Thinking of leaving the military? Already a “short-timer”? Vet still looking for a new job? You need to know how you can move onto the right career path.

We know, based on research, that most successful people share three common practices. You can too! The three are:

  • Build on your strengths.
  • Have goals, and act on them.
  • On-going networking.

Tip 1. Build on Your Strengths

Building on your strengths starts by figuring out what those strengths are.

Strengths include both specific technical or professional skills and how you work with others. Here are some questions to think about.  Start making a list or a journal to keep track and build on this exercise.

  • What specific tasks and types of work have you most enjoyed doing?
  • Which of these are you really good at?
  • What specific education, training, or experience do you have which supports your strengths?
  • What strengths have been identified in your reviews that you might want to add here?
  • Who or what could help you identify your strengths more fully?

As you document your strengths, remember that other people in your life can add a lot of information. Ask several who you trust what they think your strengths are to see what you learn.  Add in those you agree with and want to do more of in the future.

Evaluate your military education in civilian terms via your service’s program. This translation also offers insight into skills as well as educational credit information.

There are tests available to help you identify your strengths too. Check out what is available to you via TAP.  Check in with your college alumni services to see what career assessment tools they may offer.

Tip 2. Set Goals and Act on Them

Decide upon your goals. This takes thought and focus.

  • Think of your strengths above – where do they lead?
  • What longer-term goals or dreams do you have?
  • Think about your past successes – how do these help you focus on what you want to do next?
  • What jobs offer the opportunity to meet your desires and needs?
  • What locations have a lot of the jobs which interest you?

This effort forms the basis for your career goals and plans. It helps you start your research into specific jobs and target employers. Your strengths, the achievements and education related to them, plus the research you do on specific jobs that build on these define your goals.  Next they help you create effective resumes, online portfolios, and other job search materials.

  • Document your goals and create an action plan to achieve them.  What will you do to move yourself forward?
  • Make an appointment with yourself at least each week to work your plan.
  • Define 3-4 specific goals – what do you need to do to achieve your short and mid-term goals? How do those relate to longer term goals?
  • Detail the actions needed to achieve each goal.
  • Take small but regular actions toward your goals.

Tip 3. Consistent Networking = Human Connections

You now have an idea what your strengths, interests and goals are. Where do you find the other information, advice and assistance you need to succeed?

Use and strengthen your networks to leverage and enhance your activities. Think of all your contacts – family, friends, co-workers, past bosses and peers, others you know through community/professional groups in person or online. Connect or reconnect.

Once you are connected, begin a dialogue. Know what information, ideas, contacts you can offer and what you need from each. Talk, email, or get together and rebuild your network. Then stay in touch, ask for help as you need it and give information or assistance back regularly.

Build relationships in your civilian community if you are stateside. Develop some within your chosen career field, including via social media. If possible, join local professional groups in your field. Build more through hobby or sports groups, kids or community organizations. Overseas? Consider social media groups in your field.

Social media resources, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, offer professional networks and job search groups. You can also use them as a way to help you manage and maintain relationships.

It is your career – what are you doing in your transition to enhance your chances for success?