1. Take care of yourself and stay healthy. Now, this may seem like your traditional new year’s resolution, but of course there is a military twist. Yes, we all know we are more productive when we eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. But as a transitioning service member, make sure you get your health check-ups while you are still in. Remember, once you’re out, you may be paying for health care for the first time and those trips to “sick call” will not be free anymore. This is also important if you were injured while in the service, and may need health care from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. If an injury or condition is not in your medical records, you will be hard-pressed to get help from the VA.
2. Learn something new. You may begin your transition process and discover new areas of interest. Taking some online classes, watching TED talks, or attending the local university may be a good way for you to explore those opportunities. See if they really fit you before taking a job. Any formal certification will help bolster your resume and improve your candidate profile.
3. Learn more about what I want to do when I grow up. Now is the perfect time for some thorough introspection. What makes you come alive? What are you doing when you are genuinely happy? Maybe take some time at the end of the day to think about your favorite parts of that day. What about these activities made you happy? You spend plenty of your life at work, and this transition is a great opportunity for you to move into a career that makes you happy. The military has told you what to do and how to do it for so long that understanding who you are and what you love may be a lot harder than it sounds.
4. Try out different career opportunities. You may benefit from shadowing someone in the industry you are interested in. Only after going into the office or talking with people who do various lines of work was I able to clearly see what made me genuinely happy. A certain opportunity may seem outside the realm of possibilities, but understanding what you don’t want to do is almost as important as figuring out what you do want.
5. Explore all your opportunities. Most service members I have worked with say they want to go into project management, operations, or HR. The problem is that this desire is incredibly vague. There are people who have worked in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and transportation for years, and those people progress into those operational roles. It would be helpful to better understand which of these industries are interesting to you and learn more about the specifics related to each industry or sector.
6. Stay positive. Admittedly, there will be dark days. Some days, you will second-guess your decision to get out of the military. Some days, you will second-guess your skill set. Remember, for every “no” you receive and every email that isn’t responded to, it is all for the greater good. I can say that I didn’t get the number one job I wanted. I am incredibly thankful for this. There will be brighter days and there will be other opportunities.
7. Build your inner circle. No one got to the top by themselves. Keep a close group of friends and contacts that you can depend on during this confusing time. Share your lessons learned with your fellow transitioning service members. Keep each other accountable, challenge each other, and be there for each other.
8. Focus on your strengths. You have all the generic strengths of a service member—you show up on time, you work hard, you are organized and efficient you are disciplined, physically and mentally tough. These qualities are the same characteristics civilian employers are looking for. With that, it is important to identify what you are uniquely good at. What separates you from the pack? Focus on what you are good at and work on becoming the best at that one thing.
9. Pinch pennies. You will inevitably have unforeseen expenses when you transition, such as a new wardrobe. You may have to move or you may go some amount of time before It is the beginning of a new year. Another chance to turn over a new leaf, make some changes and envision the life you want to lead. This is especially true for a service member looking to make the transition to civilian life in 2016. To get you thinking about your plans, goals, dreams and aspirations for this next year, here are 16 New Year’s resolutions for the service member transitioning to civilian life in 2016.
10. Learn how to network. The most common advice I received during my transition was to network. The problem was that I had no idea how to network. My approach was to join Meet Up and attend meetings that were titled “Networking”. That was a great idea, with poor return on investment. Instead, I now believe that effective networking involves leveraging and building on your existing social network. The best “networking” opportunities I found came from asking for mentorship and advice from people I respected.
11. Tell everyone you know that you are transitioning. You never know where your big break may happen. Make sure you are telling all your friends and family that you are leaving the military and looking for work. You would be surprised how many people will rise to the challenge to help you find opportunities or at least help you better understand what you may want to do.
12. Stay organized. Your life will get chaotic. You will have phone calls, a busy military work schedule, e-mails, and interviews while you are still trying to figure out what want to do with your life. At some point making this big leap of faith may seem overwhelming. Keep notes from all your meetings and keep your calendar up to date.
13. Dedicate yourself to this effort. During the transition, you may feel pulled in a million directions and will still have a lot of requirements to fulfill at work. This may require exceptional discipline to make sure you are giving your transition the full amount of time and effort it requires. Your first job out of the military sets the stage for your career progression. Your career will take its turns along the way but this is a big chance. Make sure to prioritize your transition and dedicate plenty of time to that effort.
14. Manage your time appropriately. I can Pinterest with the best of them. But when you are dealing with competing priorities, you may need to find ways to cutyour next paycheck. Plan for that financially. When budgeting, take into consideration what your post-taxes paycheck will look like.
15. Pay attention to all the benefits and opportunities that exist. Understand the benefits of transferring your life insurance. Do you want to stay in the reserves? I did my best to pay attention and still feel like there are things I missed. Do as much as you can while you are on active duty and have the time and resources you need. Gather all your administrative documents, file your disability paperwork, and update your ORB/ERB. Appreciate the power and capability of veterans’ non-profit organizations. They can do everything from helping you prepare and file disability claims to mentorship and job search help.
16. Take some time for you. I will admit it was a big difference when I went from working 0600-1800 to 9-5. This is a great time for you to take a breather and enjoy your life. I took a family vacation during my terminal leave and it was a great way for me to relax before I began my new job. There will be a temptation to start work the Monday after you sign out on terminal leave. If it’s a make-or-break issue on a job offer, do it. If not, take some time to enjoy being a civilian. It’s called “terminal leave” for a reason.
Though this may seem rather prescriptive, your transition out of the military is all about you. There is no one size fits all. Use all the resources at your disposal. Leverage your existing personal network. Give it all you can. Enjoy the journey. Best of luck in 2016!
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