8 Tips for Developing Skills You Can Use Outside the Military

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Unlike those college-level basket-weaving courses, military experience can help prepare you for a civilian job down the line. The military gives every service member the opportunity to enter with virtually no skills and leave with an array of skills needed in the civilian job market. It's never too early to start thinking about your future and what will make you more marketable to a civilian employer.

When interviewing for a civilian job your military experience can be your most appealing qualification. Know how to sell your military skills to a potential employer in ways they will understand. Here are 8 tips to develop skills you can use outside the military:

Find the Right Civilian Job

  1. Consider what will be marketable in the future — Maybe you've always dreamed of performing dog root canals or baking gluten-free wedding cakes. Whatever your dream, choose a military career field that will help get you there. Even if the skills are loosely related it will be a good start to your civilian job transition.
  2. Decide whether to try to change your career path — If your military career path doesn't align with your ultimate goals, consider changing directions. Your unit's career planner or career counselor can provide more information on changing your career field.
  3. Consider assessment testing — Don't wait until retirement time to test your skills. Your installation military and family support center, Transition Assistance Program or Army Career and Alumni Program can help you find out if you're best suited to be a prima ballerina or a stockbroker.
  4. Pursue your education — Education is a major benefit of military service. College degrees and military leadership courses can help build a solid resume.
  5. Learn to communicate - Most people would rather swim in a bathtub full of tarantulas than speak in front of a crowd, but public speaking will become easier with time and experience. Volunteer to give briefs to commanders on your unit's activities or participate in any other public speaking you can. Sell your unit's accomplishments and build skills you can use to land yourself a civilian job later.
  6. Find a mentor — You're not the first to transition from a military to a civilian career, so use the knowledge in your community. Find a military mentor who can help you find the right military schools or advise you on the best jobs or duty stations to advance your career. A civilian mentor in your field can help you keep abreast of trends outside the military including information that can help guide your career inside the military.
  7. Volunteer — Strap on your volunteer fire-fighting gear, serve up sports drinks at the Special Olympics or tutor students struggling with isosceles triangles. Volunteering can help you get your foot in the door of a great civilian gig, especially if you're taking a drastic turn with your occupational choice
  8. Obtain required licenses and certifications — Many military certifications don't transfer readily to the civilian world (bummer) but it may be easier to attain a corresponding civilian license or certification while you're still in the military.

For more information on civilian certification and licensing, visit the Army's Credentialing Opportunities On-Line.

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