SURVIVAL Tips for the Civilian Front


Okay, today I want to share a useful tidbit of information that came about from a little spring-cleaning. As I was clearing out a long forgotten tough box, I came across an old paperback copy of the Army’s Survival field manual. The introduction was based on the keyword SURVIVAL and it cleverly assigned each letter a specific meaning. While I was reading it, I though to myself, “Wow, this is genius.” (As you can see, I’m easily impressed). So, without further ado… In the spirit of U.S. Army Field Manual 21-76, I present the Transition Guy’s SURVIVAL tips for the civilian front.

S – Size Up Your Situation

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Take some time to assess the skills and strengths you’ve developed during your time in the military. If your career was anything like mine, your skill sets are extremely broad, so you really need to sit down and figure out where your passions lie and determine if the skills you acquired apply to the type of job your interested in.

It’s also advisable to spend some time researching potential job markets. I’ve been told that sometimes a distance of 50 miles can be the difference between a great job market and a bad one. So, do your homework and put your job search efforts into a market that will yield the best results for the type of job you want.

I also highly recommend researching civilian certification programs related to the type of jobs your pursuing. For example, the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification is the certification to have if you’re trying to break into HR. For training developers, the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) is useful too.

Again, take some time to research on you’re own and size up your particular situation. It will pay off in the long run.

U – Undue Haste Makes Waste

I know it’s cliché, but just like everything else, if you don’t put enough time into your transition plan, you’ll end up paying for it later. If you act hastily, you could potentially make a drastic mistake that will set you back even further. Just don’t be “that guy” who waited until six months from transition to schedule his/her first TAP class.

R – Remember Your Strengths and Capitalize on Them

I alluded to this earlier, but time is of the essence and knowing your strengths is much more important than developing your weaknesses. This is especially true if you’re in a time crunch. In his book, Unwritten HR Rules: 21 Secrets for Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources, Alan Collins cites the work of psychologist Martin Seligman. Seligman’s research reasoned that “rather than trying to address your weaknesses, you’ll have much more success and positive experiences when you identify your strengths and capitalize on them.” I don’t know if there were any hard numbers to support this claim, but it seems fairly reasonable to me. By the way, Mr. Collins’ book is a pretty good read and loaded with lots advice that’s applicable to just about any job. For $25, it’s a good value.

V – Vanquish Your Insecurities

Insecurities cast doubt, doubt leads to fear, and fear leads to the dark side.

Oops…Sorry about that…

I started to channel my inner Yoda, but you get the idea… You have to put yourself out there and get over the fact that it’s been a while since you had to look for a job. Believe me, you’re not the only one stressing out about this. Remember, a good plan, combined with plenty of preparation, goes a long way in building confidence.

I – Improve Your Wardrobe.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but you do have to put a little effort into looking like a professional. If you have no idea where to start these articles may be helpful:

How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part I is a great article for men; very comprehensive. Part II, Part III, and Part IV are also very detailed.

Building a Professional Wardrobe…The Basics! is a good starting point for women, but The 20 Best Fashion Blogs For Professional Women is a really great list to kick off your research into the world of women’s professional attire.

The main thing you should take away from these articles is that you need to package yourself as a professional. Your appearance is a big factor, and no matter what you think, first impression will make or break you. So, do your homework and dress for success.

V – Volunteer Your Way to Employment.

Never overlook the opportunities that are created from unpaid internships or volunteer work. I know, I know, but hear me out… The movie, “The Internship” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson made light of it, but it’s not uncommon for 40 or 50 year olds to actively seek out internships these days, especially if their previous job experience doesn’t line up with the job they’re trying to get into. It could pay off, but it can come with some trade-offs. In the end, only you can decide if this is the right move.

A – Always-Be-Networking (ABN).

ABN all the way! Even if you have a job, you should really be networking for your next potential opportunity. There’s nothing worse that being “between opportunities” (i.e. unemployed) and not having a network you can mine for job leads. Work on growing your network everyday, one person at a time. The best way to do this is to be seen as a “giver,” as opposed to a “taker.” Your chances of really developing your network grow exponentially when you do this. You see, no one will remember you unless you’re able to provide some sort of tangible service they can put your name to. Whether it’s writing a report, cleaning up a power point slide deck, or doing some manufacturing or marketing research, it will pay off. It may take a few hours of your time, but the professional capital you’ll gain is priceless.

Remember, even if you have a job right now, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have it next week. So Always-Be-Networking!

L – LinkedIn is Your Friend.

If you’re a transitioning service member and not on LinkedIn, you’re just wrong. LinkedIn has become the gold standard when it comes to online networking for professionals. If you think this is just a fluke, check out this article. No matter what you may think of LinkedIn, it’s here to stay (at least for a while). So, use it and keep your profile updated. Period.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to post your comments.

The Transition Guy

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