Transition Assistance Information – Planning
Finding a new and rewarding career is serious business. It takes planning and taking it step by step. How well you conduct your job search will determine your future earnings, where you live, and how satisfied you are with your job. At the same time, this is your opportunity to set your course for a new future. The stakes are high and, like any serious mission, your job search requires careful planning and aggressive execution. Below is information to assist you in your transition.
Setting a Realistic Objective
Have you thought about what type of work you want to do in your next career or where you want to live? Do you know how much you need to earn to ensure you and your family have a decent quality of life? You might think you can be happy with any job as long as it pays enough, or that living in your dream location compensates for the lack of good career opportunities there. The truth, though, is that the type of work you do, how much you earn and where you live are all equal contributors to achieving career satisfaction. During your military career, you learned how to target an objective. Whatever you were planning to acquire or accomplish, the first step in every military mission included targeting the objective. Now it’s time to target your career objective and apply what you’ve learned to your job search.
Start focusing your job objective by thinking about your personal interests and aspirations. Where do you want to be five or ten years from now? Do you want to be your own boss? Do you want to work with children, animals or heavy machinery? Is your present job the type of work you would like to continue doing? Only you can answer these questions. You can begin creating a list of things you’d like your next career to include. These questions will help get you started.
On active duty, you gained excellent skills. The military probably sent you to schools or provided on-the-job training. Even your day-to-day experiences provided opportunities for learning. So, how will you use the skills and knowledge you acquired? Review your work history and identify the tasks you enjoyed performing as well as the ones you hated. Don’t worry about job titles. Think about what you did and how you felt about it. Did you like working with your hands? How did you feel about supervising others? Did working as a member of a team appeal to you or did you wish you were working on your own?
Think about where you have worked and the conditions you have worked in. How did you feel about your previous jobs and why did you feel the way you did? Did you enjoy working in an office or outside? Did you like a routine or enjoy the excitement of a hectic working environment? How you like to work contributes to your job satisfaction, as do strong ethical feelings you may have. Would you do something you hate if it paid enough? Don’t be too sure. Some of us will never feel comfortable selling cars or hunting down stray animals so that they can be put to sleep. Make sure you understand your work values and how they affect your occupational decisions.
Whether you plan to continue working in your current career field or to look for a different type of work, you may not be fully qualified for the job you’re considering. If you don’t know if you have the right qualifications, you need to do some research. You can learn more about job qualifications by reading want ads, talking to people who have similar jobs or conducting online research.
For most of us, where we live is important. Maybe you want or need to live near your or your spouse’s family. Maybe your children have special needs that require schools, health care facilities or support services. Perhaps your spouse has career aspirations as well. Whatever dictates your location preferences, you must make sure that they don’t conflict with your occupational preferences. In short, can you find work in your chosen field and chosen location? Look at job websites to see what kinds of jobs are available in your preferred location.
Make sure you research salaries and costs of living for your dream job and location. You can examine job listings and find many online resources that offer information that relates jobs to salaries. Even if you are willing to work long hours for little pay if that means you can own your own business, work with kids, be in the entertainment industry or live in your home town, you may not be able to afford to do so. Whether you are single or have a family, the bottom line is that you need to earn enough money to meet your financial and family obligations. One more thing, remember that cost of living changes with location. The same apartment may cost $600 a month in one city and $1,000 in another. Developing comprehensive budget worksheets that show your current monthly expenses in comparison to what those expenditures would be outside the military can help you to be realistic as you explore career objectives.
A Realistic Objective
Setting an objective requires honesty and deep soul searching. Don’t lie to yourself and don’t make important decisions without thorough research. If you have a family, talk to your spouse and older children. Find out what is important to them. For you to be successful, your objective must be realistic, in demand and satisfy your needs, goals and objectives, and those of your family members.
Assessing Your Abilities
Employers want people who are contributors — individuals who fit in with the company culture and can get the job done. Whether or not an employer recognizes these qualities in you depends on how effectively you identify the qualities the employer is seeking and show yourself to be the perfect match for the job. Showing how your skills, education and training, experience and work ethic fit the company’s requirements starts with an extensive inventory.
Skills represent either natural abilities or things you have learned, and fall into three categories:
* Self-management skills refer to the way you manage yourself on the job (e.g., dependable, resourceful, etc.)
