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The Veteran Employment Transition (VET) Roadmap
The purpose of the Veteran Employment Transition (VET) Roadmap is to provide transitioning service members and veterans a resource so that they are better equipped to navigate that landscape and succeed in the civilian workforce. The VET Roadmap captures and consolidates essential steps with best-in-class resources and tools. It is not intended to replace existing efforts, but to clarify the process, and aggregate the most effective resources at their disposal from across the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
A successful transition is an individual responsibility that requires understanding, planning, and deliberate execution – something familiar to everyone who has worn the uniform. The VET Roadmap will help transitioning service members and veterans take that ownership and responsibility. How the VET Roadmap is applied depends on the individual service member or veteran, and each employment transition journey must be tailored to his or her unique needs, circumstances, goals, and objectives.
The transition process for veterans is a lifetime process that can be divided into three essential phases:
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to transition from military service to civilian life. Service members possess a wide array of skills, talents, experiences, and interests, and those factors, along with many others, play an important role in shaping their ultimate career destination. Yet the process for getting there – the “roadmap” for transitioning to a meaningful civilian career – is remarkably similar across rank, background, and level of experience. The VET Roadmap outlines the essential phases to assist a transitioning service member or veteran as he/she prepares for employment in the civilian sector, locates a potential employer, secures an offer for meaningful employment, and successfully transitions into the civilian workforce.
Each phase is divided into supportive themes, each central to completing specific portions of the transition process. The VET Roadmap is not designed as a stand-alone tool, but aims to provide a firm foundation upon which a veteran can build an employment transition strategy and act. It also identifies some best-in-class tools, resources and organizations that veterans can leverage throughout the employment transition process.
PHASE 1 - PREPARE
As a veteran, you are entitled to an array of benefits, services, and resources to foster a successful transition and civilian career. Benefits discovery should be a continuous process as circumstances and plans change. The majority of veteran benefits are derived through federal organizations. Others may be derived through use veteran serving non-profit organizations, the business community, and state and local governments. Many resources, organizations, and services exist to help you understand and apply for your full scope of benefits.
You must assess, understand, and articulate the value you bring to a prospective employer. You possess training, education, experience, certification, licensure, and “valued” skills that civilian employers need, but do not necessarily understand. Skills assessment helps detail an extensive list of the competencies, education, training, certification, licensure, and experience while on active duty, in previous employment, or while conducting volunteer work. Savvy civilian employers look for “valued” skills that include leadership, management, problem solving, situational awareness, judgment, decision making, teamwork, work ethic, and core values. Seek the help of a civilian mentor, workforce development professional, or transition assistance advisor to articulate your skills in a manner that civilian employers will value. It is important to remember that no skills-translation software program will adequately capture what a veteran brings to a company. You must learn to translate effectively those skills and attributes.
Much like any military mission, the transition process requires a tremendous amount of planning, preparation, and time for execution. Your strategic plan should take into account variables such as acquired skills, career ambitions, level of education, formal training, required additional credentials or training to meet career goals, family planning, health and wellness, geography restrictions, benefits, and personal priorities. Finding and leveraging veteran and civilian mentors are essential to planning and navigating a successful transition. Being financially ready is also a key part of the plan. Furthermore, understanding total economic opportunity by opening your aperture and examining whether a position in a company may lead to longer term opportunities with more pay and responsibilities. The strategic plan is a constantly evolving “life plan,” and should be reviewed periodically.
PHASE 1 CHECKLIST
- Own your transition—it starts and ends with you and your family
- Plan and prepare for civilian employment like you did for any military mission or operation
- Define your mission (identify near- and long-term objectives and what it will take to get there)
- Create a timeline – start early (ideally 12-24 months before separation)
- Know your new operating environment – research and understand the job market where you live, what employers are looking for, and how to best position your skill sets in the civilian market
- When assessing a possible job, look at it from a near and long term perspective to understand how it may lead to more opportunities in the future
- Perform a “gap analysis” by assessing your current skills and qualifications and then translate them into civilian speak
- Decide whether school or credential is needed for your ideal job
- Be financially ready and understand financial planning and management as a civilian
- Find mentors – both veteran and civilian – and ask for help
PHASE 2 – TRANSITION
You must develop a clear statement of the tangible results an employer would receive from hiring you. This statement should include an explanation of what differentiates you (without using acronyms or military terminology) and clearly relates military experience or volunteer work to the desired career field. The most successful job seekers understand how their experience meshes with the needs of a prospective employer. A clear value proposition will inform your marketing, networking, and ability to “close” an employment opportunity.
Marketing and Networking
Marketing and networking help you improve your image and reputation to advance your career opportunities. Marketing conveys your personal brand and value proposition to prospective employers through your resume, elevator pitch and interview skills. Use of free resume review services, career coaches, mentors, and mock interviews can help “close the deal” when marketing efforts produce job leads. Networking is essential to develop contacts, leads and referrals for employment opportunities and must be treated as a profession to be effective. Consider your peers, past supervisors, and subordinates as individuals in your network. Follow-up is critical to both marketing and networking. E-mails, hand-written thank-you notes, and, in some cases where appropriate, phone calls are all ways to bring positive attention to your career search.
“Targeting” is the process of finding, negotiating, and accepting a meaningful and financially viable employment opportunity. Initiating a “targeting cycle” allows you to find and evaluate job opportunities and decide on which to accept. Finding a full-time job is a full-time job. You have to be all-in and allocate the necessary time, research and effort to find the job that matches your goals, objectives and personal planning factors. A successful job search often requires you to look beyond the surface of a job or company and consider the long-term opportunity in the industry and the position. In some cases, you may need to take a job that is a step below your target job to get the necessary civilian experience. Learn about expected pay bands, items that are appropriate to negotiate, and use of effective negotiating techniques. In the event you are not hired, post-interview, ask for feedback to learn critical information such as how to improve, find a better fit, further develop interview skills, or enhance skill sets. Part-time or temporary work can also be worth exploring. While not always ideal, these opportunities get your foot in the door and send a clear message to companies that you are committed to working and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
PHASE 2 CHECKLIST
- Be “all-in” – remember that looking for a full-time job is a full-time job. Be resilient – it is hard work
- Create a strong personal brand and develop a personal “value proposition” – why a company should hire you
- Communicate your value through effective resume, elevator pitch, and interview skills. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
- Cast a wide net – know where and how to look for job opportunities and consider locations to publish your resume, online tools that highlight your capabilities (i.e., LinkedIn), and use of placement agencies
- Build a network and make connections in order to develop contacts and exchange information that leads to employment opportunities and advancement. Although something you might not be accustomed to in the military, networking is essential to civilian career success
- Allocate the necessary time to research, write emails, prepare for interviews, and other day-to-day facets of searching for a job; ensure follow-up and be proactive
- Use proper grammar and complete sentences when communicating with employers, even when you are communicating via email
- Widen your search for jobs slightly outside your interest or target geographic locations
- Work part-time, find temporary work, or look for volunteer opportunities during your search
- Explore internships and fellowship opportunities
- Learn how, and what, to negotiate before you accept
- Assess and reassess your situation to ensure previously defined goals and objectives are realistic
PHASE 3 – LEAD
Just as you learned the customs, culture, and languages where you deployed in order to accomplish your military missions, you must learn the same about your new place of employment in order to succeed. You should never assume that a new organization understands the military. Just as you expect the organization to learn about you, your background, and the military mindset, you should learn about the organization’s unique work culture, languages, processes, systems, and customs. You should get to know the different employees on your new team and in your community. You should avoid using military jargon and acronyms and try not to call everyone “sir” or “ma’am.”
Many large companies have veteran affinity or network groups and are a great place to start connecting or find a mentor. If a company does not have such a group, a veteran, someone who has a special affinity toward veterans (e.g. someone whose parent was a veteran or whose sibling is in the military), or tenured personnel can provide valuable guidance and can often serve as your champion within a company. Teach, train, and educate your civilian colleagues about military service and culture to help bridge the civilian-military divide in your organization. Networking is a lifetime commitment. To grow in the civilian sector, you must seek out and grow valuable relationships and make new connections with people and organizations that can help not only you, but your new team as well.
Lead and Succeed
The same core values, principles, and leadership techniques that made you successful in the military will apply as a civilian, but legal and formal authorities will likely be different. A different environment and culture may necessitate a shift from authoritative to influence-based leadership styles that include leveraging skills such as communication, the ability to motivate others, and adaption of one’s management style to apply to an individual’s job position. Many co-workers will hold veterans to a higher standard. The time after landing a new job is not the time to rest on one’s laurels. Continue professional development by taking classes and enrolling in online courses or trade schools. Like networking, education of different varieties can and should be continuous. Your new company may not have the same formal training, education and professional development and career management structure you had in the military. You may have to take a more proactive role in managing your own development and career advancement.
PHASE 3 CHECKLIST
- Learn the organization’s work culture and core values and get to know your team
- Connect – engage socially and professionally (e.g., affinity groups, business resource groups, etc.) to discover new opportunities and valuable relationships
- Find a mentor in your new organization
- Make networking a lifetime commitment
- Seek regular feedback and continue to train, develop, and grow by finding ways to better yourself in your new profession
- Serve as a mentor or volunteer with nonprofit organizations to help fellow service members during their transitions
- Succeed – demonstrate the value of veterans to the civilian work force