TAO Self-help

Title:10 Transition Tricks of the Trade

Author:© 2015 Tom Wolfe, author; all rights reserved; excerpts from Out of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition; used with the permission of the author and publisher, potomacbooksinc.com.

Date:November 2015


  1. Timeline. Don't start too soon, but don't wait too long. There are three phases to your search: preparation, execution, and decision. Start the preparation phase well in advance of your availability date. There is plenty to do to get ready for the transition, the job search, and interviewing. Use a 12-month countdown. Months 12 through 5 are the preparation phase. Months 4, 3, and 2 are interview months. Month 1 is the final phase—time to compare, contrast, and decide. Month zero? Start your new job!
  2. Self-knowledge. Lacking this is a leading cause of interview failure. All of your company research, knowledge of products and industry, and diligent mechanical preparations will be for naught if you fail know thyself. What are your strengths? Attributes? Skills? What do you bring to the table? What really matters to you? Without that self-awareness and the ability to relate those answers to the job and the company, it is impossible for you to sell yourself as a great match for that opportunity. Also, do not overlook your deficits, weaknesses, and failures. Your ability to discuss this subject shows self-confidence and creates empathy. Add in your strategies for correcting or compensating for them and they are less likely to be used against you.
  3. Work smart. Focus on organizations that have a history of hiring veterans. Otherwise you will spend a lot of time trying to convince a company to hire veterans and then convince them to hire you. Skip that step. Chase someone who wants to be caught. Where do you find these companies? You already have! Click on the Military Friendly Companies tab at the top of the TAOnline homepage.
  4. Network. Talk to those who have completed successful job searches and they will likely mention a single individual who was instrumental in making the connection. To be successful you too must find and develop that relationship at every one of your target companies. Add all of them together and you have your network. You either have contacts already in place or you will have to work hard to find and foster those relationships. How do you find them? Consider friends, neighbors, relatives, alumni groups, professional societies, social media, placement companies, and recruiters. Each of them has the potential to become that instrumental person or connect you to someone who could fill that role.
  5. Homework. Back in the olden days researching a company was difficult. You had to go to the library and peruse business magazines and trade journals. Visit a stockbroker and read annual reports. Frequently the information you found was outdated or no longer accurate. However, the interviewers were aware of this and would often tolerate this inadequacy. Along came the Internet and the Information Age and everything changed. As hard as company research used to be, we now have the opposite condition—it's easy! Insufficient or inaccurate research is now inexcusable. Find yourself guilty of that and you will be labeled as lazy, not interested or ill prepared—all legitimate causes for rejection.
  6. Filters. Filters are such a part of our everyday lives that we hardly notice them. The oil filter in your car, the air filter in your home, the caller ID on your phone, and the parental control on the remote control, to name a few. Filters do two things in every system: increase the quality and decrease the quantity of what passes through. Think of your job search as a system with filters—those inserted by you and those utilized by the employers. Companies use them to eliminate candidates who lack the requisite credentials or mismatched expectations. You have no need to interview for a job that does not fit your decision criteria. Both parties use filters to eliminate impurities, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of the contenders. This is not an even playing field. There are almost always more great candidates than there are great jobs and the employers want the pool to shrink. You however want as many high-quality options as possible. For that reason, be judicious with your use of filters. Keep them at a minimum, apply the most important ones first, and insert the others at the end, if you have that luxury.
  7. Interviewing empathy. Many things influence your decision. There is much that you care about. However, as focused as you are on what matters to you, you must also have an appreciation for what matters to the interviewer. What does the company need? What are its priorities? What does the interviewer care about? What are the hot buttons? Your sensitivity to those issues is called interviewing empathy. Without it you will be hard-pressed to make the personal connection necessary to convert the interviewer from an adversary to an advocate.
  8. Q & A. Every conscientious job seeker knows the importance of the A. Anticipating, preparing for, and practicing answers to questions is standard operating procedure. It's the Q of the Q & A that causes many interviews to fail. Answering questions well is critical, but are you also prepared to ask them? The questions that you ask may be the most powerful tools in your transition toolbox. Not only do they help you gather information about the job and company, but, if chosen wisely, they will also allow you to show interest and build empathy. Subtract either of those and the problem solves itself—there will be no offer to consider.
  9. Social media. This is a powerful job search tool, but it comes with risks. Although it's a great way to research companies and develop your network, it's also an easy way for companies to check you out. Googled yourself lately? When was the last time you did some housekeeping on your social networking pages? Are you on Facebook? Will it make an employer more or less interested in you? Inventory those pictures—are you comfortable sharing them with a boss and co-workers? Do you have a presence on LinkedIn? You should. It in addition to crafting a profile that represents you well, identify and join any special interest groups that have the potential to expand your network.
  10. Close. Interviewing is selling. You are the salesperson. You are also the product. The company you want to work for is the customer and this customer has a need. You want to fill that need with your product. You package, promote, advertise, and market yourself. You have stiff competition—there are many products available that will satisfy that need. You identify the need and find yourself in a position to sell yourself. You make your pitch, give it your best shot, go home and wait for the good news, right? Wrong! You forgot the most important part! You forgot to close. If you want the order you have to ask for it. Do you think this customer is going to call you and say, May I please buy your product? Fat chance. You must ask for what you want—the job (if you are ready to accept) or the offer (if you are not yet certain). Fear of failure stops many job seekers from doing this. Sure, if you do not ask, they cannot say NO, but they cannot say YES either.

Thanks for your service and GOOD HUNTING!

By Tom Wolfe, Career Coach
© 2015; Tom Wolfe is an author, columnist, career coach, veteran, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. During his career he assisted thousands of service members in their searches for employment, placing more than 3000 in their new jobs. Prior to civilian life, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a surface warfare officer. He teaches transition courses, gives seminars on career and job change, writes about the career transition process, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His book, Out of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition, was published by Potomac Books in 2011. Tom lives on the North Carolina coast with his wife, Julie, and their Chesapeake Bay retriever, Maggie.

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