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The night before an important interview, I desperately researched all the latest news in the company’s industry. I tried to memorize all the skills the job description outlined and internally recited the finer details on how to operate certain software systems the position required.
Eight months after leaving active duty, I still hadn’t started a salaried job. I was working two internships and a number of side jobs, but I after sending out dozens of resumes, I hadn’t yet found an honest-to-goodness full-time position. I had left the Army as a captain, making very decent money once you factored in BAH. That was in Texas, where not only is the cost of living is extremely low, there’s no state income tax. Now, living in New York City, where rent, food, transportation, and taxes are near the highest in the U.S., I was making minimum wage. The internships were always meant to be stepping stones — a brief interlude in my career transition — to a decent-paying job in my chosen industry.
After five years in the Army, I learned pretty quickly that the job hunt is chaotic. You have to create multiple versions of your resume, craft countless cover letters, and keep track of where you applied and when. Not to mention, keep up with LinkedIn and any other social media you’ve decided to use during your job search. All the moving parts can add so many layers of disorganization.
Unlike some civilian career fields, human resources (HR) is found in all branches of the military. For me in the Army, it was the S1 shop, responsible for personnel support — that included pay, leave, awards, evaluations, personal records, event planning and promotions. In the civilian world, it’s pretty much the same, with the added duty of recruiting.
One of my old bosses was smart about his Army exit. He used the days between transitioning his duties to his replacement and signing out on terminal leave to beef up his resume. Instead of whiling away the remaining days surfing YouTube or disappearing for three hour lunches, he stuck around the office ready to answer any question his boss or replacement needed and diligently worked away at online classes. While you might not be in the same situation as him — trapped in an office with fast internet — it doesn’t hurt to use some of your remaining time productively.
Many of the Department of the Army civilians I had worked with and a large number of my veteran friends signed out of the military on terminal leave on a Friday and started a new job on Monday. But that wasn’t me after I left the Army.