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Transitioning Out of the Military

What to Consider if you’re thinking about Getting Out


By Richard Piske

If you’re in the military and considering leaving active duty, you can be sure of two things: (1.) this is going to be one of the hardest decisions you will have to make and (2.) taking the time to research your options so that you’re able to make an educated decision about your next step can make all the difference in the world.

With that understanding in mind, you should take stock of your overall career goals and determine what steps need to be taken to set you up for success. In working through this process, consider the following:

    - How can you leverage your experiences to secure your ideal job?
    - How marketable are you?
    - What sets you apart from the other candidates and how can you succinctly deliver that message to a potential employer?

Being able to ask and then answer these tough questions is just the first phase in your process. There is more work ahead. Below you will find a short list of suggestions I have found useful when providing career counseling to security cleared candidates seeking employment with key players within the federal government.

Understand the Value of Your Security Clearance (If You Have One)

In light of the post 9-11 emphasis on homeland security, clearances are in high demand. If you have an active clearance, such as a secret, top secret, TS/SCI, etc., you’re two steps ahead of the game, and may garner a little extra salary for this qualification. However, the real benefit is that it will surely give you a wider variety of professional opportunities to choose from, so be sure to mention it on your resume. If you’re applying to a position requiring a clearance, then try to highlight your clearance level at the top of your resume.

Do Your Research

Writing an effective resume will require doing some research on the companies to which you’re applying. This is important because you need to understand the job description of each position you’re seeking, so that you can match your skills to those required for the job. You will most likely need to translate your military skills into civilian terms so that the person reading your resume clearly understands your core qualifications. Also, by doing a little research, you’ll be more informed so that you can ask relevant questions during your interview, which will undoubtedly give you an edge.

For more details on writing an effective resume, I would encourage you to visit the career center at www.kellyfedsecure.com, where you’ll find a list of helpful tips, from writing a resume and preparing for an interview to finding a job and determining your salary. There are a number of other resources you can use to help you in this process, including your local transition office, library and the World Wide Web, where you can find quality resume building and interviewing advice. You can also visit www.military.com or just do a Google search on “resume tips.” You’ll quickly find that there is a lot of helpful information at your disposal and the great thing is it’s mostly free.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

There is a method to the madness of integrating into the civilian workforce. Once you decide what field or profession you want to pursue, you’ll need to update your resume and tailor it to each job for which you’re applying. Remember, your resume usually creates an employer’s first impression, so here are a few things to keep in mind as you create your resume.

Tip 1: Clearly Communicate Your Skills And Experience. When giving a description of your accomplishments, use direct, active verbs. Such words as managed, designed, sold, saved and developed are just a few examples. It’s also important to use facts and measurable results wherever possible (e.g., "Helped the company realize a 30% savings in 2004 through a newly developed employee accountability policy.")

Tip 2: Keep Your Paragraphs Short (No Longer Than Six or Seven Lines). Doing so will give your resume a more organized appearance and will make it easier to read. Also, avoid wordiness and irrelevant information such as how long you played the drums in your high school marching band; unless, of course, you’re looking to embark on a career in the music industry!

Tip 3: Proofread Your Work. It’s crucial that you use correct spelling and grammar on your resume. So be sure to use spell check on your computer and have someone proof read your resume before you start putting it out there.

Tip 4: Be Upfront about Your Work History. Don’t worry about trying to cover up every gap in your employment. If you worked somewhere for three months doing something unrelated to the position to which you’re applying, you don’t necessarily need to include that in your resume. However, you must be prepared to clearly explain any gaps that you may have when you interview.

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