As a Veteran transitions out of the service and starts on the path to finding a new career, there is no shortage of things that must be considered, planned and prepared for. The most important in most cases is finding employment upon leaving the service.
Since this is quite possibly the most important thing a Veteran does during the transition, why does it seem that it’s the one thing that most Veterans are most ill-equipped to do? As I have spent the last year since leaving the active Army working as a Program Manager for Veteran Hiring Initiatives, I have noticed some trends in how Veterans approach post military employment.
Here are my observations:
1. Paycheck – The entire reason that we work is so we can earn money and take care of our families and ourselves. In the course of dealing with Veterans looking for jobs, I have noticed two trends that bother me a great deal. The first is the salary/pay expectation of the average Veteran, which seems to be well above their market value. Just because you were a high level manager in the military, does not mean you will get the comparable job in the civilian sector – anymore than the Army would take a corporate executive and immediately make him/her a Battalion Commander if he/she decided to suddenly join the Army. Think about it – you are starting over, and you need to take the opportunities that are presented, even if the salary is not up to your perceived worth. Secondly, and this is the point of this post, pay is only one part of the equation, and I have watched many Veterans throw away opportunities because the salary was 10K lower than they wanted, when everything else was exactly what they wanted/needed for themselves and their families.
2. Location – Are you open to moving to where the opportunities are? One of the most common issues I run into is an unwillingness from Veterans to move to the places where opportunities are the most plentiful. Just because you move to an area of the country that isn’t ideal for you, doesn’t mean you have to live there for the rest of your life, but it may be the best place to get your career rolling in the right direction. The short of it – be open to location.
3. Culture – Does the company that you are attempting to go to work for fit you as a person? Culture is one of the most important considerations that you must think about when starting out on a new career. Do the values of the organization fit with yours? What kind of business goals does the company have, and do they compliment your career aspirations? No matter how good the paycheck is, if you are not a good fit on the team, you will be miserable and much more likely to be unsuccessful in the position.
4. Ask yourself the right questions – When you look at a position as you leave the service, are you really looking at what you want to do for a living? Are you finding a corporate culture that compliments your own values and aspirations? Are you pigeonholing yourself by only wanting to move to a specific city/state? Does the paycheck get in the ballpark of your expectations?
You must look at a career search holistically. Amidst all the noise about resumes, interviewing, and preparing to make yourself attractive to civilian employers, remember to take time to make sure you are developing a situation that is going to be of all around benefit to you and your family if you have one. Flexibility is key, and once you land the position, you can then proceed to show your new employer why hiring a Veteran is one of the best business decisions they can make.
Weigh in on discussions on transitioning here and connect within the military community.
*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.