Is this your year to leave the military? You are in great company. More than 180,000 sailors, soldiers, Coasties, Marines, Guardians and airmen are expected to leave the military this year alone, which is a wonderful thing for the civilian economy.
To help you get the job you really want (instead of any ol' job that is thrust upon you), I've made a list of 52 tasks that will take you 10 minutes or less to complete. Check one of these off every week so that when someone asks you about how your transition is going, you can feel like you are making great progress.
Start with Your Third-Largest Organ
1. Embrace the process. Your brain can be your biggest ally during transition or your worst enemy. If you tell yourself that there should be an easy answer for what your next job will be, you will keep looking and not finding. Instead, think of the transition as a process you are going to go through in stages. You can't go to the next stage until you finish this one.
2. Make it part of your job. It is hard to find time for your transition tasks because of how much work you do on the job. So remind yourself that it is part of your job to do the work of transition and stick the landing. It is not your job to wait until the last minute to do the work of transition so that everyone has to bend over backward to help you.
3. You can have a red flag; you don't have to fly it. If your brain is waking you up at night because you were fired, failed, tested positive for drugs or opted out of the COVID-19 vaccine, spend 10 minutes working through how you will frame it for your next employer. The right words can make all the difference. Email me if you need some help.
4. Prepare for the roller coaster. Practice good mental health dealing with all the ups and downs of the job hunting journey. Count on hearing 10 "no thanks" for every "yes, please."
Begin to Zero in on Your Next Career Goal
5. Commit to your first answer. When someone asks what kind of job you are looking for, you need to say something. You don't need to have an exact answer yet, but you do need to compose an answer and practice it. Start with, "I'm planning to stay in the area, and I am thinking of getting a job in the ____________ industry."
6. Find out if your military job is hot or not. Everyone in the military gets job training. That is, ahem, they get trained for the job they are doing in the military. The lucky few have the kind of military jobs that also have direct applications to civilian life. The best people to ask about your career hotness are the veterans who got out before you. If you don't have friends or bosses with that rating or MOS who already got out, try the free mentors at Veterati.
8. Consider federal employment. Working for the government may seem like the last thing you want to do right now, but know that the federal government is one of the largest employers of veterans. Watch a few minutes of our FREE How to get a job in federal government master class. You might surprise yourself.
Choose Your Location, Location, Location
9. Start with location instead of occupation. For many veterans, location is often a great place to start to find your next high-impact job. If you are ready to move, look into Best Places for Military Veterans.
10. Plan a car trip with your stakeholders. Your career is all your own. Your life belongs to you and all the people who love you. So during transition, take a car trip with your stakeholders -- your husband, wife, kids, partner. Somewhere along the way, talk to them about the options. Getting on the same page now can help you avoid a lot of naysayers in your future.
11. Request house-hunting orders. Find out what you really can afford at your dream location.
Bring in the Professionals
12. Hire a transition coach. If you have ever used a coach to improve your workout or lose weight, you know how coaches offer both insight and accountability. This is especially helpful if you don't know what kind of job you want yet or you want to break free of your current career. Most coaches like me offer a free one-hour introductory call to see whether you click.
14. Hire a resume writer. If you tried to write a resume at the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), got a free resume from a veterans service organization, took our free resume classes and you are still struggling with that resume, it is probably a sign you could just hire someone. Avoiding your resume every weekend for the rest of the year takes a lot more time than hiring someone to bang it out.
16. Get advice on your VA physical. So much of getting your separation health assessment done right is local knowledge, particular to your geographical area and your branch of service. Ask your local network for recommendations. You also may find some real gurus in Vets2industry online networking events.
Embrace Your Career Level
17. Get focused career-level advice. Watch the first 10 minutes of one of our transition master classes for your career level. Each one has different strategies aimed at you and you alone. There are free sessions for young enlisted, junior officers, mid-career pros, senior leaders and spouses.
Make the Most of LinkedIn
18. Follow me on LinkedIn so that you can ask me your questions. I always like hearing from you.
19. Reject LinkedIn envy. You know you have LinkedIn envy when your entire feed consists of everyone getting a job or a promotion but you. This is guaranteed to make you run from LinkedIn. Instead, get on LinkedIn for 10 minutes a day for a week in order to check in with one of your groups, find a new contact or send a message to a former work friend.
20. Sign up for your free LinkedIn Premium account when you are six months away from transition.
21. Start your minimalist Linkedin profile. You can do this in 10 minutes if you just fill in the basic stuff the right way. You don't want to scare off recruiters with your LinkedIn profile.
22. Write a fantastic summary section with our exclusive instructions. Be sure to add your keywords.
23. Use your profile. It isn't enough to make a Linkedin profile, then disappear. You have to use it. Avoid the six mistakes veterans are most likely to make on LinkedIn.
