A job search usually produces stress. This is because change and uncertainty always produce stress. Although military life is full of assignment changes and moves, there is a certain stability in knowing that you are employed, you have support and a paycheck. However, leaving the military and looking for a civilian job will probably bring about the most change and uncertainty you have had to deal with in quite a while. You will need a lot of emotional support to maintain a positive attitude and to remain optimistic during your search for the right job.
There are many different definitions and ideas about stress, but in practical terms, stress is a mismatch between the demands in our lives and the resources we have available to deal with those demands.
Positive stress can help a person to concentrate, focus, or perform, and can often help a person reach peak efficiency. Many people, in fact, do their best work when under pressure. Then when the challenge has been met, they take the time to relax and enjoy their achievements.
Stress becomes negative when you stay wound-up and do not or cannot relax after meeting a challenge. Although negative stress has been linked with many physical ailments ranging from tension headaches to heart attacks, the good news is that
stress does not have to be detrimental to your health. In leaving the military there may be some internal confusion of identity, loss of self-esteem and control. Your physical and mental (emotional and behavioral) conditions will be impacted as a result of a job loss, and you may go through several changes as your job search progresses.
To effectively manage existing stress, you must recognize its sources, signs and symptoms in yourself and others, particularly in your family. It is important to improve your coping and problem-solving abilities and avoid transmitting your stress to family and friends, especially your spouse.
Continue to maintain important relationships, attend cultural and religious events, and engage in hobbies and recreational activities. View work as only one part of your life. It is important to maintain or create a routine as similar to your previous schedule as possible. For example, continue to get up at the same time each morning. Dress in business clothes, and be sure to project a professional image on the telephone. The daytime is for making contacts in person and by telephone. Since most jobs are found through networking, new contacts should be the focus of your efforts.
To minimize future stress, approach problems as challenges and opportunities for growth. Start by identifying your primary goals and objectives, then break them down into manageable challenges. Take steps each week to overcome those mini-challenges.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
Sometimes the only way to deal with stressful events is to get professional help. Seeking counseling is not a sign of weakness; it takes strength to recognize that you can’t always go it alone. Learn to make use of, not avoid, expert resources. If you feel completely alone, overwhelmed or helpless, you may need the special training and perspective a counselor can provide. See your transition office* for further information and referrals. You may prefer to ask your physician or another health professional. State or local health agencies are another resource to recommend a counselor.
Develop A Personal Stress Management Plan
Be sure to include these items: Recognize stressors surrounding your job search and personal life. try to identify some of the feelings you experience and different ways in which you might best adjust. Develop a job search plan. Commit to your plan. Review the results weekly, and make needed adjustments. Don’t take minor rejections too seriously. Much of the stress you may experience as a result of having lost your job will diminish as your plan comes together. You will feel a sense of relief and gradually begin to gain back the control over your life that you feel was lost.
Structure your time and practice time management. Begin your day by ordering your priorities. Plan the most efficient way of completing a task. Focus your total concentration on the task at hand. Do not allow other people to waste your time.
Initiate/maintain an exercise and nutrition regimen. Engage yourself in fun activities and exercise your mind and body.Follow a healthy food plan. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
Maintain your religious beliefs, social/family customs and daily routines. Learn and use relaxation techniques.
Develop and maintain support systems. Surround yourself with positive people. Help others.
Consider career counseling. Join a support group. Establish a life plan and career goals. Schedule time for yourself.
Your job search is not personal time; it is your current job. Include daily humor and laughter in your life.
Communicate openly and honestly with others.
Create a Master Application & Worksheet—
A Master Application Worksheet that starts on the following page helps you develop a history of your education and training, work experience, military service, hobbies and interests, organizational memberships, and community activities. Using the worksheet helps you organize the information to use later when you:
• Write your resume;
• Fill out employment application forms; and
Don’t forget details, such as telephone numbers and addresses. Create the form as long and with as much space to enter all the information regardless of the length.
IDENTIFY STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES ARISING FROM MILITARY EXPERIENCE
Any job, in any organization, will give you knowledge and skills that will be valued by future employers. For example, the leadership training you received in the military can be very valuable in the civilian job market. Similarly, working in any organization can make you so used to doing tasks in a certain way that you will have to relearn how to perform in another organization. Even the terms or words you frequently use will be different. For example, the use of military lingo is so widespread in the service, you must unlearn this language and speak plain English before an employer will understand you.
This section addresses the specific strengths and challenges of working in the military. As you read this section, think about your experience in the service and what you can do to capitalize upon your strengths and overcome any challenges.
Your military service has given you training and work experience useful to many employers. Your task is to consider your own work and find a way to use this information to your best advantage. Following is a list of some strengths you probably
have used in your military service. As you read the list, make notes about your own experiences. You will use the notes later in preparing your resume to emphasize points the company is looking for.
Leadership training — The military trains people to accept responsibility and give direction. You may have had responsibility for other people and their activities. You are trained to lead by setting an example and by giving directions.
Ability to conform to rules and structure — In any organization there must be rules and structure to avoid chaos. You have learned and followed rules in the service. Companies value employees who will follow the rules and fit into the structure of the workplace.
