What Do You Really Want to do Next

Posted by Patra Frame
World War I Victory Medal
World War I Victory Medal

May is National Military Appreciation Month. Each day this month we highlight articles to aid transitioning military in their job search and stories to honor our nation’s veterans.

At every ClearedJobs.Net Cleared Job Fair, as well as other events, I talk with transitioning military folks who do not really know what they want to do next.

Many have some idea. Some have very specific plans. But a large number do not have a clear, specific focus. Certainly when I left the USAF, I knew what I wanted to do, but not how my chosen field really worked in the civilian world, so I understand this difficulty.

But if you want to find an opportunity in any reasonable time, you need to start focusing long before you are ready to actually become a civilian.

A lack of focus is common among job seekers, as any recruiter will tell you.  But it is especially tough for folks who have lived in the rather tight world of the military, or who have long years in any one organization. And that often leads to several short job stints and limited success in the first few years after leaving – not what any of us really want!


Whether you want to do the same work in the civilian world which you do in the military, or you are looking at different options, start with research.

– Look at the types of jobs which interest you and see what requirements are most common now.

– If you are unsure what work that is or you want a comprehensive overview of any field, check out the Riley Guide. It has links to all sorts of career information.  (

– Find the professional and trade associations that are relevant to your interests and read everything they offer on the careers, companies, trends, and issues of the field.

– Build your network of support. Talk to people you know for leads and build your online presence and use it to find people. Those who already do the work you seek can offer you inside information and ideas – learn from them.

Know what you want to do next?  If it is the same career field as your current work, your path may be easier, but you still have to learn (or re-learn) the civilian options.

– If you are in a metropolitan area, find the local professional organizations and go to some meetings to learn about current topics and to meet people in the field.

– If you work with contractors, take time to talk to them about how they got into their careers and what they like and dislike. Ask them about the companies in the field.

– Check your knowledge and understanding with a lot of research too! Today it is easy to do much of this on the web but always add networking and talking to real people in the field! Social media can certainly help you connect with them.

Next Steps

Not sure what your next step is? Think about the things you like to do and find jobs which require those skills and interests.

One way is to plug a few key interests into a big job board, like Monster, or a more specific site like ClearedJobs.Net. You could do a search on GIS or executive security or data analysis or human resources and look at a lot of the jobs that come up.

See which ones tend to sound most interesting to you and then study them: what are the mandatory requirements that are most common, who is hiring, etc.

Another way is to talk to folks you know well and see what ideas they have about your strengths or potential jobs and then check those out. Or ask your college or alumni career center for help.  Don’t forget the services your local transition center offers either. Then branch out to find the professional groups in the field which looks best and read about what is currently important.

As you begin to focus on the types of work which interest you and the organizations which offer such work, start building your own list of what you are seeking. A matrix of what is really important and what you might trade off makes both the selection of potential fields and actual jobs much easier. You might think about what you love about the work you are currently doing and what is not so good. Add in the intangible things you get from your work which you value; examples might include respect, travel, education/training, mentoring, helping others.

When you find the most interesting options, you can begin to build the job search that will get you into the job that is really what you want to do. You can create the resume that shows your past achievements in terms of the future jobs you want. And you will be a much better candidate than so many others.

Good hunting!

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 Thursday, May 03, 2012 7:48 am

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