When you’re transitioning out of the service that last day seems light-years away, so you figure there's no need to start worrying about career plans yet. Before you know it, you separation date has arrived, and you find yourself adrift in a sea of denial about the need to start your job search. At that point, you have two choices: Let panic set in and do nothing, or use those twinges of panic to motivate yourself to take action.
What's Wrong with Me?
How did you become a job-hunt procrastinator, and what can you do about it? The following are four typical excuses students give for putting off their job searches, along with a reality check for each excuse:
Excuse 1: Basically, I don't feel a sense of urgency. My separation date seems far away, and I have a roof over my head and food on my plate, so the need to earn a living doesn't seem so critical. I don't want to worry about job hunting yet.
Reality: The time will pass much more quickly than you expect it to! It's never too early to start making your career plans and laying the groundwork for a job hunt. The earlier you start, the easier the actual search will be.
Excuse 2: I don't know how to look for a job. The process is so overwhelming and confusing, to be honest, I'm a bit intimidated. Since I don't know where to begin, I'm going to opt to not begin at all.
Reality: It's normal to be somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of looking for a job, especially if you don't know how the process works. The reality, however, is that job-hunting methods aren't rocket science. There are many job-hunting guidebooks and online advice at your disposal that can demystify the process for you in no time. Career counselors can also help boost your confidence, enabling you to see that you are employable.
Excuse 3: I just don't have time to look for a job. I can't find the time to put together a resume, go on an informational interview or take any steps toward making some career plans. I'm just way too busy.
Reality: It's that life’s daily activities have to take precedence over job hunting. It's worth it, though, to carve out some time on a weekly or monthly basis to do your career planning and job hunting gradually. Doing so will help you avoid a last-minute crunch and will actually make the search easier overall. Career counselors can help you set some objectives for career-development activities you can take on little by little -- a kind of four-year plan regardless of which year you're starting it. You can begin tackling your career planning without making a huge dent in your already busy schedule.
Excuse 4: I don't have a clear job target. I don't know what kind of job to look for, so I don't do any looking at all.
Reality: It's true that you do need to know what you're looking for before you can embark on an actual job search, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing anything. Sitting back and waiting for some sort of revelation about your perfect career direction is not the right approach.
Instead, you need to realize that the process of choosing a future career field is actually a part of your job search. The same self-evaluation (of skills, abilities, interests and priorities) that goes into deciding on a career direction can help you prepare to market yourself to prospective employers. And the research you might do on what's out there in the world of work (researching professions and companies) to target a career direction serves a dual purpose of targeting potential employers and developing a network of contacts.
It's never too late to get moving on your career planning and job search. You can overcome procrastination and find the job that’s right for you.