Ability to learn with advanced training — You received intensive, and often specialized, advanced training in the service.
Familiarity with records — You are familiar with the need for records and complete paperwork. You understand the need to be accountable for everything you do.
Ability to work as a team member and a team leader — In the military you worked in a team environment. You understand that everything you do affects someone else. You may have served as a team leader where you analyzed
situations and options, made decisions, gave directions, followed through and accepted responsibility.
Ability to work in a diverse group — The military employs all Americans regardless of race, gender, economic status, religion. In the service, you have worked with people of all backgrounds, attitudes, and characteristics.
Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines — In the military you must perform. You do your job right the first time. There is pressure and stress; if you fail, people could suffer. This attitude toward work is valued in the business community.
Systematic planning — Most military operations require thorough planning. You must consider objectives, the strengths and limitations of others, resources, time schedules, logistics, and various other factors. You also assess progress during the operations. The ability to plan is highly valued in many civilian job settings.
Emphasis on safety — Military safety training is among the best in the world. You understand the cost of lives, property, and objectives when safety is ignored. An emphasis on safety will often be valued in the civilian workforce.
Ability to give and follow directions — You know how to work under supervision. You are accountable for your actions. Being disciplined in your life and when dealing with others is important in the workplace.
Drug-free — You have been working in a zero-tolerance environment, with frequent and random drug testing. Most employers view this as a distinct advantage.
Maturity — You may have maturity beyond your years. You can bring this out in an interview by relating your experiences and responsibilities. Employers may see you as more mature than other applicants your age.
Security clearance — Many military personnel have achieved some level of security clearance. For some employers, your clearance will simplify the process of applying for a civilian clearance and save them money.
Initiative — You have a proactive mentality. Employers will appreciate your ability to approach issues and opportunities without necessarily being asked to.
Problem-solving — You are a strategic thinker. You have been trained to assess a situation and address problems and opportunities. Employers are looking for workers who help make work go more smoothly.
Minimized need for supervision — You are accustomed to being given a task and taking responsibility for its completion. Employers appreciate your efficiency and ability to work independently.
Your military experience may also present you with challenges. These issues are factors that you will learn to handle. Each of the factors is briefly described.
1. Communication — The military talks in alphabet soup. You have learned to use acronyms and military jargon. Everybody in the military understands it, but almost nobody outside the service will! You must consciously think about
using words, not acronyms or jargon, to communicate.
2. Stereotypes — Some employers have false impressions of the military. Being aware of the stereotypes up front will help you break them down when you encounter them. Some of the stereotypes include:
• military personnel do not know how to dress or socialize in the civilian community;
• all military personnel are rigid and lack creativity;
• you only get things done because of your rank;
• the military is not bottom-line oriented, does not think with a profit mentality; and
• military life is easier than civilian life; etc.
3. Unrealistic Expectations — Many military personnel feel they will enter the civilian abor market and get a high-paying position. Frequently they will take a cut in pay and status equivalent to someone changing careers.
4. Credentials — Occupational credentials, such as a license or certification, have increasingly become a common requirement for many types of civilian jobs. Because civilian credentialing requirements are typically based on traditional means of obtaining education, training, and experience in the civilian sector and you have received your career preparation in the military, you may encounter difficulties in obtaining a license or certificate. You need to determine the requirements for the credential desired prior to transitioning to avoid significant delays in obtaining employment.
A thorough personal appraisal gets your job search off to a good start.
ANALYZE YOUR SKILLS People are hired based on their qualifications—a mix of experience, skills, education, training, knowledge, attitudes and abilities—how well their qualifications match what is needed on the job. In the Master Application Worksheet you just completed, you listed your experience. It is also important for you to look at all the skills you have learned through education, military service, previous jobs, hobbies/interests, and participation in professional organizations and community activities. Basically, your skills are what you use to do your job, to complete tasks and solve problems. Assessing your skills will help you determine:
• Your strongest skills;
• The skills you most enjoy using; and
• The jobs you might enjoy doing and which ones you would do well.
Making a list of your skills will
• Point out skills you may need to learn for a given job;
• Save you time when you write your resume; and
• Help you develop answers to interview questions.
TRANSFERABLE SKILLS INVENTORY
All job skills are transferable. As you analyze your skills, do not just think about the job titles you have held, think about the specific things you did on each job. Consider the skills you possess, the skills you do not possess and the skills you want to develop or refine. When you are done, compare your skills with the skills required in the jobs that interest you. This will enable you to understand how well you qualify for a position. Also, you will have an idea of how well you are qualified or what additional training or experience you need.
ANALYZE WORK-RELATED VALUES
Your work-related values influence how you feel about your job. You need to know your values as you begin to look for a job. To be satisfied with your work, you should choose a job that matches your work values as closely as possible.
Following is a list of work values for you to consider as you begin your job search. Rate each item on a scale of not important to very important.
Then review your list to see which items you feel most strongly about. Pay close attention to the list as you set your goals. Your values relate directly to the working conditions in each company or occupation you research.