* Functional skills are the skills you use on the job or have used in previous jobs (e.g., operate equipment, supervise, analyze, etc.)
* Technical skills relate to specific skills required to perform a described task (e.g., computer programming, accounting, sales, etc.)
Use newspaper and Internet job listings. Be careful in your research and your assessment of your own skills. Make sure you understand the terminology used by employers. Be honest with yourself. Using a computer to enter data into a fire control system does not mean you have experience as a computer programmer. If you don’t have what it takes, reassess your objective or begin to look for ways you can acquire the skills you need.
Sometimes, employers use specific training and education requirements as a means of determining an applicant’s ability to do the job. Find out what employers are looking for and determine if you meet those criteria. Keep in mind that your military training may qualify you. Your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) document, or DD Form 2586, is the best place to start your training and education inventory. If you still don’t have what it takes, talk to your education counselor to find out how you can acquire what you need.
Your time in the military has given you excellent experience. It may be difficult, though, to compare your military experience to civilian job experience. Forget about military job titles or occupational codes. Instead, look at what you did. Once again, your VMET document is a great place to start. Employers prefer proven performers, so make sure you know what employers are looking for in comparison to your military work experience. It’s true that employers want to hire applicants who have the requisite skills and experience. Keep in mind, though, that a positive attitude and genuine enthusiasm can do a lot to shift the balance in your favor.
Certification and Licenses
Regardless of your training, education or experience, some employers will require that you hold a specific certificate or license. For example, most municipalities will require that you be a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) before offering you a position as an EMT. More importantly, employers will normally require a local license or certificate. The fact that you have a Virginia teaching certificate may not be sufficient to allow you to teach in Montana. Make sure you understand the licensure and certification requirements for your job objective.
Work Style and Ethic
Once you show yourself to have the perfect qualifications and even match the company culture, there’s one more thing to consider. What is your work style or ethic? Some employers are looking for folks who will work well as part of a team. Still others want independent workers who need little or no supervision. All employers want punctual, dependable people who are free of drug dependency. Make sure you know what the employer is looking for and then check yourself out. Do you have what they want? Are you someone who likes to supervise or do you only want to follow? Are you willing to work irregular and long hours or do you want a 40-hour workweek? Are you prepared to gamble on a commission rather than a fixed salary? Employers are smart people who can figure out if you’re the right person. If they don’t figure it out before they hire you, they’ll find out soon after you start work.
Exploring the Market
For most job seekers, exploring the job market means turning to the classified section of the newspaper or the Internet with its huge volume of job postings as the first place to look for a job. Some rely on headhunters and recruiters. Very few, however, start their search where their efforts will produce the best results directly with employers or companies where they would like to work. To be successful finding realistic opportunities, begin with your job objective, apply diligence and hard work and look in both the hidden and open job markets.
Hidden Job Market
It’s hard to imagine with all the jobs that are listed in newspapers and on the Internet, that most jobs ” between 70 and 85 percent, according to some sources ” are not openly advertised. Yet it’s true. Resignations, new business, expansion, unfilled positions or creating a position for a viable candidate are all reasons employers often have an immediate need to fill a position. This hidden job market, though difficult to access, holds the greatest potential for job seekers and employers who are looking for the perfect match.
Your primary tools for accessing the hidden market are networking and research. For networking to be effective, you need a large list of contacts and plenty of personal interaction. You’ll also need lots of practice, both on the phone and in person. For each good lead you find, you’ll want to research to find out as much as you can about the company and the job. Build your network by adding friends, family and business associates who can help you collect information and identify solid career leads. Expand your contacts to include people you don’t know or haven’t yet met.
Use the telephone to initiate contacts. Start by letting everyone know that you will be looking for a new job. Tell them what you are interested in doing. Let them know that you don’t expect them to get you a job, but do ask them for the names of people who can help you research occupations, companies and communities. Then, follow up. Call these new members of your network and ask:
* What’s it like to work in this occupation?
* What’s it like working for a _________ (big, small, etc.) company?
* What skills, training or experience do I need to win a job and perform well?
* How can I get the training and experience I need?
* What’s the cost of living in this city and what are local salaries?
* What are the pros and cons of this city (recreation, schools, quality of life, etc.)?
* Do you know of any job openings?
* Do you know of anyone else I should talk to?
