Post Military Career Planning

By Ted Daywalt   

Notice that this is called career planning, not job planning. You find yourself seeking a job. But you should look for that job within the much broader context of what you plan to do with the rest of your life.

Developing a career plan insures that your initial job is helping you work toward a longer-range career objective. In addition, most employers will ask you how the position you are interviewing for ties in with your overall career objective. If your answer is “I don’t know” or “I have not considered a career objective”, then you have probably shot yourself out of the interview.

Career planning takes time and effort. You should develop a career plan at least six to twelve months before the end of your military career. We recommend you start working on your transition plan 12 months before your discharge date. Doing so gives you time to react if your plan identifies obstacles to entering your chosen career field, or uncovers gaps in your educational background or skill set.

In developing your preliminary career plan, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What type(s) of work do you really enjoy doing? What about the work appeals to you?
  • What career or careers will allow you to do the type of work you find enjoyable?
  • What specific jobs within your chosen career field(s) should you apply for?
  • In reference to the specific jobs you intend to apply for, how well qualified are you?
  • How has your military experience, skills and training prepared you for the job(s)?
  • How has any prior civilian work experience helped prepare you for the job(s)?
  • How does your formal education tie in with the job(s) you will be applying for?
  • Do you have any weak areas, in terms of your work experience, skills and education?
  • How can you correct or compensate for any weak areas?
  • What general strengths do you have? How will these benefit your new employer?
  • What geographic restrictions do you want to place on your job search?
  • Are there other restrictions you need to consider? Do you need to consider your spouse’s requirements to also find a job?
  • Are there limitations to the amount of travel you are willing to do?
  • Are there limitations to the amount of time you are willing to spend away from family?
  • Are there limitations on the amount of overtime you are willing to work?
  • Are there certain industries you prefer not to work in?
  • What is your minimum starting salary requirement? What do you think you should receive?
  • For the job(s) you have selected, how will you identify open positions?

If you have difficulty putting together your career plan, you may want to review one or more of the following books:

Does Your Resume Wear Combat Boots? How to Turn Your Military Experience Into a Good Civilian Job Offer by William Fitzpatrick, from Blue Jeans Press. Provides down-to-earth, hard nosed, easy-to-follow advice on career decisions, self marketing, resume writing and job-hunting campaigns. All the information is presented in terms the military person of whatever rank or service can identify with and understand.

From Air Force Blue to Corporate Grey, or From Army Green to Corporate Grey, or From Navy Blue to Corporate Grey, by Carl Savino and Ronald Krannich. These books were specifically written to provide guidance for transitioning military personnel. They provide a wide range of useful information on topics how to identify your skills and abilities to how to conduct research on job opportunities.

What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers by Richard Nelson and Rob Walsh. For more than 25 years, this “Cadillac of job-search books” (“Rocky Mountain News”) has been the best selling book of its kind. Updated and revised annually, “Parachute” is essentially two books in one: a practical manual for job-hunters and a guide for career changers. The 1999 edition includes all the winning features from previous editions, including a three-chapter overview entitled “For the Impatient Job-Hunter”–a summary of everything to help jump-start a career in no time flat!

The New Rules of the Job Search Game by Jackie Larson and Cheri Comstock, from Bob Adams, Inc Publishing. This resource offers sound advice to the highly motivated job seeker. It emphasizes making direct contact with people having hiring authority and others with information of value in dealing with them, e.g., secretaries and competitors. Also explained are techniques for identifying and researching companies worth pursuing. Makes many sound recommendations, such as approaching smaller, fast-growth companies over the more visible Fortune 500 concerns and locating job prospects in a manner similar to an investor researching prospective “hot” companies.

Career Exploration on the Internet from Ferguson Publishing. If you’re having trouble deciding on a career, this book might help. Initially developed to help students learn more about various careers, it contains information on how to access more than 300 web sites containing information about careers ranging from law enforcement to agriculture.

Job Searching Online for Dummies by Pam Dixon from IDG Books Worldwide. Whether you’re casually poking around the Internet for new job opportunities or looking for a full-time position that starts yesterday, you’ll find all the tips, tools, and helpful advice you’ll in this book. Sort through all the cyberchaos of online job search services, from creating electronic resumes and self-promoting Web sites to tracking down the best of the best in online job databases, with these winning strategies from a seasoned online pro.