Leaving the Military for a Civilian Job

Leaving the Military for a Civilian Job

I was contacted recently by a Soldier named Brandon (last name omitted) who is considering leaving the military and pursuing a civilian job.  I had posted a comment on a Kiplinger article awhile ago and it caught his interest as my tone was (and is) such that the military safety net is not a good reason to stay in the military.  Love the military, stay in.  Want to make money and provide a better life for your family, get out.  I’ve done both.

First, a few links I think are very useful and I tend to share them with folks who are considering this.

What is below is pretty much the entire “advice” I sent his way.    Some items have been edited but for the most part, this sums up my thoughts about folks who are considering getting out of the Military to pursue a Civilian career.

Leaving the Military: an email to a soldier

Hey Brandon,

8.5 months to ETS. Good to hear you’re putting some thought into this and not winging it.  I know a lot of folks get out and and think “now what?”.

I know when I refused my last set of orders (unaccompanied to Okinawa, again), things at my command got interesting.  I was a GySgt at the time (E-7) with some respectable time-in-service and time-in-grade.  I suspect that’s the same thing you’re referring to with your Statement of Declination.  Seems once you take a first very serious step to actually getting out, your value to the military overall instantly decreases.  You become a kind of hero to the radicals and a kind of pariah to the establishment folks.  Ahhh…interesting times.

With 8 months, here’s a few things I’d strongly recommend:
  • Get on Twitter.  It used to only be for geeks or niche hobbyists, but these days everybody is on it and it can truly be a great way to expand your horizons if you use it well.
  • I think I found you on Facebook.  I would advise a very strict “no BS” use of that.  Prospective employers WILL look at your facebook page.  Twitter feed too, for that matter, so keep your posts and info clean and respectable.  If you have a bad history on those already (overly political, foul mouthed, etc, etc) I would recommend starting now to clean it up or maybe even create new accounts.  With 8 months, you have time to create a cleaner history.
  • Same with LinkedIn.  Again, used to be the domain of techie geeks but these days it is widely used.  It’s the very first place I go to check folks out or to look for people.
    • I found 3 Brandon ____’s on LinkedIn, one in Alaska so I’m assuming that’s you.  🙂  I would fully fill out LinkedIn and get your contact lists up. Subscribe to groups that interest you, groups that are based where you intend to settle down, etc, etc.  And interact daily.  Take an hour a day and follow folks, participate in conversations, etc.  No kidding…LinkedIn is a gold mine.  For that matter, let me know where you intend to settle down and what you plan to do and I’ll see if I have contacts that might help as well.
    • Remember that LinkedIn, probably even more than Facebook, is a great way to take advantage of other people’s networks.  You have 50 contacts…each of them may have several hundred contacts and be able to put you in touch with “the right person” to land your job.  Cultivate those 50 contacts – treat them like gold and add to them every chance you get.
  • I would say use the Social Media on a daily basis.  I’ve been reading a lot about “Social Media is the new Monster.com” type of reports.  Whereas you used to place a resume on Monster.com, nowadays, your LinkedIn and/or Facebook pages are your resume.  Well, you’ll still need a resume, but consider social media very strong appendices to them.
  • Hopefully you’ve taken advantage of your educational benefits ( I say that, but I’m guilty of not taking a single college course during my 16.5 years in, or since for that matter).  If so, great. If not, you might want to take a look at some quick certifications or trade schools you can get before you get out.  Even some short courses…anything to show prospective employers that you are interested in furthering your education and willing to go the extra mile to do so.
    • I’ll admit…painfully…that a lack of an MBA is now affecting my promotion chances.  Lack of college has never been a problem for me but just recently I’ve kind of risen to a level where an MBA is just expected for promotion.  So, here I am at the top of my game but watching folks with less time and skills than me get promoted because they have their Masters degree, and I have no college at all.  Up to now though, this has never been a hindrance.
  • Attend your Transition Assistance Program.  It might sound like a pain in the butt, but they do offer some good info and contacts.  When I went to mine, I already had a very nice job locked on, but even still I found it valuable.  In fact, I would say that if you can swing it, attend it more than once.

What’s the world like outside of the military?  You’re right to be concerned about the economy and unemployment.  It’s not good, but there are signs it’s getting better.  Bear in mind I got out of the Marine Corps in March of 2000, so right at the peak of the dot.com surge and I was an IT guy.  So I had it pretty easy.  Today, it’s a different story.  But, I would say that making the plunge today is still preferable to sticking it out for the long haul and working for substandard pay in substandard conditions and for substandard bosses.  Reserves?  Good idea I think if for no other reason that the continued health care benefits.  However, if you get on at a company that covers you medically it might not be worth the hassle.

 I would add one more thing.  A high level thing, if you will.  One thing that I think military have a leg up on non-military is big picture thinking.  We’re taught to consider the whole battlefield and how every piece affects every other piece.  Civilians, for the most part, don’t get that until later.  I’m talking about strategic vs. tactical thinking.  Anybody and everybody can think tactically.  Do this. Do that. Get this done.  Then do this.  Then this.  That sort of thing.  And tactical thinkers are important to companies as they’re the ones getting the jobs done.  But strategic thinkers are the ones that plan and take everything into account and have the big picture in mind.  These are the guys that make the money.  So, my point is, ensure that in your job search, resume, and interviews and other efforts, keep a strategic mindset for the companies you’re working with.  You can be the guy that mops the floors (tactical) but at the same time you can also be the guy that devises a better floor cleaning process for the entire building or chain of stores that, when implemented, is more efficient and less expensive (strategic).   It appears you are in the Supply related MOS in the Army, so if that’s the case and that’s what you want to do when you get out, you have a LOT of strategic thinking to offer your prospective employers, right?  Army Supply is no small business…it’s huge…and if you have the big picture of how that works, you might be able to use that to influence and enhance what your prospective employer does.

You may have noticed I can be a bit long winded.  I should clarify my point.

 My thing is simply that for the right type of person, the safety net of the military is entirely unnecessary.  If you have the drive to do well, there is ample opportunity out here for you.  Companies will make room for the right guy.  They’ll create a position for you IF they perceive you as valuable.  It helps their company and ensures you don’t end up working for the competition.  Again…IF you are valuable enough.  So, you have to be top of your game.  With 8 months to work with, you have plenty of time to work the grind.  Even from Alaska.

Hope this helps a little, in spite of my rambling.  I’ve send a connection request from LinkedIn and Facebook and would be happy to work with you there as well.

Keep in touch!

No Responses

Leave a Reply