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Soldier looks to start marching toward post-Army career

Coach's Corner--October 19, 2009

The Client
Name: Joel
Age: 24
Title: Sergeant
Industry: United States Army
Issue: Selecting a post-military career
Q. I’m preparing to move from the U.S. Army into the civilian world. This task is daunting, and I need help figuring out what career field to move into and how to leverage my skills and experience in starting my new career. How might I find an accessible job market in which I will be successful?

A. You’re facing a huge change that includes both what you do and what your workplace is like. Today’s column focuses on selecting a career. A future column will address other aspects of returning to the civilian workforce.

The inner game
Tap into what you’re good at, care about, and enjoy doing to choose your next direction.

First, get any negative baggage out of the way. What messages are you telling yourself about what you “should” do? Do you have beliefs that you’re not good enough or smart enough to do some things? Set them aside, and focus on the positive aspects of what you’d like to do. Reinforce your ability to succeed by reminding yourself of past challenges you’ve faced successfully and the strengths that you’ve honed in the military.

Now get down to details of what you like to do. Look at the aspects of Army life that have worked well for you. Consider how you like the hierarchical “chain-of-command” system — do you hope to find that again, or escape from it? Look at the skills you’ve acquired, both technical and interpersonal, and ways they can be transferred into civilian settings.

In addition to your military experiences, think about other past jobs, volunteerism, school, and hobbies. Notice the parts that really jazz you. Try answering these questions: When you’ve gotten in a flow, what have you been doing? What has the setting been (group/individual, inside/outside, thinking/talking)? Also, write down what you’d just as soon never do again.

Then put it together into jobs you could imagine having. In particular, consider the experiences you’d have, the skills you’d use, and the contributions you’d make. Create as long a list as you can of potential roles.

The outer game
To make these options more real, investigate the ones that are most interesting. Find people in fields you’re interested in, starting with friends, family members, Army colleagues, and people they know. Reach out to people you aren’t acquainted with, too. In general, folks are flattered to be asked and will be generous with their time.

Research the skills, training, and experiences that are required or recommended. Use resources available through the Army; they are extensive and may save you lots of time and effort. Look elsewhere, such as at union or professional organization sites. Many have special programs for veterans, and will be able to help you think through your career choices.

Don’t delay. Use the time before you’re out of the military to prepare for your next step, selecting a career, taking classes if needed, and building connections with people in your desired new field.

The last word
Take charge and be the driver of your future. Clarify what you want and ask others for information and assistance; it’ll make the next steps much easier to envision.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted October 18, 2009
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