5 Tips For How To Nail Your Military Transition

Marines attend a Marketing Yourself presentation at the Marine Memorial Chapel on Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 15.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Iams

At Hirepurpose, we have a team in the field meeting with transitioning service members and veterans at military bases all over the country. These guys talk to hundreds of service members on a weekly basis in different stages of transition out of every branch. They know what concerns military job seekers have about the civilian world, what mistakes they consistently make, and what keeps them from getting employed. We asked our team to share the most common pieces of advice that they give out at hiring fairs. Here’s what they said.

1. Do not buy a house, set roots, or promise your family anything until you have a job lined up. Read this again. And again. This is the most common mistake service members make when they are getting out. You do not have a job until you have signed an offer letter or contract with an actual employer. An interview is not a job offer. A recruiter at a job fair taking your resume is not a job offer. A job offer is a job offer.

Related: 5 ways being the boss changes when you leave the military »

2. Seek advice from people who have actually transitioned into the civilian world. If you don’t know anyone, start searching on Linkedin. Reach out and ask. Ignore obvious generalizations about transition and the job market from co-workers or others still in the military. They really do not know what they are talking about when it comes to civilian jobs, but they want you to think they do. They are stroking their own insecurities by pretending to know more than you. They don’t.

3. Take advantage of every legitimate interview opportunity you come across. Even if you aren’t crazy about the job or the company. At worst, you’ll come away with more interview experience, which makes you more competitive. At best, you may find yourself employed in a job you love. You won’t know if a job or company is a good fit for you until you have had an interview with its employees and spent time in its environment, so you can see what it’s actually like.

4. Don’t be an asshole to recruiters at a job fair. If they are talking to you, they are trying to help. Check your ego at the door and treat people like you want to be treated. We get this a few times at every event. You may think you’ve got the world by the balls, but if you are still in this phase, you probably haven’t been on the job hunt very long. You will be humbled.

5. Do not throw out your ideal salary number when a company asks your requirement. Say “I’m flexible” or “I’d like to find something commensurate with my skills and experience.” Often, this question is used as a discriminator to knock people out of the running for a job. We’re not advocating that you take a salary that is way too low for your standard of living, but you have to realize that most of the time you will be looking at a small step back as you take your career into the civilian world. It’s temporary.

In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

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