When to Do What: An Action Plan for Military Transition Success

Transitioning out of the military can be both scary and exciting, and is often overwhelming.  I recently conducted a webinar to help simplify the career-related aspects of this into simple action steps so that you know what to do and when to do it.  The webinar gives more details, but here are some of the highlights:

As Soon As You Decide to Transition, answer these questions:

  • What do you want to do? Consider taking a career assessment such as this one which is quick and free. You are also encouraged to meet with a transition counselor at your military installation or meet with a UMUC Career Advisor.
  • Where do you want to be? If you plan to relocate, use a cost of living calculator to determine how the cost of living at your target location compares to your current one.  Also research salaries to see what kind of wage you might be able to make in your new home.
  • What’s your availability? Do you want to work full-time? Part-time?  Use the GI Jobs Military to Civilian Pay Calculator to better understand how your military paycheck compares to a civilian paycheck in order to maintain your same standard of living.
  • When do you want to start your new job? If you haven’t already, create a monthly budget to determine your expenses and remember that the job search takes time.  According to one recruiter survey, 65% of hiring processes took over a month!

Over a Year Before Separating/Retiring

Schedule your pre-separation counseling 18-24 months prior to your retirement or 12-18 months before your separation from the military.  This will allow you to take full advantage of all of the transition resources available to you.  Also, inform your network that you are leaving the military, particularly those in your target industry or company.

Now is also the time to construct your job search plan.  The questions above are important to consider as part of your plan, but you should also identify target industries, companies, and jobs.  You may need additional training or a certification in order to be competitive in your chosen career.  Budget even more time for your job search if you plan on entering a field that is different from what you did in the military.  You may also need to start purchasing professional clothing, particularly if you plan to work in an office environment.

One Year Before Separating/Retiring

With only a year to go before leaving the military, you need to take the required transition classes.  Having previously taught these classes, I often heard servicemembers say that they wish they had taken them earlier.  These classes will give you a good introduction to writing your resume.  If you want more help, check out the resume resources on the new CareerQuest platform.

Although it may seem early, you should also start to apply for jobs.  This is particularly true if you want to work for government agencies or contractors who often have lengthier hiring processes than the private sector.  Additionally, be sure your social media profiles are as professional as possible.

Six Months (or Less) Before Separating/Retiring

Now that you are very close to getting out of the military, you need to constantly search and apply for jobs.  Consider signing up for email alerts with USAJobs and other major job boards (Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.), and customize your resume for each job to which you apply.  The Resunate tool, available in CareerQuest, can help you with this process.

Continue to leverage your network by attending professional organization events and job fairs.  Ask your references if they are willing to be a reference for you and send them your resume.  Also continue to shop for professional attire so that you don’t have the expense of purchasing a whole new wardrobe all at once.

I realize this is a lengthy to-do list, but not everything needs to be done at once.  You are taking a huge step in your professional journey, so if you only remember one thing, know this: UMUC’s Career Services and Alumni Relations team is here to help.  Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions about any aspect of your transition.  Thank you for your service, and good luck!!!

To listen to a recording of the webinar When to Do What: Action Plan for Military Success, click here.

Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS at University of Maryland University College. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning servicemembers about the civilian job search. She is very passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.