1. Don’t wait until TAP classes come – You should get started on your search no later than six months out from your End of Active Service (EAS). Just make sure to note your EAS date on your cover letters, profiles, etc.
2. Invest in your resume – Take your time writing your resume. List everything important or related. If you are applying to multiple career fields, have multiple copies of your resume. Incorporate your research from your Job Search Focus (#4) in those resumes. This may sound like a lot of work (and it is) but this is a must. Your resume is your #1 sales document, if a hiring manager is looking for a Project Manager and your resume doesn’t list your Project Manager experience until midway through page two, then most likely the hiring manager won’t even get to page two. Lastly reconsider hiring someone to write your resume! It’s a lot of work, but you should do it. This will ensure your resume reflects you and your interests.
3. Have a cover letter – If your resume is your sales document then your cover letter is your brochure. Spend time on each cover letter you write. Make sure each cover letter covers three things: (1) How you heard about the job and what job you’re applying for, (2) Why you are the most qualified for the position, (3) When and how you will follow up. You can set your cover letter apart from all the others by incorporating company specific information such as addressing it to the hiring manager, names of clients they work with or for, and also by conveying a tone of genuine excitement about the position (nothing cheesy).
4. Focus your search – Transitioning Military members often have a broad array of experiences and coming off of active duty are happy with any employment. This approach can lead to an unfocused job hunt where the military member just sends resume after resume to numerous potential employers. Focus your job search by first narrowing down the industries and positions you would like to work in and then the companies you would like to work for.
A good rule of thumb is to concentrate on ten jobs at once. Write a list of your ten dream industries and positions. Review the list with a loved to determine which jobs you would really love and which ones you could just cope with. Take the dream jobs and start researching employers in those fields.
Once you’ve developed the list of ten, start researching the companies. Learn as much as you can and be sure to reflect that knowledge in your cover letter and resume by using their terminology (if they refer to “Marksmanship Instructors” as “shooting coaches” change your resume to reflect). Concentrate on ten employers/positions at once, but update the list and add/subtract new companies as needed.
5. Plan and budget your time – For your job search to be successful you will need to devote time to it. But spending too much time can be counterproductive and will only serve to discourage you quickly. Set time aside daily, no more than an hour a day to carry out your job search. If you’re having trouble finding time this approach typically works best first thing in the morning. This will allow you to get started before anyone else is up and before you have the day’s activities on your mind. Spend at least one day a week writing out your plan for the rest of the week. Plan your contacts, your calls and your follow ups. Make sure you stick to your plan.
6. Improve your credentials now – If you are considering a position in let’s say Project Management, look at what certifications are required on the civilian side and start pursuing them. The military offers several online classes which can help toward credentials. Course such as those offered on AKO, MCI, and DAU all offer free courses which carry weight in the civilian sector.
For enlisted the number one issue that comes up is a college degree. Having one can’t possibly hurt so my recommendation is to get started now. This cannot be over stated. Once you enroll and begin taking classes you can and should reflect it on your resume, something to the effect of “BS, Temple University, expected 08/2013”. Just enrolling will set you miles apart!