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Tips for starting a post-military career

(Family Features) For many of the service members leaving active duty, one big question they face is, “What next?” The transition from military to civilian life isn’t always easy, and service members need to prepare themselves for life after service.

Retired Army Colonel Garland Williams, Regional Vice President for the Military Division of University of Phoenix, knows first-hand what it is like to make this life change.

“The only constant about one’s military career is that it is going to end at some point,” said Williams. “Those without proper preparation and a college education may find they are a tough sell to potential employers. However, for others, the endless options can be overwhelming as the individual tries to narrow down his or her future plan.”

A transitioning service member must devote adequate attention to presenting him or herself out of uniform,” Williams said. “Your primary job when transitioning is getting a job. Your mindset needs to be focused that way.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job demand over the next decade will be especially strong for specialized workers in health care, information security, scientific research, law enforcement and financial services. And Williams says that service members are more than capable of meeting that need. But they need to make sure they are ready.

Service members ideally should start their transition planning two years prior to detaching from the military, and assess both the professional skills acquired during their military service and what education requirements may be needed to secure future employment. Here are some of Williams’ tips for those beginning a post-military career:

Take Advantage of Available Resources

Transitional Assistance Program – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Transition Assistance Program offers departing personnel workshops geared toward crafting resumés, exploring market conditions and assessing personal employability.

Education – Service members need to assess their current education and leverage tuition assistance while on active duty. Colleges and universities, such as University of Phoenix, often award credits for military training to help reduce the credit hours needed for degree completion.

Career Workshops/Fairs – Visit military career fairs and workshops. Many of these events provide insight into job availability and sought-after job skills. University of Phoenix is hosting “Start Strong Veterans Events” in select cities nationwide. These events are designed to provide transitioning veterans, service members and their families with career resources. Visit www.phoenix.edu/militaryevent to learn more.

Learn How to Sell Yourself – You have a lot to offer potential employers, but you need to know how to present yourself as a civilian.

Describe yourself – Interviews, resumés and general conversation about your military skills and experience need to be translated into civilian terms. For example, lose the acronyms. Unless you are interviewing with a defense contractor, eliminate the military acronyms from resumés and daily conversation.

Identify and Promote Transferable Skills – Consider how your skills and experience in the military can be translated to the civilian workplace. This can include, but is not limited to, leadership, technical skills, teamwork, communication and critical thinking.

Dress for success – You need a good fitting suit for interviews, and you will need appropriate attire for daily work. It is important to do away with a “camouflage-only” mindset.

Relax – You don’t have to stand at a modified attention to a boss; nor do you have to say “sir” or “ma’am.” Service members tend to be very direct, but civilians are more receptive to casual pleasantries, so soften the direct and to-the-point tone the military often uses.

“The military teaches service members decision making skills, discipline and timeliness,” said Williams. “You can leverage those qualities with employers and have a successful transition to civilian life.”

To learn more about University of Phoenix education programs for military students, as well as find additional tips and resources, visit www.phoenix.edu/military.

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