How To Expand Your Career Transition Opportunities

June 2005


Randall Scasny

I am contacted regularly by military retirees with the following question: I have an MOS that doesn't cross over easily into the civilian work world. Since I see few or no jobs advertised, what should I do?

I think nearly all job-seeking veterans have the above question at one point or another. I know I did eighteen years ago when I sought my first job after serving in the U.S. Navy.

The answer to the question is two-fold. Let's start with job listings.

Advertised jobs depend on business need, supply and demand. When the need arises, a job is advertised. Sometimes, jobs are filled very quickly for specialties in high demand. So, a job hunter must be watchful and apply for jobs when they do arise.

(Note: has a job scout feature that will "deliver" by email newly posted job ads, based on keywords you select. Make sure to take advantage of this useful functionality.)

But when you see no jobs in your home area, the answer to the question is a bit different. To answer it, you have to step back and think about what you are working with.

Ask yourself, "What kind of organizations make up civilian employment?" This is a big question you may not fully be prepared to answer. But it isn't as hard as it looks.

Civilian employment can be described as a system of suppliers, original equipment manufacturers (O.E.Ms) and consumers (Figure 1).

Supplier-OEM Business Model
Figure 1: Civilian employment is a system of suppliers, original equipment manufacturers (O.E.Ms) and consumers.

Suppliers are companies that supply products, materials, sub-components and services to O.E.Ms.

The O.E.M.s make the final products that consumers purchase. For example, Ford makes cars; Dell makes computers; and Whirlpool makes washing machines.

By taking the long view of your skill specialty, you can increase your opportunities by not only looking at O.E.Ms for employment but also the hundreds if not thousands of suppliers that assist O.E.Ms in making their final products.

Let's look at an example.

Last month, I was working with a sonar technician who was in a career transition. He felt there were few jobs advertised for his specialty. While he was receiving interviews, he had found nothing firm.

The logical strategy for him to pursue would be to seek opportunities in the Defense Industry, since that is where his application expertise (and market value) lies. But if he were to see few jobs posted to his satisfaction, he could do a little research and determine which Defense Industry companies deal with Sonar products. Then, monitor these companies and be ready for any opportunities that do come up.

In the meantime, while conducting a job search in Defense Industry companies that deal with sonar solutions, he could simultaneously conduct a job search outside of the Defense industry to expand his opportunities.

The best way to do this is to break down the Sonar Industry into its sub-industry sectors (Figure 2). When we do so, we see that this industry consists of 6 sub-industries, of which, the Defense sector is only one of them.

Sonar Industry and Related Sub-Sectors
Figure 2: A Breakdown the Sonar Industry into its Sub-Industry Sectors.

Each sub-industry sector consists of both O.E.Ms and Suppliers. Taking into account both an industry's sub-sectors as well as the companies that make up a sub-sector, he can greatly expand the possibilities of a career transition.

I know what you are thinking: this is a lot of work!

Yes, it is. It will require some legwork on your part. The Internet is a convenient job search tool for this kind of task.

The added bonus of this research is that you will get to know your target industry much better. You will have information at your fingertips that few job hunters possess; this will make you stand out in a positive light when you do have a job interview.

Finally, and most importantly, you will uncover opportunities you did not know existed.

Good Luck In Your Job Search!

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of or the publisher.