Choosing a direction for your professional life can be challenging, especially for veterans. Most military vets are disciplined, proven leaders, but skills learned in the military don’t always translate to easily understood civilian terminology.
Some employers also may worry about issues like possible future deployments and the ease of adapting to a corporate culture after long military service.
Despite the obstacles, veterans can and do embark on rewarding, post-service careers every day. Read on for some of the best tips for choosing a job you love and a longer-term career that inspires your passion.
Consider Your Personal Goals
Before you jump into your future career path, take some time to stop and reflect. What’s happening in your life right now that makes you want a new career?
If you’re already in a field that you enjoy but the specific job presents some obstacles, review your options. Can you work out any difficulties with your current manager? If not, is a move to another area of the company or even another site a possibility?
Think about your goals and whether you really want a drastic change in your professional life. If a move to another position or to another company within your current field can help, consider possibilities that may be easier to achieve than a complete shift.
Review Your Sources of Motivation
What’s motivating you toward a new career? If you were unhappy in your last job, negative forces like disappointment or fear might be serving as sources of motivation.
Experts note that you may perform at your best if your motivation relates to the work itself. For instance, if you simply enjoy the work, you’ll likely excel. In addition, connecting with the outcome, purpose or potential of the task at hand can help you succeed.
As you consider any potential job, ask yourself if the position aligns with your vision, goals and passions.
Pursue an Area of Interest
You’ve no doubt heard the timeless advice to “do what you love.” There is some truth to the idea that if you pursue a field that you enjoy, the money likely will follow.
Do you have any longtime hobbies you enjoy? Consider whether you could build a career from any of them. For example, if you’ve always loved working with cars, you might begin a promising career as a mechanic.
In addition, think about any skills you learned during your time in the military and how they can apply to the civilian sector. Even if the technical details are not the same, your knowledge may make you a prime candidate for transitioning into a similar field.
For instance, if you worked with computers — even proprietary military systems — employers may be confident that you can quickly learn the ropes in the civilian world.
Take Time for Contemplation
Make sure you take enough time to thoroughly consider the pros and cons any job offers, and don’t feel that you must jump in immediately. A transition period while you remain on active duty is ideal — but even if your service is complete, try not to rush into your next career.
If you have the financial resources for a brief break from paid employment, try to take advantage of your time off to write down your goals and think about a career you’re likely to enjoy over the long term.
Reach Out for Support
During your military service, you likely built relationships with your fellow service members that will last a lifetime. You also probably know some veterans who have completed their service and are out in the working world.
Your transition to civilian work is a great time to reach out to individuals in your military network and begin making additional connections. Join any veterans’ groups you can, and use those organizations to meet people who may help you enter a career in which you have an interest.
In addition, before deciding on a field, consider scheduling some strictly informational interviews to learn more. If you think you might enjoy a career in network security, for instance, contact someone in the field and request a brief sit-down to ask some questions.
Take a Test Run
If you’re interested in a specific field, but have never worked in that area or a related one, consider taking a job that will allow you to strengthen your resume and improve your skills.
Especially if your work history is in a narrow niche, getting additional experience through part-time, freelance or volunteer positions may help you eventually land your dream job in your area of interest.
Share Your Passions and Strengths
You had what it takes to succeed in the military, and your courage and determination will serve you as you embark on your civilian career.
While you may shy away from promoting yourself, understand that accurately relaying your strengths and passions will be key to entering your desired career field. Develop your 30-second “elevator pitch” that includes your military service, and don’t be shy about using it when you meet someone who can assist you.
By taking time to carefully consider the career you want to pursue, you’re already well on your way to achieving your goals.
Author bio: Laurie Olsen joined A Stars & Stripes Flag Corporation in 2001 to learn more about the flag industry from the owners of over 25 years. In 2007, Olsen purchased the company and continues to maintain the previous owners' vision of delivering exceptional quality, excellent customer service and flags made in America. As the flag industry and the ways customers learn about products changed, she has stayed on the cutting edge of product offerings and ways to communicate to customers.