It’s wise to put effort into the hidden job market because, when individuals are introduced, referred or brought together on common ground, the chance for success increases.
As you work the hidden job market, remember to explore the open job market, too. The open job market represents public job sources that openly market job opportunities. There are many ways to access the open market. The following are some places where you can begin your search:
* Electronic job sources include websites that offer job listings, resume banks and/or information.
* Non-electronic job sources include classified advertisements, recruiters, temporary agencies, college and school placement offices, military and professional associations or organizations, and industrial and craft unions.
* Event sources include job fairs, conferences and trade shows.
As you prepare to access the hidden and open job markets, remember that each time you introduce yourself to someone, either in conversation or through correspondence, you have an opportunity to introduce your abilities, experience and potential as well. This is when a “Product ID” comes in handy. What is a Product ID? It’s a 60- to 90- second sales pitch designed to introduce you, to connect you to the contact through common interests and to present your key strengths, functional expertise and personality traits. The product ID also can help you to establish an agenda for sharing information with your contact. The Product ID is important, so don’t wait until the last minute to develop it or improvise one at the meeting. Prepare your Product ID in advance and practice it well. When you speak comfortably about your experience and accomplishments without hesitating or memorizing what you have to say, your professionalism and polish “shine through.”
Creating Effective Resumes
You may be the best-qualified applicant for a job, but unless you can portray your qualifications in a way that makes an employer want to interview you, you’ll never get a chance to show what you can do. That’s why creating resumes that bring your qualifications to life and show that you’re a perfect fit for the job opportunity is such a challenge. Resumes either can open doors or eliminate you from the running. Be sure to demonstrate how you and your skills, experience, training and education match the employer’s needs. Avoid misspelled words and bad grammar. Because your resume or application may be an employer’s first impression of you, it’s important that you put your best effort into ensuring your resume is a winner.
Few of us like to write and even fewer enjoy writing about themselves, but it is something you have to do if you want to succeed. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make this easier.
Set an objective and identify the kind of jobs you will go after.
Make sure you clearly identify what employers are looking for.
Review your skills, training, education and experience and make sure that you qualify
One size never fits all. Don’t assume that you can use one resume for many jobs. If you do, you won’t succeed. Start with a basic resume that matches well with your objective occupation. Then, as you respond to job opportunities, tailor your basic resume to match exactly with the employer’s requirements. With today’s computers and word processing software, there’s no excuse for writing generic resumes.
When you first entered military service, you were unfamiliar with much of the language you heard and the terms that were used to identify people, equipment and locations. Now that you understand and speak military jargon, you’re going to have to translate this jargon for the employers who will read your resumes. This will include avoiding terminology, abbreviations and acronyms that are typically military and writing out or explaining terms as you develop your resume.
How you present your skills and experience in your resume helps determine whether or not you are invited to interview for a job. In addition to tailoring your resume to the employer’s requirements, it’s important to portray yourself as a “doer” whose skills match the requirements of the position and who demonstrates the ability to do the job. This is easy to do when you include results, achievements and accomplishments you’ve produced that relate to the desired position.
Employers don’t always have as much time as they would like to review resumes, so it’s important that you make it easy for them to quickly see what you can do for them. A summary of your qualifications, written as bullet statements, a paragraph or keywords, can be an effective way to introduce your resume and a quick way for the employer to view your ability and areas of expertise.
There is a resume style that’s best for you, but only you can decide what that style is. Generally, resumes, whether printed or electronic, are presented in one of three formats: chronological, functional or a combination of chronological and functional. While your counselor can help you to select the format that will best display your abilities, only you can make the final decision about the format that works best for you. Which you choose will depend, in part, on the type of work you’ve performed and whether or not you’re going to continue to do the same work.
* Chronological resumes list work experience according to date, with the current job appearing first. Chronological resumes work well if your career has been progressive and you plan to continue in the same line of work.
* Functional resumes describe the skills you’ve used on the job. Functional resumes work well if you’re contemplating a new career, don’t have a lengthy work history or have held a number of different positions because they sell your abilities based on the skills you’ve acquired during your career.
* Combination resumes both describe your work experience and highlight your skills. Combination resumes usually provide the most comprehensive overview of your career.
