For many transitioning veterans discovering what industry to pursue a career in can be a complicated and frustrating endeavor. You are not alone. Common questions that probably run through your head are: what would I be good at in the civilian world? Where can I make the most money? What industry has the best opportunity for career growth? What if I choose something I hate?
If you’re anything like me the majority of your professional career was spent in the military, and you just aren’t sure. Some folks have a clear picture of the industry and career they wish to pursue as they exit the military. However, I would argue the majority of us transitioning are unsure and question what line of work we will be most happy and successful in. Recent US Chamber of Commerce data shows that veterans leaving active duty will change employers twice in the first three years out of uniform. The underlying cause, compensation levels, I believe can be partly attributed to an individual choosing the wrong industry to work in. “Success” is going to look a little different for each of us. However, I’d like to discuss a few ways that will help you along the path of choosing the best industry for you.
One step along this path to clarity is utilizing a career assessment tool. An example of an assessment I would recommend is Career Leader (www.careerleader.com). I was fortunate enough to be able to utilize this tool for free through my MBA program at Wake Forest University. For an individual it can be a little pricey at $95, but in the big picture of your career decision this can be an invaluable tool. After completing the assessment you receive a 20-page report listing your top interests, motivators, and skills. Through these three criteria you are given career matches that fit best with your results compared to other business professionals. This tool is not an end all be all, but it will give you a starting point. If you don’t want to dish out that kind of money, do a little online research on your own and I am confident you will find something that will work for you.
A second tool is the best-selling book Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. This book is recommended and used by Alliance, a JMO recruiting firm, in order to identify an individual’s strengths that make them stand out. With the book you will receive an access code to complete an online assessment that will determine your top strengths. Use these results to gain a better picture of what industry fits your respective strengths.
A third and most important tool is recognizing other business professionals around you. During my transition I failed to initially recognize all the resources around me in the people I know. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge within your network. The first step is getting over your fear of vulnerability and picking up the phone and start asking others for advice and guidance. It’s OK to admit you don’t know everything. The military instills in us this sense of invulnerability, and we may feel weak if we reach out to others for advice or help. Move past this, and I guarantee you won’t regret it. You will be amazed how many people out there will be willing to talk to you about their experiences.
Lastly, I would encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself the following questions. What does success look like for me? What is most important in a career? What am I most passionate about in life? Often times we get so caught up in chasing a dream or idea that we fail to take that “tactical pause” and evaluate where we are and where we want to go. Be sure to include your spouse and family in this process of discovery as well.
As you join me in this journey always remember to capitalize on each experience or position you find yourself in. Ultimately, you may not find yourself in the “perfect” industry or job, but rolling over and giving up is not the answer. Find something of value in your current position and make the best of it. Maybe you could go back to school, earn a new certification, or develop a new skill. I am often reminded of a quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr: “Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” Never stop learning and never stop growing.
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