The average age of a military member transitioning is between 25 and 40, which means that transitioning from military life to a civilian career can be especially daunting. While all your peers seem to have an established career, you’ve had less of a “traditional” life thus far. Instead of graduating from high school, attending college, and heading into the workforce, you’ve served your country. It doesn’t mean you’re not just as qualified for jobs out there, but it does mean you have to pitch yourself in a different way. And that feels like a daunting task, doesn’t it? Don’t worry! This is where your career story arc comes in. It’ll help you optimize your job search and indicate to employers that your varied experience is just as valuable. Here’s what you should know.
Learn about your career story arc
Maybe you read the title of this blog and thought, “Wait…what’s a career story arc?” A career story arc helps to link past projects, jobs, or hobbies to your current interests or career path. It’s about tying it all together and contextualizing what you’ve done for an employer. A story arc has a beginning, middle, and “end.” Think about the beginning as what you did before you served and what led up to that point. Consider the middle to be your service and all the skills you gained during that time. Finally, the end is where you are now, and your ultimate goal. The end is where you’re going and what you want to do. The way you look at and explain your career story arc to others should help to guide others in seeing why you want a certain job after your transition out of the military.
Consider attending a Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
TAP is one of the benefits afforded to you from the government. They provide resources for you to transition from military to civilian life. One of the workshops offered highlights your career exploration, job search strategies, resume, cover letter, and interview preparation. While it’s a three-day process, you’ll come out of it with a clear idea of where to go in terms of tailoring your previous experiences to your future job search. Once you do this, you’ll need to apply it to your own experiences (more on this in #2). It won’t be a perfect process, but it’ll give you a starting point.
The best part about this is the fact that it’s being led by people who have been through the process themselves. If you work with recruiters or job counselors who have never been through the process, they might not relate to your specific struggles or concerns. That said, if you work with someone who has experienced almost exactly what you have in your transition, then you can ask them all the questions and bounce ideas off of them without having to worry.
Brainstorm about your transferrable skills
This is another great way to use your network, and one of the most crucial parts about creating a story arc. You have the transferrable skills to find employment in the civilian world, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it when you’re first discharged. If you’ve trained people in the military, if you’ve helped save the military money, if you were in charge of an entire department, those are transferrable skills! Don’t worry that they don’t match up exactly—they don’t need to. If you happen to get stuck while brainstorming, don’t forget that you have a network of people at your disposable. Ask your peers how they used their skills to get jobs and what types of positions they looked at. Sometimes all it takes is looking at someone else’s resume and seeing how it’s phrased.
Highlight your strengths and talk about them
Whether you do this in a cover letter or in an interview, you have strengths, so make sure you talk about them! Don’t focus on what you might be lacking. You’ve proven that you can communicate and lead effectively, maintain accountability, and execute on responsibilities. All of these are skills that any company would be lucky to have. Write about them specifically in your cover letter or speak passionately about them to an employer during your interview—just be sure that you adjust any military-specific language, so the meaning is accessible to everyone. Practice rewording your story and skills, so you have them just right. If you need to do it aloud, chat with a buddy or a family member.
Getting a job after you’re done serving doesn’t have to be difficult. Crafting a career story arc can be done by attending a TAP workshop, brainstorming with your resources, and highlighting your strengths when you actually go to apply. Success comes down to showing others where you’ve been and where you’re going. You’ve got this!