What’s Luck Got to Do With Military-to-Civilian Transition?

What’s Luck Got to Do With Military-to-Civilian Transition?
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St. Patrick’s Day often emphasizes luck, whether it stems from an old saying or from finding the right type of clover. Some job-seekers can emphasize luck as well, blaming bad breaks for missing out on an opportunity or crediting good fortune for helping secure a big interview.


But luck plays very little into whether you land your next role. There are several items you can control when it comes to finding your next career, and while you can’t account for everything, these four factors – like clover leaves – can point you toward the pot of gold.


1. A Strong Network

Consider the depth and diversity of your network. By “deep,” I mean, how large is it? Quantity over quality is not the name of the game; instead, consider your network’s network – a second step of resources you can tap for leads, advice, and so much more.


Not sure how to reach those resources? First, if you are not on LinkedIn, consider creating a profile; check out MOAA’s Linkedin resources for tips on building a strong profile and leveraging LinkedIn as a tool.


A peek into your network’s network likely will yield broad diversification in industry, organization, geography, and more. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people with whom you have not connected in a while – this is exactly what LinkedIn is for. People want to help veterans, so lean in and reach out!


2. Understanding Your Value

Integrity, honor, courage, commitment, accountability, perseverance, resilience – these are not bumper sticker characteristics. These are highly sought-after traits outside of the military.


Sometimes, veterans overlook these qualities because they were expected of us. So when thinking about how your skills and experience translate to the civilian sector, know you bring a wealth of human and life skills that cannot be taught through a company’s onboarding program. Your skills and work ethic are part of your DNA and are highly sought after in the civilian workforce.


3. An Impactful, Compelling Résumé

Lead with your value! Your résumé has a several purposes, but chief among them is to get you selected for an interview and confirm your skills and experience.


While it is important to describe the scope of responsibility you have had, it is even more important to demonstrate how well you performed: It lets the employer know what you specifically achieved in your tenure through quantifiable and qualitative metrics, and it differentiates you from peers who look a lot like you on paper. In other words, a résumé is how you stand out from others applying for the same role – including other veterans.


Tailor your résumé to the position you seek using language from the role description – help your hiring manager connect the dots between their need and your qualifications!


[MORE RESUME RESOURCES: MOAA’s Transition and Career Center]


4. A Jackpot Interview

Once you’ve landed the interview, you must prepare! You know the deal: Prior proper planning prevents pitifully poor performance – although you’ve probably heard a less-polite version.


You have access to a plethora of resources to help you. Web searches can dig up publicly available company information, while your network can help find less-accessible details on corporate culture, deeper industry research, and so on. 


The interview is an opportunity for a prospective employer to evaluate your qualifications for the job, your interest in the job, and your likeability – will you be a good fit for the team? Likewise, you are evaluating fit from your perspective – do you want to work at this business, with this culture, in this position?


It costs employers a lot of money to hire people and it is a lot of work to find a job, so it is beneficial for both parties to ensure a good fit. Neither wants to begin the process anew in six months.


The questions you ask the interviewer can help you stand out: They demonstrate your level of interest and intellect, among other appealing aspects.


[RELATED: How to Ace Your Virtual Interview]


Take Advantage of Good Timing

Even with the proper preparation, some external factors will help determine whether you land the post-service role you’re after. However, the current job market has no shortage of openings -- if you consider timing to be a factor of luck, consider yourself lucky. 


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About the Author

Cmdr. Erin Cardinal, USN (Ret), ACC, CPC
Cmdr. Erin Cardinal, USN (Ret), ACC, CPC

Cardinal is MOAA's Program Director, Transition Services & Family Programs. She is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and has extensive experience in coaching servicemembers through their transition from active duty to the civilian sector.