seekers more options and employers “more for the buck.” Employers like to see education and training that substantiates work experience. Whether through professional certification or professional and trade association memberships, important steps toward professional development can make a difference. In 1994, service members received $134 million in tuition assistance for college, according to the 1996 Defense Report. Preliminary 1995 figures show a slight increase in the level of funding. Of the more than 250,000 service members who make the transition to civilian employment, 22% have some college credits, while about 19% have at least one college degree. “The military prepared me by giving me skills, education and opportunities to excel,” says Spears. “I took every chance I could to take specialized courses in my field as well as computer courses to stay on track with the age of automation.”
GET PREPARED FOR INTERVIEWS
Sheffield insists you can never be too prepared. “Practice every time you have an interview, assess how you did and make efforts to improve for the next one.”
Hunter Hopson, the chief construction manager at the Goddard Space Flight Center for Parsons Corp., an international engineering construction company in Pasadena, California, started preparing for the civilian workforce five years before his 1996 military retirement. He knew that with 27 years in service, he had to make some adjustments. “There are different rules and a different language in the civilian world, you have to learn to adjust to them,” says Hopson. “Start interfacing with civilians early on to give yourself the opportunity to practice effective [civilian] communication without the risk of losing a job offer. Know what to expect from interviewers and what they expect of you.” Hopson also suggests interviewees research the company.
In addition, Hopson says it’s a good idea to stay in contact with people you admire as your military career progresses. “Prepare interview responses that don’t only focus on what you have done, but what you can do,” he says. “I learned that we have to use the principles of the skills we gained in the military as an application to the civilian way.”
Below are some interviewing tips:
Prepare and practice for interviews. Behavior-based interviews are designed to demonstrate your creativity in problem-solving, so be prepared to cite specific examples, in nonmilitary jargon.
- Have a positive attitude even if you were separated from the service involuntarily. Never “bad mouth” former supervisors. Employers will think you’ll do the same to them.
- Use quantities in your examples, but don’t be overwhelming. Military people are used to being accountable for millions of dollars worth of equipment, but this can pose a threat to an interviewer who does the same thing but on a smaller scale.
- Don’t insist on using “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Listen for how the interviewer introduces him- or herself, and remember the name.
- Don’t expect to start at the top. Civilians have their own hierarchy, just like the military.
- Never wear your uniform to any employer contact, including job fairs. This includes pieces or your uniform, no matter how “normal” you think it may