Whether you apply for a position using a resume or a job application, employers look for the same basic information: your name, address and how you can be reached; your job objective, as appropriate; a summary of qualifications; information about your experience and skills; and your education and training. Creating a personal inventory and keeping your information up to date, enables you to quickly create resumes and applications in order to respond to job leads.
You’ve probably checked your resume for spelling and grammatical errors and are confident that it will pass muster; however, you’re not finished with it yet. Take a good look at its overall appearance. Is it appealing and easy to read? Is there enough white space; are the margins appropriate; and have headings, font and formatting style been used effectively? Was it produced using a word processing program or, at the very least, an electronic typewriter? Was it printed from a laser printer using bond paper? As you review it, keep in mind that your resume gives employers their first impression of you. Make sure it makes the best impression possible.
Maxing the Job Interview
You’ve finally achieved what you wanted. Your hard work has paid off, and you’ve landed that all-important job interview. Like most job seekers in your position, you’re excited yet anxious, confident yet unsure. For most of your military career, you’ve been assigned to new positions. You haven’t had to interview or compete for them, or have you? Have you ever sat before a promotion board or been screened for other special programs and positions? Then you’ve been interviewed, and, just like you will in a job interview, you sold yourself, your skills and your experience by talking about your achievements and how they would help you perform in the new position.
A job interview is a two-way process for sharing information. It’s an in-depth conversation about your skills, experience and training as they relate to the job and an opportunity for you to display your enthusiasm, interest and understanding of the job. A job interview is also a time for you to ask questions. In a job interview, information is exchanged through both words and actions during four basic stages: introduction and warm up, employer questions, applicant questions and closing. Because employers are interested in finding the most qualified individual who best matches the company, you could be interviewed several times.
* Screening interviews offer the first contact with a company representative and can take place in person or over the telephone. The purpose of a screening interview is to determine if you meet the basic requirements: related experience, education, licenses, etc. A Human Resources representative may conduct the screening interview.
* If you pass the screening interview, you may be called back for a technical interview. Employees who are very familiar with both the position and the job requirements generally conduct technical interviews. These individuals might be supervisors or workers with long histories in the job or company.
* Reaching the decision-making interview means you have all the requirements for the job. Why, then, another interview? Only company officials with hiring authority can offer you a position. Before they do, they want to be sure you fit the company culture. The decision-making interview is your final interview.
During these interviews, you may meet with one interviewer or a panel of interviewers. Their style may be casual or abrupt or they may ask set interview questions. Depending on the interview style, you may experience a lot or little stress. The best way to cope with interview stress is to prepare for the interview in advance. You can do this by researching the company, its products and purpose, key individuals and facts, and its culture and language. Anticipate the kinds of questions you might be asked, and prepare answers that use examples of achievements related to the job. Make sure you dress for success at the interview. Research requirements and select clothing and accessories that are appropriate for the position.
While hiring officials make the final determination to offer you the job, they often do so after consulting a number of other employees at the company. Anyone who observes you may be asked. Therefore, each interview begins as soon as you arrive at the interview location. Be aware of how you interact with everyone you meet and what you do while waiting for the interviewer. Always be poised and professional.
It’s important to develop and execute an interview strategy. As part of your strategy be prepared, enthusiastic and positive. Adjust to the interviewer’s lead by listening for concerns or problems that you can address and issues you can discuss. Show you’re in tune with the interviewer by paraphrasing and focusing on key concepts. Answer questions briefly but thoroughly using evidence, anecdotes, examples and data. Don’t just say you can do the job; explain how you’ll do it. Ask appropriate questions. Remember that one good question is worth two great answers. Finally, smile.
Dressing for Success
Regardless of the position for which you’re applying, entry-level or executive, in an office or factory, dress as well as your budget will allow. Your appearance is the first indicator of whether you fit in with the company. Dress as if you were an executive or the shop boss of the company. Invest in one good outfit for your interviews. Be as well groomed as possible. It’ll be worth the expense in the long run. One way to ensure you will be appropriately dressed for the interview is to find out what is the usual dress code for the firm you are interviewing and dress at a slightly better level.
To help you decide what to wear to an interview, visit the company and notice what people are wearing. Make sure your interview clothes are appropriate for the job. Don’t wear a suit to an interview at a construction site or jeans and a sport shirt to an office setting. Pay attention to the differences in the way people dress depending on the industry and region of the country.
