Mistakes to Avoid in Your Military Transition

Posted by Ashley Jones

It’s important to start planning for your entry into the civilian workforce before your military exit arrives. Take control of your career strategy now by researching, preparing your marketing materials, and networking to ease the road to transition ahead.

1. Writing a resume without knowing what you want to do

Before you can write a resume that sells you to employers you first need to determine what type of job you’re seeking. Ask yourself what you’re interested in doing next. What are your needs and overall career goals? Once you decide what job you want, it’s time to write a targeted resume that demonstrates your value for that specific role.

2. Trying to capture all of your experience on your resume

How do you include everything you’ve done in the last 15-20 years in just one to two pages? You don’t—unless the job posting specifically asks for 15 years or more experience. Focus on the last few years and what you’re trying to do now. Delete all the information that does not directly support your value. Cut down on older jobs, especially if they are more than 10 years old. And don’t waste space on education or training that is irrelevant. Your goal is to create a resume that is tailored to the job you’re after now.

3. Using military lingo and acronyms

Remember when you first joined the service and didn’t understand what everyone was talking about? This is why you need to de-militarize your language and learn to speak civilian, on both your resume and in networking and interview scenarios. You can’t assume everyone you’re talking to understands military jargon or acronyms—even in the government contracting community. Some lingo you should pick up though is the terminology of the profession you want to work in.

4. Listing salary requirements without doing your homework

Be careful listing salary requirements, as civilian compensation is very different from military pay and benefits. It’s important to do some industry research and learn what to expect in your chosen field. Civilian pay is tied to the value of the job to the company, and the skills and knowledge you bring within that. Weigh the importance of both salary and benefits. Does extra vacation time or having your health care covered make up for X dollars of salary? The type and size of an organization, the function of the job, and location all play a part in salary range, so do some homework to come up with a range that fits the market and makes sense for you.

5. Saying “I’ll go anywhere”

Telling an employer that you’ll relocate anywhere doesn’t make you more attractive—in fact, it can raise red flags. If you live in Virginia but apply for a job in Texas, you need to be prepared to explain why. Employers don’t want to hire you and then have you leave because you realize it isn’t a good fit. This is a risk for companies, so explain your reasoning from the start if you have an interest in a specific location.

6. Waiting until your military exit to start networking

Start networking now, no matter how long it is before you plan to separate. Especially once you know the industry or location you want to work in. You can start building your network by attending job fairs, conferences, and meetups, as well as through social media. Think about where people in your profession hang out and connect with them there.

7. Waiting too long to apply to positions

Don’t wait until your official military exit to begin applying to civilian jobs. Once you’re 3-5 months out from your transition it’s time to start applying. However, that 90-day mark is when companies will be most receptive to considering you for a particular position.

8. Mistaking activity with progress

Are the steps you’re taking moving your job search forward? If you don’t understand the system, the actions you take might be unproductive. If you’re not getting any traction, take a step back to reassess your efforts and pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.

A Peek Behind the Government Contracting Curtain and Recruiting

Prime Contractors and Subcontractors

It’s helpful to have an awareness of primes and subs if you’re going to build a career in the cleared community. Primes may have direct hiring authority, and work directly with the government agency to manage the contract. Subs team with the primes to staff the contract. Though there is often an extra level of hiring approval needed for subs, typically there is little difference between working for a prime or a sub. Leadership positions often go the prime, and subs sometimes have more flexibility with benefits.

Funded and Contingent Offers

In the cleared community, you might encounter contingent offers. Unlike funded offers, these offers are made before the company has been awarded the contract or funding to be able to hire you for the particular job. This can happen when a company is bidding for a government contract. They want to have people ready to go so they can move forward quickly if they win the contract. Don’t stop looking for work after accepting a contingent offer in case the company doesn’t receive the contract award.

Recruiters, Sourcers and Hiring Managers

In your job search you’ll come across terms like recruiter and hiring manager. Hiring manager is not a job title. This is a person with an ability to hire, but recruitment is not their specialty or everyday job—they are a manager who is hiring for an open position on their team. The job of a sourcer is to build a pool of candidates. Then a recruiter engages and qualifies candidates and works with the hiring manger to fill the role they’re recruiting for. Depending on the size of the company, sourcing and recruiting may be one role or split into two different positions.

“Finding a job where you can succeed and grow is not quick. It depends on your willingness to invest time and energy to learn about yourself, your chosen field, and the values and culture of target employers. This is your future we are discussing – learn as much as you can in the transition process for your own personal success in this next stage of life.”

– Patra Frame, Air Force Veteran and HR Exec


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 12:00 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation