Tuesday, October 01, 2013

So, you are about to leave active duty?

In a great companion piece to our episode of Midrats two weeks ago about transition to the civilian world, our friend Peter Munson has what I consider a must-read post at his blog, Boats Against the Current.

Seriously, if you or someone you know is about to leave active duty, they need to read this article. Though it seems like a few months ago, it was just four years since I left active duty - and Peter's points are spot on.

Here are just a very few of the exceptional points he brings up, there are many more.
If you think you really need a master’s degree to break into the position you want, I recommend going for the most prestigious physical university you can afford/make work with your military duties. I’d avoid online or on-base programs.
Once you’ve narrowed down the degree you want, there are two options for selecting your program. You can go for a nationally or globally ranked program which will give you a wide network and instant recognition no matter where you are applying for a position. As an alternative, if you know where you plan on settling down, look for the best local program. This will provide you a more relevant local network, often at much lower cost and sufficient academic quality.

... the value of an MBA is more about the network than the knowledge, especially if you’re not looking to go into something technical like trading, so choose wisely. This is one of those instances where going for a regional power where you’re looking to settle down can be far better than shelling out for a national brand.

The most critical aspect to most job searches is your network.

For all the hype you hear about hiring veterans and how important your leadership experience is, you need to understand that no one cares. People care in an abstract way. They care in a personal way. But the system doesn’t care, for sure.

... you need to network. Hard. The best tool for networking is currently LinkedIn. Every military officer should have a LinkedIn account and should be building their network. If you’re a junior officer, keep contact with your old college friends and colleagues. As people start getting to the end of that first term, ensure that you connect with, follow, and get advice from those friends and colleagues who precede you. As you’re heading toward retirement, revisit your contact list and ensure you’re keeping in touch with those people that you might want to ask for help. The key is to keep in contact and get educated before you’re asking for a job referral.
Don’t be shy about connecting either. Veterans, especially successful ones on the outside, know how hard it is to make the transition. They will, for the most part, be happy to help. There is a “pay it forward” ethos.

... ditch the unsmiling promotion or command photo. Civilian hiring managers are already intimidated or misled enough about how we can only lead by ordering and how everyone has PTSD. Get a picture where you are smiling as warmly and welcomingly as possible.

For those of you who are afraid to have a photo at all, that is fine, but don’t expect to be clicked on when recruiters search for you. Most people with no photo have incomplete profiles, so people tend not to click through. For those of you who are worried about privacy issues, realize that except for the very few who have been religious about keeping their online trail to zero their entire life, a LinkedIn picture is the least of your worries. And unless you really are a practitioner of the dark arts (a staff gig at SOCOM doesn’t count) no one cares enough to come hunt you down.

One good way of highlighting your value whether in or out of the military is to explain how you made money, saved money, or reduced risk.
Speaking of Midrats, you can listen to Peter in the second hour of Episode 160 back in January here where we discussed his book War, Welfare & Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History.

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