You have traded in your camo for your new work clothes. Your day doesn’t start with PT. Meetings start 3-5 minutes after their start time. You are now in the civilian workforce.Last year, you had a chance to meet one of our team members, Wayne Ludwig, in his Transition Blog regarding his active retirement process after 22 years in the Army as a 31A MP. In the early spring, Wayne began a job search for a full-time position in the Boston area as a GS Security Specialist.
We checked in with Wayne six months after the start of his first civilian job to see what advice he had for Veterans during their ETS and how it went from point A to B.
What are the most important lessons you learned from your time between activity duty to your first civilian job? I learned that it is important to spend time before you officially retire and even before transition leave to actively look at what opportunities are out there in the job market.
An early start enabled me to have many different applications in for not only civilian companies, but also on USA Jobs for federal jobs. If you are looking for a shortened transition, it is really important to try for that head start. I also found that talking to my friends, old colleagues, and former bosses led to many possible job solutions for me. It enabled me to get a job working in my initial transition period with an amazing start up company [GuideOn] and ultimately to my current federal job that I occupy.
The military network is strong, so never forget to use those opportunities. And then also remember to try to be there for others in return when they begin their transition journey.
What are two resources you used while transitioning (workshops, websites, etc)? I went through the Soldier for Life transition program which provided some general guidance. I tried a few other websites, like Hire our Heroes, but achieved little success. I also used a military transition group on LinkedIn that provided a lot of perspectives from other people on what they were going through on their transitions.
My real benefits came from my job initially working with GuideOn. It was there I started realizing how to capitalize on my military experience by relating it back to the civilian job market in ways they can understand. As I assisted in the translation of combat arms job skills to civilian job language, I began to see the relevance to the leadership and training gained from the military and how it brings the necessary skills to the civilian job market that managers are all looking for. We, veterans, have so many skills and experiences to offer in the civilian world, we just have to understand the right way to promote it.
What advice would you give another Veteran for finding a job, negotiating salary, and/or interviewing? I would say avoid forcing the fact you were in the Military as the reason to hire you. Tell them what you did in the military in terms they can easily understand and show them you are more than qualified to hold the position you are looking for. Sell the leadership skills and teamwork that is so often missing in a lot of civilian agencies. DON'T sell yourself short! I have often heard now that I am "out" of the military that I don't act like I am still in. I think that is important to know because that "in the military still" attitude can be a big negative to people that have not been in the military. I am very proud of my military background but don't force it down people's throats.
Again, it is what you bring from your time in the military that sets you apart; a working attitude in your new environment is just as important. In my interviews, I used terms I knew that my interviewers would easily understand, stayed away from acronyms, and kept a positive, confident vibe throughout. My interviews all seemed to go well because I prepared myself on knowledge of the job position and the company it was with. I made sure my lasting impression was what I could bring to the table in that position to make the company more successful. I also negotiated a higher scale for my job by very thoroughly detailing my military job experience to the requirements of the position I was hired into. That attention to detail allowed me to start in the middle of the scale versus the beginning. It definitely makes a difference.
I guess I would end by saying: Use the amazing skills you gained from the military to propel you to the next platform in your civilian job, but make sure it is in ways the interviewers and hiring authorities can understand.