Transitioning Military, Do You Have an Exit Plan

Posted by Pat Tovo

military transition If you are currently serving in the military, you are engaged with an important day-to-day work schedule. But it’s important to start planning now for your entry into the civilian workforce. Your strategic plan should begin 15-18 months before you leave service. By taking control of your career strategy now you should be able to eliminate many of the challenges of the transition.

Consider this guideline and timetable for your transition:

15 – 18 months in advance think about your goals. Ask yourself…

  • What industries interest you?
  • Do you have a specific job title in mind?
  • If you imagine your dream job what would it be?
  • Will you need more education or credentials and certifications?
  • What salary level will you seek?
  • Will there be down time between service and the new job search?
  • What is your available start date?
  • Geography – in what part of the world would you like to live?

While you are thinking about the answers to these questions, take advantage of the wealth of information available on the internet. You can research industries and specific job duties, get familiar with jobs in demand, learn about educational requirements and develop an understanding of which companies have robust career opportunities.

You should also get familiar with what goes into creating a strong resume. Start preparing a chronological blueprint of your work and military history. Compile information on education, training, clearances, certifications, languages, accomplishments and awards. Start maintaining a journal of all activities that will provide solid background info for your resume.

Begin compiling a list of supervisors’ names along with thinking about colleagues who can provide references. Make notes of former supervisors and coworkers who will make good networking contacts during the transition period.

Start to think about your social and professional networking opportunities. Research associations you can join and business communities that match your goals. Begin building your profile on LinkedIn and appropriate military sites.

Create an online library of valuable resources that you discover during your research. You can bookmark important sites and pull documents into a digital file folder.

Draft your elevator speech. This refers to a short (:15-:20 seconds) recap of your goals and skills. It’s important to start working on this now because it will morph over time as you get more confident in your strengths and zero in on your goals. Plus you need to get so familiar with it that you become very comfortable and natural using it at appropriate times which can pop up at any moment.

Research the markets where you think you would like to live. City and chamber of commerce sites can give you valuable information on climate, job opportunities, industries, schools, higher education, culture and recreation. This will help you determine which cities are most desirable for you, but keep in mind that depending on the area, they may or may not have the jobs you want.

5 – 12 months out begins the action phase

  • Zero in on the industries and companies that feel like a good fit for you. Do more background research on these organizations and determine how your skills could be desirable for them.
  • Collect job descriptions from current postings and analyze patterns in hiring trends. Decide if you will need to get further certifications for the current demands.
  • Gather details on influential employees at companies that interest you and use LinkedIn and other networking tools to find out of you have connections to these people. If so follow those leads and try to set up informational interviews.
  • Draft a resume and run it by a trusted colleague for input and proofreading.
  • Create your profile on ClearedJobs.Net and post your polished resume.
  • Write a networking email that outlines your goals, qualifications, and employment timeframe. Begin sending out to networking contacts.
  • Start researching recruiters for your industry and begin making contact. You can do this via email, letter or phone calls. It’s important to build these relationships. Be prepared to talk about goals, skills, certifications/education/training, location, industry, job title, availability and salary.
  • Participate in a military transition program offered by your base where you will learn to refine all the strategic elements you have been working on.

1 – 5 months out is launch time

  • Develop your list of references and let them know you are beginning your search. Keep them informed of your progress throughout the process.
  • Shop for your interview wardrobe. Even in today’s casual world you need to show up at interviews in professional attire looking neat and clean.
  • Finalize your resume and start circulating it. Step up your networking efforts. Keep practicing your elevator speech. Attend association and industry events.
  • Make sure your online profile and telephone recording reflect a professional image.
  • Search job boards and company websites on a regular basis. Join Twitter and follow companies where you’d like to work. Often openings are posted here before they go to career sites.
  • When applying for jobs, target your resume and cover letter to the specific position. Be sure to use key words associated with the posting.
  • Ask a friend to put you through a mock interview. Practice makes perfect. Become familiar with corporate and industry lingo which will be very different from military speak. Be careful to avoid military language on interviews.
  • Be knowledgeable about salary ranges for your skills and industry. Get comfortable asking for an amount you feel you deserve. But be flexible relative to opportunity and benefits.
  • Accept all interviews. Follow up with everyone you met reiterating your interest and qualifications. Keep a log of all interviews, contact details and position you applied for. If you didn’t get this job, maintain appropriate contact expressing interest in future opportunities.


Stay positive and focused. The job search can be lengthy and frustrating but you need to keep your eye on the goal. When in doubt, take a deep breath, but jump back in.

Throughout your job search know that your training, skills and experience will make you a terrific candidate for many organizations. Move forward with confidence. You got this.

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 Wednesday, January 31, 2018 3:17 pm

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