As I look back over my nine years on MOAA’s career transition team, I marvel at the consistency in the best practices we have recommended over the years. Perhaps I should not be surprised; there is no “secret sauce” when it comes to career transition.
The best practices for a smooth transition represent measured, straightforward advice. Like any other challenging endeavor, transition is just a matter of knowing what you want to accomplish and determining the necessary steps to get there.
1. Networking Is King
The nonstop refrain to “network, network, network!” is touted so often because it works. Leveraging your network is the best way to learn about opportunities. It may feel like a foreign concept to those who have been on active duty, where networking isn’t required to get your next job. In the private sector, however, networking is widely practiced because it helps both sides: Job seekers get an inside track on unannounced positions, and employers get a much more targeted pool of candidates thanks to referrals. This makes networking the single most important aspect of your job search.
“My success getting hired really comes down to networking,” said Kelly Pickett, a military spouse who is now the chief of command information in the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys public affairs office in South Korea. “I walked into the office where I was interested in working and introduced myself to the supervisor. … I put myself out there and talked to him about my experience and skills in DoD public affairs. I leveraged my communication skills to let him know I was the right person to hire. By the end of the conversation, he asked me to send him my résumé.”
2. Tailored Résumés
Easily the most common issue I consistently see in résumés is a lack of specific skills and abilities. The emphasis is usually on the positions and organizations in which the candidate worked, but that’s not what grabs the reader.
It’s a matter of focus: Do your résumé’s bullets focus on you or on the job you held? In an effective résumé, your skills are your superpower and should be the star of your bullets.
[WEBINAR ARCHIVE: Résumé Advice and Much More (Premium/Life Member Login Required]
3. Fabulous LinkedIn
Gone are the days when I would stand in front of an audience and get blank, uncomprehending stares when I talked about LinkedIn. As the largest professional online network — over 770 million professionals worldwide — LinkedIn is a very deep and very wide pool of talent for companies and recruiters, which is why they consistently flock to it.
Want to be found by employers? Ensure your profile is complete, especially the skills section, and build a large, diverse network of contacts. Make it easy for employers to find you.
[RELATED: MOAA on LinkedIn]
4. Interview Preparation
I grew accustomed to incredulous smirks when recounting tales of interviews gone wrong: Cellphones going off, folks implying they wanted an “easy, kick-back job,” others who were unable to give even a basic description of what the company does. It’s precisely why some job seekers get tripped up — they assume the ridiculous can’t happen to them.
It’s natural to be nervous during an interview, but the way to avoid interview disasters is simply to prepare.
5. Salary Negotiation
It’s common to see new job seekers who focus solely on salary, and that’s a rookie mistake. It is critical to carefully consider the overall compensation package; benefits can be up to 30% of the total value. Even with an enviable military pension under your belt, there are real opportunities to significantly increase your financial footing through a robust employee benefits package — think an employer match for the 401(k). Do your research well before you transition.
Yes, in many ways this advice represents the “same old, same old,” but you can take comfort in the consistency of what makes for a successful job search.
The dedicated team of career transition specialists at MOAA can help by providing one-on-one career transition guidance and support across all facets of your journey. Take advantage of this amazing benefit provided as part of your paid MOAA membership!
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