How to choose? Weighing job offers…

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m at the point in my job search, after follow-ups, where I am fortunate enough to have different offers to consider.  But it’s proving to be much harder than I’d thought to choose!  I’m so grateful to have options, but this is a huge step in my post-military career.  How do we make the right choices, especially when aspects of the jobs are so varying… location, cost of living, salary, work culture/environment, job description?

I had dinner with a good friend the other day, and she gave me some sage advice.  A few years ago, she was at a similar point in her life, weighing job offers and trying to figure out what to do with her life.  She said she sat down, and made two lists.

The first, “What are the reasons I would take a job that paid $30,000 a year?”

The second, “What are the reasons I wouldn’t take a job that paid $300,000?”

The answers to these questions will give you insight into what you’re looking for in a job. The first question will yield answers like great work-life balance, passion for the job, and positive culture/environment.  The second will tell you what isn’t good for you in a career, like no free time from work, compromising your integrity, and more.

By knowing what you’d be willing to do for little pay, and what you wouldn’t do even for a huge salary, you’ll have an idea of what your non-negotiables are.

As I consider the options, I’m making a mental list of my non-negotiables.  I want a job, not a career.  I want to develop and grow in a position.  I want to be busy, thinking, creating, contributing… and that is what I am searching for as I make this leap.

Hiring Our Heroes on NBC

This week, NBC is promoting the Hiring Our Heroes program sponsored by the U.S Chamber of Commerce.  As a result, there have been some great segments on their networks about veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.  Here are some clips, in case you missed them!

NBC’s Today Show: Hiring Our Heroes

MSNBC: Program helps veterans and spouses with job search

MSNBC: US veterans face return-to-workforce challenges

Frustrated? Confused? Be prepared for the transition process.

I had a terrible time the other day, trying to get my orders for separation.  I’d received my REFRAD approval last year, begun the ACAP process and registered for classes, prepared myself for interviews, and kept my bosses up-to-date on my timeline.  But, it turns out, I had missed a step.

No one had told me that I needed to submit specific documents to the transitions personnel, who create the orders.  This was something I could have done last year, but I never got a handout, checklist, or anything to tell me so.  I only found out because a fellow officer showed me a document she’d received.  I was frustrated!  How could I have missed a step?  I’d been so organized, so prepared!  How did this happen?

I was beginning to think that people stay in the military because it’s easier than trying to get out!

After I calmed down a bit, I was able to gather all of the necessary paperwork to receive my orders.  As I talked to other personnel in the ACAP/Transitions area, I realized I wasn’t the only one confused about it all.  There seemed to be so many agencies involved and a total lack of organization.  And based on feedback from my friends, it’s like that everywhere.

Since it seems like no one else has a checklist, I’ve come up with a short one to get you started.  Hopefully it will help you out, because I wish I’d known this last year when I started.

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Success Story: Brian

After four years at a service academy and a year as an Army officer, Brian knew what it was like to “adapt and overcome.”  But then life threw him a huge curveball: a career-ending training injury that thrust him into the civilian job market at the height of the recession.

“Like many other twenty somethings,” Brian says, “I was forced to move back in with my parents while attempting to come up with a plan for my future.”   (In these economic climes, 40-60% of twenty somethings move back home at some point, or plan to!)

Within a year, he crossed the country to begin a PhD program in History, with the intention to become a university professor… only to discover that it wasn’t the career path he wanted to pursue either.  Brian realized what many JMOs need to consider when they leave the military: your transition is the ultimate opportunity to reinvent your personal brand.

“Consider this an advantage,” Brian advises, “In the future, your personal brand will be defined by your education and career experience… Each future decision will affect your brand, so consider each option carefully with an eye to your long-term objectives.”

For Brian, that meant focusing on what he truly loved: technology.

“I focused on my career contemplation until I developed a laser-like focus on the objective of becoming a ‘techie’ and subject matter expert in a large firm with a technology focus, based out of a major city.”

Does a goal get any more defined than that?  Armed with his objective, Brian left the PhD program within a year, landing a job with one of the world’s largest publicly traded technology companies.  It’s obvious that he loves his job, and has found something many JMOs actively seek in their transition: career fulfillment.    He’s now a standout at his firm, one of the top-performing technical experts in his age group.

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Book Review: The Military to Civilian Transition Guide

This book is one I received for free from the Army as I began my transition.  It is published by Corporate Gray, a website that helps connect veterans with military-friendly employers.  It has a lot of ads (probably why it’s free!) but contains some good information.  They also re-release every couple of years to stay relevant, which is always a good thing in this ever-changing economy and workforce!

The Military to Civilian Transition Guide is a great starting point for anyone, of any military background, to develop a transition plan.  It outlines a lot of resources out there for veterans, as well as provides a good sample timeline for finding employment.  There are a ton of websites provided for further research (many of them are located here on our links page).

I also liked the chapter on identifying your transferable skills/traits.  I’ve said it before, but veterans sell themselves short in terms of their value in the civilian world.  We have a lot of things going for us, and it’s important to OWN IT!

If you can get your hands on a free copy of this book, I’d recommend it.  Every chapter is not going to apply to every person, but there’s certainly good information to glean.

How I Told My Boss I’m Quitting

One of the hardest things I’ve done was to give the Army my ‘notice’.  It’s not like the civilian world where you give them a few weeks, maybe even a month; the process of leaving the military takes more time, so you have to let them know 6-12 months in advance.  You do the paperwork, get counseled by your commander, and start the Army Career & Alumni Program (ACAP).  As an officer, choosing to leave upon completion of your contract is called a REFRAD, or Release from Active Duty.  Enlisted soldiers doing the same are choosing to ETS, Expiration Term of Service.  It’s a similar end result, but a different process.

I worked directly for the same Battalion Commander for three years.  He presented my first award, promoted me twice, and served as a constant and steadfast mentor for me.  We didn’t always agree, but we had a strong mutual trust and great professional relationship.  He was there through some major ups and downs in my life, and I felt I owed much of my success to his mentorship.

Like many military leaders, he wanted to help retain the best people for the organization.  He spoke to me often about his career path, the great opportunities the Army had afforded him, and why I should stay in for 20+ years.  I always listened to him, weighing my pros and cons.  When I made the decision to submit my paperwork for REFRAD, he was one of the first people I told.  (Well, I had to tell him, or he’d have found out anyways.  But it wasn’t a conversation I looked forward to.)

It’s hard to tell someone that while you respect them, you don’t want to follow in their footsteps.  I felt like I was saying, “Sorry, I don’t want to be you when I grow up.”  I didn’t want any hard feelings, because the decision was entirely mine.  It’s not you, it’s me!  The Army isn’t for everyone!

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