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Service Members, Get Hired! Part II: Focus Your Search

Military to Civilian Transition

This week we’re getting into the topic of focusing your job search in such a way to find meaningful employment. So let’s cut straight to it and get started!

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

With the proverbial band-aid ripped off of some of the harsh realities from last week’s article about transition, I now want to take a closer look at some of the topics surrounding employment. First and foremost is the aspect of figuring out what you want to be when you “grow up.” For some, that’s easy. Some of you have mastered a skill for “X” number of years in the military, and you’re going to continue with that skill or role in the civilian world.

Awesome! The odds are in your favor that you’ll have a decent chance of doing that as you transition over. However, I caution you to not write off this article, because you never know what may change in your situation. I am 100% proof of the precautionary tale of having a hyper-focus on a particular role, all your eggs in one basket, thinking you're a shoe-in, and then out of nowhere, something you never saw coming completely derails your path. So please keep reading. You never know, this could also benefit you in finding that even sweeter-sounding job!

Soul Searching

If you're like many Veterans, however, you're not sure what you want to do post-military service. All you know is that after 4-20+ years in the same job, you have decided it’s time for a change of scenery, or to pursue a new passion. And why not? This is the perfect opportunity to redefine yourself and start fresh! Sometimes, however, while you know you don't want to do the same thing, you also don't know what that new thing is. Well, it’s time for the soul searching.

Mentors can help with this. Whether its a "freelance mentor" like myself, or one of the amazing non-profits like American Corporate Partners, USO Pathfinders, or Hire Heroes USA, there is no shortage of folks to help you walk out this journey. "Self-help" DIY books like Richard Nelson Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute?” can also help you drill down on those passions. All I will add to the topic is this: Finding a job or role that you’re passionate about could be the greatest reward in your search. We’ve all heard the adage, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” As cliché as it sounds, it’s true! A quick google search will pull up tons of articles surrounding scientific studies and research that show we are more productive and successful in jobs that we truly enjoy and have a passion for. So find your passions and discover how you can leverage them in the workplace.


Once you have that passion identified, it’s time to do one of the hardest steps for a Veteran: Focus in on a particular role, field, or industry. As service members, there’s one constant that transcends all branches: We are jacks of all trades. One moment we’re called to be movers and shakers, the next we’re called to be planners and strategic visionaries, and then we find ourselves acting as counselors and guides to those in our charge. We’re project managers, program managers, strategic planners, leaders, managers, counselors, consultants, and decision-makers, and that’s all before we've finished our first cup of coffee for the day!

However, the “real” world operates very differently, and to take this “Jack of all trades” skillset that most all of us possess, and to reflect it on a resume for a particular job role often makes us seem neurotic, and can even portray exaggeration or untruthfulness. After all, to a civilian employer, there’s no possible way that you were only 26 years old when you were managing Railhead operations and responsible for the performance, care, wellbeing, and safety of over 200 employees (an actual situation I found myself in at that age).

So why can’t we leverage our “Jack of all trade” skill set to apply for jobs ranging from security operations and project management, to leadership consulting and teaching (these were my original job search fields before I was finally coached to pare it down considerably)? Well…you can…but I promise you, you’re going to be spending such an incredibly greater amount of time on resume tailoring and application submissions than you will want to (which we'll cover more in-depth in Part IV).

So please heed this advice up front and save yourself time in the long run: Search your soul, find your passions, understand out how they translate to various industries/fields/roles, and then choose that particular industry/field/role to focus on! Every industry has HR, nearly every industry has project management, and nearly every industry has IT; but if you don’t pick a particular industry to focus on, your resumes are going to require significant overhauls every time you tailor it to a job application. Choose an industry, focus your search, and narrow down your options from hundreds to dozens. I swear you’ll thank me.

Well, that's it for this week! I'm striving to keep these articles in smaller more "manageably" chunks. So, hopefully you’ve found some use in Part II of our Employment chat. If you did, please feel free to share it with your fellow service members so that they can also hopefully glean some insight into the various aspects of transition. And of course, join me next week for Part III of the Employment chat as we talk about prioritizing the 5 aspects of any job to find the job that’s right for you!

Until next time, be safe, stay healthy, and remember that you’re not in this alone!

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