I have just under three weeks left of my transition leave before I wake up a civilian for the first time in over 20 years.  So far, the transition from soldier to civilian has been pretty easy; I have been so busy that I have not had a whole lot of time to wallow in what is soon to be my past life.  I was very fortunate to land not one, but two jobs and have been putting in the hours ever since.

There are many detractors and naysayers about what the Army provides transitioning service members, but I am not one of them.  I thought that all along the way, there were things that I needed to do, that I was provided a rough outline to accomplish.  Other than a few mandatory checkpoints along the way, I was able to pick and choose when and what I would follow.  Even if there was something I chose not to do, I at least gave it a once over in case I needed to take advantage of it later.  The one experience I will have to wait on is my VA compensation, that will be a few months into the new year before I get even the tiniest insight as to how that will go.

I managed to pick up a ton of skills over the years and the key to landing my positions was putting it together coherently in my resumes and tailoring them to the positions I was looking at.  There may be a similar thread throughout any one of the resumes I sent out, but they were all organized with the language of the position I was applying for.  I am not so naive as to think that I have found my dream job, with a dream company, but I have entered the field I want to pursue, even though prior to I had no idea that was what I was looking for.  I am enjoying learning the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection discipline and I am coming to realize that it has as many possibilities available as my career in the Army did.  There are so many areas of interest within it that just like my prior career, you get trained for one thing and the next thing you know it is time to look at the next area.  I look forward to moving from novice to journeyman.

A few bits of advice for those looking to start or are in the transition process:

1.  Outside of rare instances, your resume alone will not get you hired.  It will open the door, but it is up to you to walk through it and let them know you  are who they are looking for.

2.  Organize your job searches.  Keep track of who you applied to and when.  Make sure you know which resume you sent to them.  Windows computers provide this neat thing called a file structure, use it to your advantage.

3.  Follow-up any interview with a Thank You letter.  It pays dividends.

4.  A good cover letter attached to your resume will fill in the blanks and add a personal (not too personal) touch.  A resume is a statement of fact, cold, possibly a little embellished, but it is a dry read.  A cover letter adds a sense of YOU to it.

5.  Do not be afraid to ask for a critique or explanation if you are not hired for a job.  Some companies are kind enough to send you a rejection letter without being called in for an interview.  Use this as another opportunity and ask to speak with the HR department.  Explain you are just transitioning, ask for what you could have done differently, then make those adjustments and re-apply; this lets them know you are serious and it answers a few of the questions for them they may have when you score that interview.

6. Do your research before the interview.  Make sure you understand who you are applying to and frame your answers to their questions based on their culture and philosophy.

7.  Dress the part.  Wear a suit and tie.  The right image from the get-go lets them know that you may be coming in low, but you intend to rise to the top.

8.  When applying do not put in salary requirements on the application, especially if they are not advertising a range in the announcement.  Let it work itself out in the interview/hiring process.  I received a couple quick rejections on applications because I was putting salary in, as soon as I stopped putting it in, I received more call-backs.

9.  Do not under-value yourself, but do not value yourself out of a field you want to work in either.  It is a fine line for us service members.  We have tons more management experience than most professional managers in the civilian world, but we are breaking in to fields that are new to us.  Even good managers and interviewers can feel threatened by a potential new hire.  Use your savvy, be aware of your surroundings and who you are taking to, and most importantly how you are talking to them.

10.  Assume the interview began the moment you parked your car and that it does not end until you are well out of sight of the building.  Always present yourself in a professional manner.  To paraphrase my last job “assessment is an everyday event”.  Be relaxed, just not too relaxed, be sure but not cocky, if you do not know an answer, at least make them think you will find it out.  The biggest thing is to leave a great impression and make them wonder where else in the company could your bad-ass self do wonders for them.  Don’t be a one trick pony.

These are just a few things to pass along while my mind is still fresh, and keep in mind these apply to someone who is actively seeking on their own, it is a whole different ballgame if you are being actively recruited for a position.  There are no universal rules for landing a job, but there are a few constants.  The biggest one to remember is that it is all up to you, no one owes you anything and no matter how irreplaceable you were in you last job, you are going to be the FNG in the new one.

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