Every group has its own ‘language’. Remember when you joined the service and hardly understood what anyone was saying? Now you need to ‘learn the lingo’ used for your target jobs.

An easy first step is to pick out a couple of the words which describe what you want to do next. Examples: data modeler or safety +trainer or executive security.

  • Use a common job title or list 1-3 skills.
  • Plug the words into a job aggregator, such as Indeed.com – you’ll get a larger number of hits than many job boards.
  • Look at 75-80 listings briefly.
  • Pick out the top 15-20 which most appeal to you.
  • Read these in detail and see how well you meet all the requirements.
  • Assess the most common words that they use. Those are keywords.
  • Translate your military achievements and roles into those words.

It is useful to do this same exercise with Google or another search engine. This will give you job ads plus links to professional groups, articles, and resources which can help you understand the work you seek and how to present yourself for it. Check out every link that looks useful. First, look at how work tasks and roles you already know are described. But also look at the tone of each item for ideas and at any industry trends you find.

A critical second step is to find and research training resources and professional groups in your chosen career area. Training resources help you assess what is currently in demand in your field – what’s ‘hot’ now. Professional associations and unions offer insight into critical issues in the field and often also the major employers. Many career fields have several such organizations. Check them all out online. Look for articles and resources on their websites which will help you transition. Better yet, if possible, attend local chapter meetings! You will learn a lot about the work and grow your network in the field.  A local job club is another way to make progress quickly.

Third, look for groups in your interest area on LinkedIn or other social media sites. There are likely to be a number and you may want to sample several to find the ones that really help.  Good groups will keep you up on the news in the field and help you find people who you might want to connect with and learn more from. Plus jobs are often listed early in such professional groups.  Dump the groups where most people are negative or there are a lot of ads and useless links instead of useful content.

Read newspapers, stories, books, or online articles on a variety of topics. This will help you begin to revert to ‘civilian lingo.’   And give you something to talk about in your job search networking and interviews too.

Start practicing! Don’t just update your resume and any social media profiles with the words you are finding in your career field – although that is critical. Start omitting military acronyms and terms when you are off-duty. Ask your family and civilian friends to help – to call you out when you use a military term instead of a civilian one. Toss a quarter in a jar each time you use a military term – speeds learning and gives you a little reward at the end.

Oh, and whatever you do – don’t call anyone ‘civilian’ or refer to groups as such. Even we vets know that means you are still thinking of yourself as something ‘other’ and have forgotten you were once a part of the larger world.