If you or your spouse are one of the thousands of service members who will be retiring or separating from the military in 2021, you’re probably feeling a lot of excitement and a little apprehension about your upcoming career transition. After all, you have structured your life and your family’s lives around the military for the past however many years.
Now, that structure is dematerializing and you will be left with the opportunity to build new routines, relationships and a career after retirement. Where should you start? Whether you are a veteran-to-be or the spouse of one, there are a few actions you can take to prepare for the career transition as you approach that official date of separation.
1. Update your Resumé
If you do not have a professional resumé, or haven’t taken a look at it in a while, now is the time to dig it out, or open a new document on your computer and get to work! Whether you served, or supported a spouse while they were serving, your skills and experience from this time in your life are valuable and unique. Take inventory of the skills you have, for example: communication, adaptability, collaboration and highlight them on your resumé under a “Skills” section.
When listing your past experience, emphasize your responsibilities, projects you completed and accomplishments without using a lot of military jargon. For the most part, a civilian hiring manager at any firm will not know what your title in the military equates to. It helps to include specific buzz-words that will show the people looking at your resumé what exactly you did. For example, if you were responsible for leading a team of soldiers in training exercises, be sure to include words like “leadership” and “training.”
If you had any administrative duties, like payroll and ensuring benefits were distributed properly, write down “administration” and “human resources.” Doing this helps a hiring manager better understand your past experience, and more easily imagine you in a role at their company.
2. Build and Maintain your LinkedIn
Once you have your resumé squared away, you should turn your attention to your professional network. Don’t devalue the relationships that you have built with your fellow soldiers, military spouses and supervisors over the years! Whether you’re the first of your group of friends to be taking the next step or one of the last, your network is already partially built for you and this is very important for your career transition.
The easiest way to stay in touch with old friends and potential new job prospects is to build up your LinkedIn. There are a few things that make a LinkedIn profile really stand-out to new connections and potential employers. Be sure to have a professional-looking photo as your profile photo. It does not have to be as boring as your face and a white background, but any high-resolution photo (think Apple iPhone’s “portrait mode”) where you look nice is a good guideline to follow.
Then, get started filling out all the different pockets of information LinkedIn asks you for. In your summary and headline; include your top skills, current role (if you have one), the number of years of experience you have in a specific field or fields and where it is you are job-searching. When you begin to fill out the “Experience” section, include current and past roles and keep the descriptions brief, the way they are summarized on your resumé. Again, be sure to avoid using jargon that a hiring manager or civilian perusing your profile would not be able to understand immediately.
Reach out to old friends, peers and supervisors to ask them to endorse the skills you list. The more endorsements you get, the more you show that you are qualified and are also able to maintain professional interpersonal relationships. In that same vein, be sure to send personalized notes along with your invitations to connect, especially if you’re sending an invitation to someone who is a mutual connection or if you haven’t met them in person. Include a brief greeting, and explain in 2 sentences why it is you would like to connect.
For example, “Hi, I hope this finds you well. I attended the webinar you hosted last week and learned a great deal. Please add me as a connection so I can stay up to date with any other resources you offer, or webinars you will host!” Of course, the situation will change each time, but a polite note will make you stand out and will make the person you want to connect with more likely to accept.
3. Sign up for an ACP Mentorship
If you or your spouse are approaching retirement or separation, you have no doubt been searching for the best tools to aid you in your career transition. ACP’s program is unique because it offers transitioning service members and the spouses of active duty military spouses year-long, customized mentorships with an ACP Mentor who has years of experience in corporate America.
If you are considering participating in CSP, SkillBridge or any other transition assistance program, sign up for an ACP mentorship as well! Since it was founded in 2008, ACP has had more than 19,000 successful mentorships where veteran and active-duty spouse Protégés worked with their Mentors on resumé review, LinkedIn profiles, interview preparation, job-searching, drafting a Five Year Plan and anything else that relates to career readiness.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of an ACP Mentorship is that it can help you as you apply to other career readiness programs that offer internships, like SkillBridge or CSP, so they really go hand in hand. Since the program lasts for an entire year, there is no “right” time to sign up. If you are an active-duty service member right now, you will always be eligible for the program, even if you sign up 10 years after your date of separation . If you are the spouse of an active duty service member, however, you will only be eligible up until the official date of your spouse’s separation.
Why wait? Sign up today and someone from our office will reach out to you within one business day with next steps. For further information, please visit our website, www.acp-usa.org , or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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