New Year’s Resolutions for Transition
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Yes, that annual tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is upon us, and it’s long been a part of the military community. Just like our counterparts in the general population, many of us have our sights set on bettering ourselves in this coming year: eating healthier, getting in better shape, taking college classes, and more. For those serving in the Armed Forces, however, sticking to our resolutions can be more than just the feel-good thing to do…meeting those New Year’s goals can help us pass (or max) the physical fitness test and/or nail that promotion.
Pick up the closest dictionary and you’ll see that a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or to not do something.” If you happen to have made your New Year’s resolutions revolve around the subject of your transition (as in, away from active military service), keeping them can have a tremendous impact on how prepared you are for the next chapter of your life. For the rest of this post, we’re going to drill down just a bit on eight of our favorite New Year’s resolutions – consolidated especially for those in transition.
#1. Work on your resume. Whether you’re retiring or simply separating after your first tour, most folks in transition wind up working for another employer. To do so, it’s likely you’ll need a resume of some sort, so you can communicate what you bring to the table and why you’d make a good hire. Whether you just need to polish the one you have or you need to start the one that you don’t, check out our post titled “Translating your Military Career into a Resume,” found at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/translating-your-military-career-to-a-resume/. In it, we talk about taking your evaluations, awards, training certificates, assignment information, and education – and forming it into that awesome snapshot of who you are as a workforce professional. In similar fashion, you’ll want to translate your military skills into civilian-speak that connects with recruiters…we encourage you to connect with workforce pros that are local to you for help with that task.
#2. Take advantage of the credentialing process. In the military employment-assistance environment, the credentialing of Veterans and military Service Members is a complex issue, with partners and players at every level – national, state, and local. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer some kind of credentialing or certification program for its Service Members, and there may be options to pick those up on the military’s dime while you’re still serving or by using your GI Bill benefits. Not only do some civilian occupations require credentials to legally perform certain jobs, but they can also serve to ‘amp up’ your resume and communicate to prospective employers that you’re among the most qualified for the job. The US Coast Guard offers certification programs and the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines have a cool tool called COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line)…visit their sites at cool.army.mil, afvec.us.af.mil/afvec/Public/COOL, or cool.navy.mil.
#3. Participate in TAP workshops. The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP for short, provides some great content for those heading off to civilian pastures. Much of it is driven by the US Department of Labor (such as resume building and info on USAJobs), but there are great optional tracks, as well. One of those is a course on entrepreneurship called Operation Boots to Business (B2B). Offered up by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), B2B introduces participants to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts and a business plan, and information on SBA resources available to help. SBA resource partners, like folks from the Veterans Business Outreach Centers, SCORE, Women’s Business Centers, and the Small Business Development Centers, lead different aspects of the workshop. For a bit more detail, see our post at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/highlights-of-an-entrepreneurial-education-boots-to-business/.
#4. Think critically about Small Business Ownership. If you find yourself seriously considering being a small business owner, whether to realize a lifelong dream or simply to put food on the table, you would be well-served to give it some critical thought and connect with subject-matter experts near you. Some other items of note that you’ll find online at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/a-few-tips-for-the-would-be-entrepreneur/ include recommendations to define success, figure out your comfort level with risk, build your team, and manage your brand. Keep in mind that small business is risky, and try to enjoy the ride…
#5. Leverage technology in your job search. Technology, as in the ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. From the advent of the Web to social to mobile, technology has made quite the impact…and perhaps no more so than on the recruiting and selection process for today’s workforce. Back in the day, the explosion of online job boards created a global platform for advertising job openings and forced the recruiter to look to an electronic recruitment system to help automate the processing of all the candidates. While E-recruitment and Applicant Tracking Systems started off as clunky, bureaucratic processes that frustrated everyone, now they’re so much more. Those systems are integrated, cloud-based software suites that encompass the entire employee lifecycle. There are hundreds of Applicant Tracking Systems out there from which a company can choose, and in the employee selection ‘space’ an ATS enables users to manage hiring processes like job distribution, screening, interviewing, and sending out offers. I’ve said it before…there are certain things that you might just want to go ahead and embrace, rather than fight every step of the way. Applicant tracking systems are some of those things. Learn them, figure out how to use them to your advantage, and stay connected with folks in the employment assistance space that are there to help you do just that. For a more comprehensive article on the topic, check out https://militaryconnection.com/blog/applicant-tracking-system/.
#6. Navigate Job Fairs like a pro. If you find yourself seeking out that ideal W-2 job, there’s a good chance you’ll have to endure, I mean embrace, job fairs. Yes, they often suck, but many consider them a necessary evil and a vital part of the job search. Some quick tips include doing your homework in advance, dressing professionally, accessorizing with a clean portfolio, bringing personal contact cards, smiling, putting the phone away, and selling yourself. Treat the job fair like an interview, or a whole fleet of mini-interviews, and you’ll be on the right track. Read more about my take on the subject at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/the-job-search-navigating-a-job-fair/.
#7. Create a top-shelf business plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘gig economy’, which is a great way to describe the workforce environment of side gigs, second jobs, and side hustles we’re in. If you find yourself already knee-deep in running your own business, or think you probably will at some point, you should get smarter on how to develop a plan to help you succeed. Will Katz, one of our guest contributors that has worked with over 1,500 small business clients, offers some very valuable and spot-on information in our blog entitled https://militaryconnection.com/blog/top-shelf-business-plan/.
#8. Participate in a transition training program. There are plenty of programs out there these days to help Troops and their families in transition. Some of these efforts are public and some are privately-led…one might be a newly formed not-for-profit organization and another might fall in the Department of Defense’s lane, like Troops to Teachers (https://proudtoserveagain.com). Troops to Teachers was established in 1993 to assist transitioning Service Members and Veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Some other transition training programs might include Veterans to Farmers (whose mission is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle; www.veteranstofarmers.org), Troops to Trades (started to honor the thousands of individuals transitioning into the civilian workforce by helping them find satisfying and successful careers in the trades; https://explorethetrades.org/troops-to-trades), and Helmets to Hardhats (a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty military with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry; https://helmetstohardhats.org).
At the end of the day (or the year, I suppose), you can join the crowd of those making New Year’s resolutions that barely merit a second thought by early February – or you can choose from this list of transition resolutions to help propel you down your next path. Obviously, not all these are for ‘lottie, dottie, everybody’ – if you’re looking for that dream W-2 job you might care little about small business ownership, and if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you could probably care less about navigating a job fair. My New Year’s wish is that at least one of these tips for transition will resonate and prove useful to you or someone you care about.
Until next time…