24. Upload your job titles to LinkedIn in the Experience section.
25. Connect with 501 people on LinkedIn. The magic number on LinkedIn is 500 connections. The older you are, the easier this will be because you know more people.
26. Make friends with the job fairies. Recruiters and talent sourcers are the job fairies of LinkedIn. Find out about the three types of recruiters so that you know what to say when they contact you.
27. Check your work. Make sure you have got it all by reviewing your profile with our Military.com LinkedIn checklist.
Do Networking Like Normal People
29. Stop lying to yourself about networking and get started. Trust me. You are not bothering people by contacting them. You are not begging for a job. You do not have to be ready to network to get the job done. Send one email. Make one phone call. Text someone. Reach out on LinkedIn. It only takes a minute to ask a question.
30. Make a list of 10 people in your network. You don't have to start networking with total strangers. Start with 10 people you have known in your career who have already left the military. Ask them whether they will tell you about their transition.
31. Listen for the magic questions. People in your network have three secret ways that they signal they want to help you find a job. Listen for these magic questions so that you can move to the next level.
Begin to Upskill
32. Decide whether you need an MBA. For veterans who already have a four-year degree, an MBA can be the making of you or an epic waste of time. Check out our five best reasons to pursue an MBA.
Max Out Your GI Benefits
36. Learn more about transferring GI Bill benefits to your dependents. You can't do this after you leave military service.
Engage with the TAP Program
37. Brace yourself. Then look at your pre-separation checklist DD-2648. It is five pages long. Be simultaneously overwhelmed and bored out of your mind. Remember that this is not a demand signal. This is a menu of things you can opt in for when you meet with your transition counselor. All the links are live, so you can click on them and decide whether this is something you might be interested in hearing about more.
38. Make an appointment with your local transition counselor. The great thing about the local counselors is that they are local. They go to all meetings and the job fairs. Employers and veterans service organizations pitch them all the time. If you plan to stay in the area, these guys usually know a ton about local opportunities.
39. Sign up for the TAP workshop online. If you do well working at your own pace, if you have consistent internet access where you are stationed, and you will honestly do all the work on your own, this could be the way to go. Git 'er done.
40. Sign up for an in-seat TAP class. If you are a notorious procrastinator, or your job is so all-consuming that you have no brain power left over at the end of the day, sign up for the in-seat version of TAP. You will feel so much better after you put that tick in the box.
41. Upload my FREE resume template before you go to your TAP class. It uses the same format, so you can just type without wasting your time learning how to insert columns and bullet points.
Knuckle Down on Your Resume
42. Take our FREE Reverse Resume Master Class. Once you have struggled to think up bullet points on your resume workshop in TAP, you are ready for a master class about how to do it the easy way. Full disclosure: This one takes an hour, but you can do it in 10-minute bursts if you like.
43. Do resume recon. Ask friends who already transitioned if you can see their resume. Sometimes these people have great resumes. Sometimes you will see that they got hired despite their resume by using their network. Both are good lessons.
44. Edit the term "leader" out of your resume. You have spent most of your career in the military learning how to lead, manage and motivate people. Civilians like that. They just don't want to see the word "leader" on your resume. Strange, but true.
45. Upload your resume to Military.com to get found by recruiters.
46. Learn about federal resumes. Federal jobs are often hard to get, because the resume process is such a mess. Untangle the process with our FREE Federal Resume Master Class.
Fun with Interviews and Negotiations
47. Practice insulting your interviewer. It is so easy to say the wrong thing even when you mean to say the right thing. Then practice not insulting your interviewer. Spouses are great at this exercise. So are teenagers.
48. Get interview coaching with a real live feedback-giving person. I know you are great at public speaking, and you can talk to anyone professionally. But interviews are not like any conversation you have had before. Interviews are all in code. The hiring manager may sound conversational, but they are looking for very particular answers. Get a coach to help you now, not when you have had a dozen bad interviews.
49. Decode the language of "no." What did that "no" really mean at your last interview? Sometimes it isn't them; it is you.
50. Learn about how to evaluate your job offers.
51. Practice asking for more money by preparing for the negotiation phase.
The Most Important 10-Minute Skill of All Time
52. Stop waiting. Stop telling yourself you need to be ready. You are already ready. Set yourself the goal of doing just one of these 10-minute tasks every week. You will be amazed how this tiny win will help you whittle down all the tasks of transition so that you make real progress to the next great step in your career.
To find more ways you can use hard skills, soft skills, marketable skills and keywords to get a better salary at any time in your career, take our FREE master class: Veteran+ How To Get A Better Job. Also, check out all of our upcoming Transition Master Classes.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.