Transition is defined as a process or period of changing from one state or condition to another. There may be no greater challenge than transitioning from a life in the military to a life in corporate America. While many of us relish the opportunity and look forward to the change in lifestyle, there are many challenges. There are multiple avenues to take in your transition aside from utilizing a recruiting firm. A solid, simple, and structured strategy will help a Junior Military Officer navigate the complicated and stressful path to a new career. I have read numerous helpful plans on LinkedIn and other publications that have helped me in my transition. Using the knowledge I have obtained from my experiences. I think that these five steps of self discovery, building your corporate knowledge, connecting your knowledge to your unique skills, networking, and targeted job hunting are a blueprint for a successful transition. I hope this article helps simplify the approach a Junior Military Officer (JMO) takes to transitioning and enable veterans to have a smooth, efficient, and enjoyable transition to a new life in corporate America.
1. Know Yourself – Self Discovery: Now is the time to take a pause in your life and reflect on your experiences to determine who you are. Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Career Leader Career Assessment help identify your personal characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. Reach out to trusted peers to solicit honest feedback as to your strengths and weaknesses. You can even sit back with a beer in hand and talk to friends, family, or your significant other to discuss who you really are and where you want to be. No matter what avenue you choose, it is important to invest some serious time in getting to know yourself before you begin to navigate the competitive corporate landscape. The more time and effort you put into this beginning phase of your transition, the better prepared you will be in interviews and accurately determine where your fit is in corporate America. Take some time to not only recognize what your strengths/weaknesses are, but also think about what makes you happy, what you’re passionate about, and what will provide you with personal satisfaction on a daily basis in your next career. Before you begin to look at the industries and companies that best fit your interests and goals, fully understand who you are and what you are passionate about.
- Myers-Briggs Personality Test
- Deloitte Core Leadership Program
- Leveraging Military Leadership Program
- Career Leader Career Assessment
- Four Block
I also recommend having deep conversations with those who know you best to discuss who you are, where you might want to go, and how best to get there.
2. Corporate Knowledge – Educate Yourself: Once you’ve defined who you are, it’s time to explore what opportunities exist in corporate America. There’s no better place to start than Google – much like Vince Vaughn did in the movie, The Internship. If you take an interest in an industry, Google it, and see where your curiosity takes you. As your search narrows, you will begin to realize the existing network you have with people in certain industries. This was a key revelation during my transition. I reached out to people I had not spoken to in years because I knew they were in an industry of interest to me. I learned that no group of people are more genuinely supportive of veterans than other veterans. Veterans you hardly know will be more than willing to provide you with insight and advice while having no agenda and no expectation in return. This means that you have a massive network of individuals that can provide knowledge on a variety of industries. Do not be afraid to reach out to people for informational interviews or just normal conversations to discuss the many opportunities corporate America has to offer. LinkedIn is a vital resource for finding veterans within companies or industries of interest to you. This is also a great time to expand your business knowledge through reading. Subscribe to magazines like Fortune, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal as well as monitor business-specific discussion boards on the internet. Finally, find a reading list that resonates with you to develop your corporate competence. The reading list detailed below is a great place to start. There are numerous books that provide great insight into the corporate environment as well as books that specifically guide veterans in transition. You can research as intensively as time allows but your goal during this phase is to acquire some basic corporate knowledge.
Lynda.com is a library of over 4,000 business classes across every major industry. Utilize the Free Job Seeker account and Lynda.com subscription at https://veterans.linkedin.com/ to gain free access for 12 months to build your business acumen. Your first stop in Lynda.com is to take the LinkedIn for Veterans course led by Greg Call to learn how to leverage LinkedIn.
Ultimately, I found that the more time and energy you put into this phase, the better prepared you will be in interviews and the more likely you will be to recognize a good corporate fit.
Internet: Google, Linkedin.com, Lynda.com, Business Insider, Tech Crunch, Investopedia
Magazine: Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal
Books: PCS to Corporate A merica Roger Cameron, Chuck Alvarez, and Joel Junker; Good to Great and Bu ilt to Last by Jim Collins; The Goal by Eli Goldratt; Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; The McKinsey Way by Ethan Rasiel; Reinventing You by Dori Clark; Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni; What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan; Developing a Business Case by Harvard Business School Press; Seeing the Bi g Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company by Kevin Cope; The Challenger Sale By Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.
3. Connect – Match your knowledge to your skills and aspirations: Now that you have a better idea of who you are and what opportunities exist, it is time to connect the dots. Take what you have learned from personality tests and discussions to develop career themes. These are action words that describe what your core strengths and interests are and match those themes to industry themes you have researched (ie. resilient, being decisive, strong work ethic, etc.). After researching what corporate America has to offer, you now have a basic understanding of what characteristics each industry typically looks for in its employees. Remember the themes you develop are not just based on what your résumé states and what skills you currently have. Use themes that represent your passion. If the industry and positions that you’ve been researching don’t match with your personal themes, there most likely isn’t a fit. Below are some examples to help formulate your connections of personal and corporate themes.
4. Network – Connect with those that can help: Networking is the act of interacting with people to exchange information and develop contacts, usually to further one’s career. Now that you have narrowed your scope and identified two to three specific industries that are a fit for you, it’s time to challenge your assumptions through conversations with people in those industries. As I previously mentioned in the Corporate Knowledge section, you already have access to a large network of talented, experienced, and knowledgeable veterans in various industries. Now extract that network’s value.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool to professionally connect with those whom you think can assist you in transition. As aforementioned in the Corporate Knowledge section, leverage the free premium job seeker membership. Simply search a company of interest to you on LinkedIn and immediately individuals associated with your network and that firm will be listed. Browse the list and connect with those that you feel can provide you with the information you’re looking for. Send an Inmail message to introduce yourself and state why you’re connecting.
