – anyone you can ask for career guidance who supplies you with answers is your mentor.
- Planning doesn’t need to be rigid: Think of your development plan as fluid and flexible. There will be times when your progress calls for you to adjust your plan to reflect your growth as well as the identification of new areas where improvement is needed. Personal growth is never a straight line. As any new weakness is uncovered, it’s important to address it. But don’t be disheartened. Look at the discovery as a new opportunity and keep in mind that career development is an ongoing process.
- Exercise your skills regularly: Think of your career as a muscle that needs a regular work out to build strength. Use it or lose it. Always be on the lookout for ways to keep growing. This is what will set you apart and keep your career on an upward course. Volunteering is a terrific way to polish a variety of professional skills; find an activity or organization that you like and use volunteer opportunities to network and work on skills that you want to develop
Transitions can be scary but with the right plan they will be tremendously exciting. Applaud yourself for your efforts to build your leadership skills. Take satisfaction in creating your personal plan and more so in the success you realize.
Pat Tovo guides job seekers in conducting successful employment searches through targeted prospecting, effective resume writing, and polished interviewing skills. She enjoys facilitating workshops and working one-on-one in career counseling.
This entry was posted on Friday, July 20, 2018 12:18 pm