I'm writing this blog post to discuss a common question that I've had myself as a former transitioning veteran and also from many of my clients: "What should my timeline look like?"
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, this should be a good start on what you should be doing as you prepare to leave active duty and move into the "real world" (by way of school or a sweet new job).
>18 months out: Explore and Narrow
Take time to explore. Now is the time to start researching potential career paths. Vault.com and Glassdoor.com offer loads of free content on industries and functions. Read books. Yes, books! Get a library card- depending on your thirst for knowledge it can save you a bundle! Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Talk to people! The best way practical insight is by reaching out to friends and family in your network to learn more about where they are and how they got there. Take this time to think more about what you're good at and what truly interests you. Not sure where your strengths lie at this point? At Boots to Boardroom, we offer a variety of assessments that can get you started.
Network, network, network. LinkedIn is a great place to start, so set up a profile if you do not have one already. Get a professional, non-uniform headshot for your profile, as potential employers will be scoping you out. Connect only with people with whom you're genuinely interested in talking and ask them for 15 minutes of their time to learn more about their role or company. Have a specific objective. If you are adding people with the hope of reaching a number of contacts, you are doing it wrong. Leverage your new status as an Veteran "soon to be getting out of the service and interested in learning more about X."
Decide the big things. Determine non-negotiables as far as your nest step goes. The world is your oyster and this is your time to be selective. What type of lifestyle do you want - work/life balance, paycheck, commute time? Maybe you hate cold weather and want to find a city where snow will be a distant memory. Maybe you enjoy nature and want to get reacquainted with the outdoors. Maybe you want to sell your car and never sit in traffic again. Then again, maybe the opposite of all of those things holds true. The better you can use external factors to define your situation, the easier it will be to choose the next step.
If you are considering heading back to school, talk to classmates or alumni who have finished and/or are currently in your desired programs. The more perspectives, the better. An informal campus visit will do wonders for your appreciation of what graduate school life is like. This can happen anytime. Later, once in the application process, a formal school visit speaks volumes about your interest, and is an essential step in your quest for admission.
>15 months out: Study for Exams
For those opting to head back to school, now is the time to start prepping for admissions exams. The better idea you have of program you want to attend, the better defined your target score will be for your exam. If you're someone who likes structure (did someone say military?), then I recommend signing up for an online or in-person class. The deadlines will force you to set the time aside every week to work. If you hate structure and are getting out of the military to be a hippy, then a study-guide should do the trick. Plan far enough in advance to take the test twice if possible - you never know when something will come up and don't want to be crunched for time.
12 months out: Apply to Grad School
Admissions first-rounds at graduate schools will be about to start. Many programs offer early decision and expedited screening for candidates who can commit to a school as their first choice. The general consensus is that the final admissions rounds are much more competitive. Do your homework and make sure you're ahead of the game. Boots to Boardroom can help with the entire admissions process. From prioritizing schools, visiting for effect, crafting a potent application/essays, and interviewing to stand out, we have extremely important, tactical steps that you can take to drastically improve your odds of receiving an offer of admission.
9 months out: Make Appointments
Now is the time to take advantage of every free service ever offered to you in the military. A few places to get started:
6 months out: De-Militarize Your Resume
One of the largest challenges that transitioning Veterans face lies in translating military accomplishments into a document that can not only be understood, but stand out favorably to a recruiter. A resume can't get you a job, but it can certainly lose you one! Boots to Boardroom provides personalized resume review and templates to ensure you have an application-ready resume with the fewest revisions possible! Feel free to read our testimonials here!
>6 months out:
Apply for Jobs
By now, you should have narrowed down your target companies and preferred roles within them. You should also have spoken to people in your network who work at these companies. We recommend applying to 3-5 companies depending on the type of role you are seeking. Consider attending job fairs and career conferences.
Prepare for Interviews
Your resume may get your foot in the door, but how you interview will make or break the job offer for you. We can help understand the various types of interviews, essential questions to expect, and how to tie your resume into your responses to highlight your strengths. Test yourself with two mock interviews to identify areas of improvement and build confidence.
2 months out: Celebrate Your Success!
Congratulations! By now you should be getting ready to head to grad school or sitting on a few great job offers. You've done the work ahead of time and will be lightyears ahead of most of your co-workers at this point. Pat yourself on the back, enjoy your terminal leave, and get ready for this exciting new chapter in your life!
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!