By Kim Slaughter
Career Coach, GCDF
and Leia O’Connell
Corporate Recruiter, LMSW, GCDF
In the Career Services Department, we help veterans and transitioning servicemembers define their career goals and outline the steps to achieve those goals. A common misconception is that military experience defines your career path and limits future opportunities in other industries. But this viewpoint could not be further from the truth.
Register now for the Employing Those Who Serve Virtual Career Fair on March 10!
We also work with many veterans who use their military service experience and skills to build new careers and transition to a field they always dreamed about entering. With proper insight, research and planning, it becomes easier to find a rewarding career after leaving the military.
Related link: Learn how to search for jobs matching your military skills through Google’s Jobs for Veterans service!
One great way to explore future career options is to attend our upcoming Employing Those Who Serve Virtual Career Fair (VCF) on March 10. At this event, you can investigate open positions with military-friendly companies and build a pipeline of contacts for current or future job opportunities.
If you feel uncertain about which careers to pursue with your background and education, we recommend that you understand yourself and identify your career goals prior to attending the Employing Those Who Serve VCF. There are various activities you can do, such as exploring careers, considering your transferable skills, researching potential careers and industries, and networking.
Using Career Exploration to Understand Yourself Better
You must learn to be your own compass, understand your passions and let them guide you. Your military career need not define you. In fact, with some preparation and planning, your military experience can support you in ways you may never have imagined. With the skills, experience, and contacts from your military career, you can find a career where you will thrive.
As you’ll learn at our Employing Those Who Serve VCF, there are thousands of careers for veterans and transitioning servicemembers to choose from. To pinpoint which one is right for you, consider your interests and values. Many veterans and transitioning servicemembers don’t consider their interests and values when planning their careers.
Instead, they attempt to find their next position based on their previous military titles, location, benefits, money or prestige. But none of these elements may feel fulfilling.
When you choose a career that matches your interests, you are more likely to thrive in it. A great way to identify your interests quickly is to use an interest assessment, which provides a list of different career paths to explore based on your answers. This list should give you a starting point of options to consider as you continue the process of career exploration.
In addition to your interests, consider your principal work values, which play a key role in ensuring job satisfaction. Work values consist of various factors, such as honesty, work-life balance and creativity. Understanding your values will help you find a career and organization whose purpose aligns with yours.
Considering Your Transferable Skills
As a veteran or transitioning servicemember, you have unique skills that will help you succeed outside of the military. Employers want candidates like you, who possess hands-on experience of much-needed job skills, such as:
As you plan for your post-military career, reflect on the skills you gained in and prior to military service. Don’t just consider the titles you’ve held previously, but also think about the actual work you performed. Other sources to review include commendations and prior performance evaluations.
Performing Career and Industry Research
Compile all of the information you’ve gathered to help you determine potential occupations. With a better understanding of yourself, carefully research different jobs and industries to learn more about roles you’d like or could use to gain professional experience. Resources like O*NET OnLine or CareerOneStop are helpful; they contain many different job titles and can offer you the information needed to define your career goals more comprehensively.
LinkedIn is another valuable research and networking tool. This platform lets you search for individuals in your desired field and review their professional experience, education, and certifications. By using LinkedIn, you can review the career trajectory of individuals you admire or those who have experienced the military-to-civilian transition before you.
Job and industry research give you a starting point to define your career goals. You don’t have to limit your job search based on your previous job title or military background. Remember: Military experience shapes your skillset, which expands — not limits — your career opportunities.
Defining Your Career Goals
Your career goals are both short- and long-term objectives that you want to meet. As you consider what post-military job you’d like to hold, think about where you want to see yourself in five to 10 years. A basic plan will suffice at first, and you can revamp that plan later as needed.
Remember: You are not limited by the career you held in the military. Start thinking about your career goals early and at least one year from your separation date. By beginning this process ahead of time, you’ll set yourself up to possess the skills, credentials and education needed to thrive in your chosen career.
You may need to go back to school, study for a certification or volunteer to gain the experience needed to qualify for the role you desire. No matter what your career goals are, write them down so they become tangible. After recording these goals, you can more easily define actionable steps to reach your destination.
Networking with Military Recruiting Teams
If you’re transitioning out of the military, you’ve hopefully noticed an increase in military recruiting teams among top employers. Veteran talent is highly sought out by employers. We also collaborate with many organizations whose recruiters are dedicated exclusively to seeking out and helping veterans through their organization’s hiring process.
Networking is often a “long game” that requires you to maintain your relationships over time. While networking efforts sustained over a longer period of time are often rewarding, you should also consider quicker ways to connect, such as the Employing Those Who Serve Virtual Career Fair.
In addition, explore events hosted by companies who have dedicated veteran hiring initiatives. In the era of COVID-19, more and more organizations are hosting their own virtual webinars to catch candidates. Sign up for talent communities or follow companies on social media to stay in the know about upcoming events.
Using LinkedIn for Long-Term Networking
You can find military recruiting teams on LinkedIn as well. If you’re not sure how to find them, enter “Military Recruiter” in LinkedIn’s search box. You will find an endless list of results, so take some time to search a few profiles.
If you send a connection request to a recruiter, word your message carefully. Briefly describe your military experience and mention that you’d like to connect with that person. Also, LinkedIn’s connection request feature has a character limit, so pay attention to this limit.
Always remember the #1 rule of sending a connection request on LinkedIn: Don’t ask for any favors in your initial message. This is why networking is a long game. By connecting with military recruiters, you can:
- Find out about the events their company is hosting
- Learn about jobs they’re recruiting for
- Interact with their content
We strongly encourage you to consider asking for help through your networks. If you can’t publicly ask for advice, remember that the Career Services team is always here to support you.
LinkedIn networks designed for military veterans are a perfect start. The Veteran Mentor Network is one of our favorite examples. In this network, transitioning servicemembers publicly ask for advice on their careers, and members are often quick to provide support and guidance.
LinkedIn isn’t the only place you can connect with other veterans, either. Did you know the university has a Student Veterans of America chapter? Joining campus groups where you can connect with other student veterans is just one more way to create a path to your next job opportunity.
Sign Up for the Employing Those Who Serve VCF
Remember: Just because you perform the necessary research to identify your next job after leaving the military, it doesn’t mean you’ll find yourself in a position where you can thrive. Sometimes it is impossible to know in advance whether the role you accept will suit you. However, understanding yourself better and knowing what you prefer helps you identify a career that brings meaning and value to your life.
Join us at the Employing Those Who Serve VCF on March 10 to begin networking and exploring possible careers. To prepare for this VCF, contact a Career Coach for a resume review, advice on chatting with recruiters or a general discussion of your career goals. Together, we can plan for a career where you will thrive.
About the Authors
Kim Slaughter has worked in the field of higher education for more than nine years. As a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), Kim currently works as a career coach for the university. As a career coach, she assists students and alumni accomplish career goals through identifying career strengths and key educational experiences to demonstrate strong differentiation for the job market. Kim earned a M.A. in Psychology in 2020 from AMU and an MBA in 2011 from Shepherd University.
Leia O’Connell has worked for the university since 2012. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF). Leia has been an Academic Advisor for the School of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), a Graduate Academic Advisor, and a Career Coach. In her current role as a Corporate Recruiter, she forms mutually beneficial relationships with diverse employers. Leia holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hartwick College and a master’s degree in social work from Binghamton University.