Attending popular veteran programs help to expand your network – especially with those also in transition. One vital aspect of expanding your professional network is to seek out prospective mentors. Now is a tremendous time in your life to seek out mentors to advise you in making responsible and sensible decisions as you navigate your path to a new career. Step out of your comfort zone and simply ask prospective mentors you come into contact with to take you on as a mentee. As you progress through the networking process, look to refine your industry and specific career search to build the foundation of a career long network. Even if you connect with people who aren’t necessarily in the industry that you want to break into, take the opportunity to learn from their experiences as it could prove invaluable.
POSSIBLE RESOURCES: LinkedIn.com, Deloitte Core Leadership Program, Veterati , TopBlocked, Leveraging Military Leadership Program.
5. The Hunt – Seek out and Interview for desired positions: Now with career goal clarity, it is time to hunt down the opportunities and roles that are most aligned with your personality and aspirations. Attending various hiring conferences is an excellent way to get face-to-face interactions with corporate recruiters and possibly get your foot in the door with companies you desire. If this is the path you wish to take to employment, there are over a dozen recruiting firms that hold numerous hiring conferences throughout the year. Information about specific companies and industries attending these conferences is easy to find via conference-specific websites. For military academy graduates, the Association of Graduates has its own hiring conference multiple times a year known as the Service Academy Career Conference (SACC). Having a fellow alumni support network is a bonus for academy graduates. This fosters a more comfortable hiring conference environment and may enable you to better present yourself to prospective employers. Hiring conferences are extremely beneficial because you are able to have face-to-face interactions with companies and usually can utilize these events to find your employer even if you are on a short timeline. Although these conferences are very beneficial, they may not all have the specific career or company you desire.
Veteran programs such as Tech Qualled and Vet Force develop corporate competency that can serve as a pathway to employment. Both programs are geared towards tech sales. Tech Qualled’s mission is prepare you for a career in IT, consulting, or sales account executive. If you’ve narrowed down your search to a career in sales and have a high interest in the high tech space, these are great programs to get involved with.
The other option is to utilize your network to pursue initial interviews. Approximately 70% of Fortune’s top companies hire the majority of their employees through internal referrals. This gives credence to the old adage, “it’s all about who you know”. Use your resources to navigate your way to an initial phone screening and if potential is identified, move forward from there.
The bottom line is that it comes down to the interview, regardless if you pursue an opportunity through a conference or individual networking. Many people have different opinions on best interviewing practices and you can research all the different methods in great detail utilizing some of the resources I have previously mentioned. I also encourage you to follow Liz Ryan as an influencer on LinkedIn. She is the founder and CEO of Human Workplace as well as a Forbes contributor who continually writes about job seeking and resume writing. Most notably, her articles in Forbes about writing a “Human-Voiced Resume” and a “Pain Letter” are insightful in structuring your strategy to employment.
Ultimately, I have found two fundamental aspects that have helped me immensely in the interview process. First, be yourself. Most companies are able to clearly identify disingenuous individuals and will not hire someone that has canned / rehearsed interview answers. Utilize your interviewing to confirm or deny your assumptions about the culture and fit of the companies you’re interviewing with. If you are disingenuous and get the job offer, how are you sure this is the right fit for you? Lay the foundation by being the best and most professional version of yourself and confirm if this is the right opportunity for you. Secondly, practice will make you near perfect. I say “near perfect” because the pursuit of the perfect interview can drive people to rehearse canned answers. The more you practice interviewing, the more natural and comfortable you become when interviewing. I recommend finding two or three other JMOs and start an interview prep group. Meet once a week leading up to your interviews to practice, share, and help each other improve. Be mindful that interviewing is not a one-time event. We will continuously interview for other positions and promotions as we progress in our careers. Starting to improve your interview skills now not only aids you in your transition but will serve you well throughout your career. Utilize what you’ve learned about yourself and corporate America as well as your network to hunt down the opportunities you desire. This may be the most stressful phase but if you have taken the time to know who you are and what you really want, you will find the right fit.
Irrespective of your timeline, transitioning can be very challenging and stressful. Spend time exploring yourself and opportunities to ensure that you are on the right track. Utilize your existing network and expand it with other JMOs and veterans in your industry of interest. Hunt down the opportunities you desire with confidence as you should already know who you want to be and have a great professional network to leverage. Finally, I believe the below spheres of influence should be decision-making criteria to rank order as you see fit. Weight the spheres that are more important to your unique situation and decipher which opportunities are best for you. Below is my personal example.
Special thank you to the Deloitte CORE Leadership Program and staff in Dallas, Texas. Most of the knowledge I have attained and passed on was either presented to me when I attended the program or inspired from the program’s instructors.
Thank you to Scott Schreiber, a fellow JMO from my interview prep team and my editor who contributed greatly with his sales-focused insights as well as how to leverage LinkedIn and Lynda.com. I still believe that your mock interviews were more challenging than any I have experienced in corporate America. Your input greatly aided me in developing a quality product to pass onto other JMOs.
Finally, thank you to the now hundreds of veterans that I received advice from during my transition. Some are friends, some past acquaintances, and others current mentors, but all helped educate and inspire me on a road to what I consider a successful transition.