Once you’ve left the military, you’ll be faced with a great number of choices. You’ll have to decide not just where to live, but also how to get on with your life. When it comes to your future, perhaps the most important decision you’ll make has to do with your employment. A veteran career switch is not always easy, but it’s been done by hundreds of thousands of soldiers before you, so let’s make your turn be great.
Below are a few things you should keep in mind while you make that switch, especially if you are looking to transition from the military into the private sector.
Stop and Visualize
Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten? It can be difficult to think of a future outside the military, but once you’ve separated it’s something you’ll need to do. As more employers begin to see reservists and former service members as valuable resources, you might find that you have more opportunities than you may have imagined. While it’s definitely a good thing to start making money in the private sector, you should take some time to think about how you want to live the rest of your life. It’s time, in fact, to start thinking about a career.
This is not a decision you need to rush. Once you find a way to stabilize your income, you can start looking at jobs that fit your needs. Don’t rush into the first field that looks like it will accept a veteran. Instead, remember that you have the ability to plan out a future that will fulfill all of your needs. While you might need to find something with more flexibility if you are a reservist, for example, this does not mean that your life has to revolve around your career as it stands today.
Leverage Your MOS
What did you do when you were in the service? This can actually make a huge difference, and not just because of the skills you learned. When you make your veteran career switch, many of your employers will be very interested in what you did while you were in the military. Some of these employers will also realize that certain job titles bring with them a certain amount of prestige, and they will be anxious to bring that cache to their own business.
You don’t have to go into detail about all of your experiences in the military, but it’s important that employers have some idea of what you did. If you were in the military police, for example, you might become a more attractive candidate for your local police department. Those who worked as translators, on the other hand, might find themselves as sought-after teachers in the English as a Second Language field. If your employers know that your military experience brought with it a relevant title as well as a set of key experiences, they will be more willing to overlook other gaps in your resume.
More than Your Service
While your service is an incredibly important part of your life and will give you several opportunities, it’s just as important to look outside the box to find things that won’t define you by your position in the military. While there are plenty of jobs that you might consider to be obvious next steps, you should look to your own hobbies and interests that are outside the armed forces to find your career transition path. With a little introspection, you’ll be able to find a way to combine the things that make you happy with the skills that will make you money.
Does this mean you’ll need to completely divorce yourself from your military experience? Of course not. It does, however, mean that you’ll need to take a look at the sum of all of your parts. There are many people who had the drive and ambition to pursue certain other career paths before their service, and that doesn’t have to change just because they served. Some even choose to combine their skills with their prior entrepreneurial dreams to start their own businesses. When you take a few moments to figure out exactly what you want outside the military, you may even find that your years of service don’t play a role in how you’ll want to plan your future.
Perhaps the biggest take away from planning a career shift is that you should always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Don’t marry yourself to a single idea – be willing to look at what’s out there, and then go after the new opportunities that present themselves. As employers make new inroads in hiring veterans, you may notice new opportunities that have never presented themselves before. Don’t concern yourself with how you thought life should go; instead, make sure you are ready to take on life as it presents itself now
Take some time to look at job descriptions instead of job titles. You might, for example, notice that a correctional officer job description has much of what you’re looking for in a job even if you’ve never considered working a job with that title before. What you should be looking for is an opportunity to test out your skills, not just an opportunity to get a paycheck. The more you’re able to be yourself in a job, the more you’ll enjoy it. It’s the opportunity that matters, not the title of the job to which it has been attached.
Your service makes you unique in many industries. You have certain skills and experiences that others don’t have, and you can leverage those into a better future for yourself and your family. You don’t have to define yourself by your former career, but your veteran career switch may benefit from your years of service. The future is open to you now, and you can take advantages of the opportunities presented to you. You are getting ready to start a new life, so take the process seriously. You are about to embark on a new adventure – one that might last the rest of your life.
Image source: Unsplash, Tyler Barnes