Basic Training: The 3C's of Military Career Transitions

Basic training.jpgSo you are about to retire after a successful 20-year career in the U.S. military. Maybe you have just attended a TAP seminar. It was informative, useful and opened your eyes.

But in your deepest thoughts you admit to yourself that this career transition is a tougher egg to crack than you had thought.

To soften the career transition landing, use this model to both understand and structure how you prepare for your transition. The model, the 3C's of Military Career Transitions, maps the stages of a transition.

The best way to understand the 3C's is to illustrate the stages:

Imagine a pyramid with three levels. The foundation of a career transition are your credentials. The middle stage focuses on the communication of your credentials and professional experience. The final and most important (and time consuming) stage focuses on the actual job hunt: where your skills are needed, what employer needs them, and how to market yourself so you are competitive.

Let's discuss each stage in detail:

CREDENTIALS: All transitions begin with credentials. If you don't have the skills, you aren't even in the game! On top of having the basic certifications, degrees, etc., highly skilled military veterans need to address any "skill gaps" they may possess. Most of the traditional vets career counseling agencies (ex. the VA) provide a lot of useful information to show you how or where to get certified. A visit to the Veteran's Administration website is both informative and a useful place to start.

In addition, you should, if possible, complete a degree program. College degrees are one of many ways employers use to prune down a list of potential job candidates.

If you don't have a degree, you may want to research institutions that offer "life experience" credit. Your military training and experience may qualify you for 1 to 2 years (nearly an associate degree) of credit.

One last thing: technology certifications offered by Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Should you get them or not? For some positions, these are an advantage. But the truth is that a degree in computer science is much preferred to these tech certifications. So, don't rely solely on these certs to credential you for a job.

COMMUNICATION: After transitioners credential themselves and fill in any skill gaps, they must communicate those skills by creating job search documents (resume and cover letters) that everyone can understand and aren't cluttered with incomprehensible military jargon that non-DoD companies will not understand. Most service providers--public, private and independent--fit into this category.

One of the biggest problems of military retirees is when they attempt to write their job search documents on their own. What typically results are documents that are overburdened with military jargon and lack the detail and the common keywords that will hold up to computer database searches by hiring managers. Another shortcoming is retirees write summary or functional resumes that read more like a c.v. (a lifelong career and accomplishment record) than a qualification brief that describes your distinct skills and qualifications for a position.

Rarely do civilians hire based only on a lifelong career record. Rather, they have a particular position to fill with specific requirements and are seeking those individuals who are a match. So, focused, market-targeted resumes are necessary to compete. If you have several career area skills (technical-training-supervisory), then create a resume for each area and conduct three simultaneous job hunt campaigns.

Unfortunately, having good credentials and an excellent resume do not guarantee that an employer will find a transitioner in a computer database search or demonstrate interest in a candidate. Why? There are just too many job hunters out there. And too many jobs get 10, 50, 100 resumes! So, the final and most important step of the career transition pyramid is Competition.

COMPETITION: At this level, you have to ask yourself, "What industry or company needs my skills? Where can I stand out from the other job candidates? Where can I bring the most value to an employer? Asking yourself these questions will help you focus your job hunt on what skills of yours are most competitive in the jobs marketplace. It will help you focus on what industry and companies need you most.

Competition is The Forgotten C

If one were to poll the service providers of military career transitions, one would likely find that most of them operate "directly" on Levels 1 and 2 and some of them operate "implicitly" on Level 3.

Few operate directly on Level 3, Competition. Why is Level 3 the forgotten C?

I believe this is primarily do to (1) first need, first solution and (2) the nature of recruiting. Let's discuss these points:

1. First Need, First Solution: most military veterans perceive that to start a career transition they need a resume. So, the transitioners themselves view that the resume-need is the primary solution to their problem. They don't even think about competition.

2. Nature of Recruiting: headhunters are essentially "sales" organizations. They understand the current market need and seek out candidates that fill that need. Hence, they deal with competition in respect to their business clients--only. A good example of need is a top secret security clearance. Job candidates with these clearances are in high demand so headhunters eagerly seek out these people.

But headhunters do not work with every kind of transitioner. They specialize in certain types of industries or skills. So, the competitive forces of the marketplace lead them to take on certain types of transitioners. Thus, headhunters implicitly deal with competition.

Transitioners who are not quickly hired in the job market or who do not have the "hot" skills that recruiters can market to their clients, must deal with their competitiveness in order to have an effective job hunt campaign.

To deal with the Competitive "C" you must realize that your career transition only begins with a resume and cover letter. These documents are only "tools" that are used by you to carve a unique and competitive place in the jobs marketplace. Once you have done that, you will be attractive to employers and your hiring appeal will become very apparent.

Good Luck In Your Job Search!

By:Randall Scasny

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.

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