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5 Ways Your Military Career Can Help You Advance Your Civilian Career

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by Rebecca Alwine

For many service members, the military is a stepping stone to a better career. While members of the reserve component have the opportunity to simultaneously advance both their civilian and military careers, it certainly isn’t easy. But when combining the skills and options for career advancement between the two, it is much more doable. Here are some suggestions on how to use your military benefits and skills to advance your civilian career.

Education & Certification

Probably the most common way to advance in any career is by continuing your education. By utilizing Tuition Assistance or using your GI Bill, you can do this and receive some financial assistance. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, most people are able to increase their salary significantly, either by advancing to a new position or by negotiating a raise. Some jobs that don’t require degrees will pay a bonus for those who have them.

Volunteer

One great way to get experience in a different career field is to volunteer. Volunteering helps you gain knowledge of the field, learn the terminology and begin networking. Many people have found some great jobs by first volunteering. Organizations recognize volunteers for their hard work, and frequently extend job opportunities to them before opening them up to the general public. While it may be hard to fit volunteering into an already busy schedule, consider the long-term pay-off when making your decision.

Find a mentor

If the career you are interested in advancing into has a military equivalent, consider finding a mentor within the military. If not, find one anyway! There are several websites and organizations available to help match up professionals who are willing to mentor with those considering the job. A mentor will be able to help you increase your network, decide which educational options are best, find you some places to volunteer, and help you through the process. If you can learn from their mistakes and successes, you will be successful too.

Transferable Skills

You have learned by now that not everyone speaks military. That is a great first step in advancing your career. When you begin applying for new jobs or updating your resume, focus on using terminology that civilian employers will understand. Along with this, focus on some of those skills and responsibilities you have in the military that will transfer, such as leadership, attention to detail, and accountability. Things you may take for granted as everyday life in the military are valuable skills in the civilian world, so don’t sell yourself short.

Networking

Begin formalizing and expanding your network now. Don’t wait until you’re looking for your next job or approaching transition from active duty status. Some of the most popular sites for military members to network include RallyPoint and LinkedIn. RallyPoint is open only to those currently serving in the military or working for the DOD. It’s a great tool for those looking to connect with former coworkers while still serving.

LinkedIn is the industry standard for professional networking. Most transition centers are offering classes specifically addressing this platform, and Reserve/National Guard service members who are on active duty longer than 180 consecutive days are able to utilize transition services. There are Networking also several groups on LinkedIn specifically for military so be sure to check those out!