If you’re applying for an office position, try to dress like an executive, in a suit with a tie and dress shirt. If you’re not applying for an office job, you may not need to wear a suit. You should wear clean and well-pressed pants, though, and a dress shirt and tie are still appropriate, as is a jacket. Women can wear pantsuits, dresses or suits with shirts or tailored blouses. Also, make sure that your shoes are well polished and women should not wear very high heels. Do not wear flamboyant clothing or accessories. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or strong perfume or cologne because they can be annoying and distracting.
If you are applying for a job that requires special clothing and gear and are told that you will be expected to demonstrate your skills, wear an appropriate uniform, but make sure that it is clean and well pressed. This will demonstrate your enthusiasm for the work and that you take pride in your skills. For instance, if you are applying for a job as a mechanic, you may be asked to demonstrate your skills on the spot. You should have your work clothes and tools available at the interview.
Dress is not just about receiving respect, but conveying it. Your appearance at an interview or on the job is a mirror that reflects your personal presence in the context of a work culture. Your appearance says a great deal about your work. Remember that the very first contact you have with people is visual. Make that first impression a good one. Dress appropriately, dress well.
Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers
Not every job interview you go on will result in a job offer. In fact, you may often hear the word “no” in response to your applications. Don’t be discouraged, though, because it only takes one “yes” for you to be starting a new career. Before you say yes to any offer, however, be sure you know to what you’re agreeing. Start by considering the things that are important to you and your family.
* Potential, job growth and security
* Salary and benefits
* Type of work
Know what you want and need. Most of all, make sure you have realistic expectations. We would all like to earn high salaries, but the salary you can expect for any job will vary a great deal. Your experience, skills and training will determine what the employer is prepared to pay. The location of the job is also a major factor in determining salary. Look at Internet job sites, newspaper want ads and ask people working in similar jobs to find out what is reasonable.
Compare jobs one against another. For each job you’re offered, list the pros and cons and evaluate the offers based on your and your family’s priorities.
* Your interest in the industry and the potential for long-term growth.
* Specifics about the position: duties, position level, wages, benefits, working conditions, travel requirements, etc.
* The company: growth, success, reputation, management, etc.
* Your supervisors: interaction, expectation, etc.
* Wages and benefits: company paid vacations, health/life insurance, sick leave, etc.
* Locale: housing, recreation, schools, etc.
There will be times when you receive job offers that are perfect, except for one thing. Rather than turning down the offer, you might consider negotiating with the employer. Negotiation is a non-adversarial communication in which two parties work together to come to an acceptable agreement. Only serious issues based on realistic expectations should be negotiated, though. Some negotiable items include salary, benefits, working conditions and future opportunities.
Negotiations can be conducted face-to-face or in writing. As with everything else in your job search, preparing for negotiations is the key to your success, so do your homework. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering whether or not to enter into negotiations with an employer.
* Negotiate only after an offer has been made. Remember, he who mentions money first loses.
* Be selective when choosing which contract issues to negotiate. Know your value and negotiate based on your qualifications, skills and experience.
* Be sure you know the appropriate salary and benefits ranges for your industry in the area where the job is located.
* Develop and practice a negotiation strategy.
DD Form 214
Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, DD Form 214
One of the most important documents you’ll receive when you separate or retire is your Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty. The DD Form 214 enables you to participate in VA, state and federal programs. Once you receive your document, keep the original in a safe, fireproof location and get certified copies made that you can use to apply for benefits and jobs. Never submit your original to an agency or employer. Because of the recent increase in identity theft, it is recommended that you register your DD Form 214 with the county only if your county recorder or town hall can ensure, to your satisfaction, that the document is protected from unauthorized access.
Replacing Your DD Form214
If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, you can order a copy of your DD Form 214 from the National Personnel Records Center’s online military personnel records system at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html. The web-based application is designed to provide better service by eliminating mailroom processing time. All other requests for replacement copies are made by submitting a Military Records Request (SF 180) to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR). Complete information for submitting requests can be found on the NPRC-MPR website. If you do not have access to the website or SF 180, you can submit your request in writing. Include your complete name, social security number, branch of service, dates of service, place of discharge, return address and the reason for the request in your correspondence.
Send your request:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Phone: (314) 801-0800
Fax: (314) 801-9195