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The picture above is the day that I left the military. When I left the military, I had a choice to transition to the civilian sector for either a role within the DoD civilian, DoD Contractor, or Civilian sector. Along the way, I have learned to ask key questions to help myself progress through the “ranks,” and other veterans understand key questions they need to ask along the way, so they do not hamper their initial job search, salary prospects, and benefits.
Within this quick guide for military IT professionals’ next steps, here are the key questions you need to ask yourself before making the next step
. Hopefully, you will have the answers before you step out.
Am I qualified?
Let’s get the uncomfortable question out of the way first. You can be the NCO of the Year award winner or ranked one out of ten staff officers with a ribbon rack that rolls over your shoulder, but it does not mean a thing in the civilian sector if you do not meet the qualifications of the posted job requirement. This fact is often a bitter pill for us to swallow, but nothing in life is fair.
To ensure you pass the initial screening, you must fulfill the job’s education requirements which have two distinct categories, Degrees, and Certifications. The degree demonstrates that you have a baseline understanding. The certification demonstrates that you have specialized training in the particular subject. If you don’t have both, your resume will not get past the initial screening process.
Special Note: If you don’t have your Security +, did you even do IT when you were in the military?
Why doesn’t the recruiter understand that I was a USAF 3D, USA 25 Bravo, 18 Echo, Signal Officer, USN IT1 or 1853, or Marine Corps 0651 or 0206?
First, did you know what this was before you signed up? Did your job assignment match up to the MOS verbiage? The answer to both questions is probably a hard “Negative.” The private sector lacks the understanding of what you did, the skills and qualifications developed, and the mission impact. You must use an “I” centric approach to your resume
. Explain what you did in a “Big Bird” format, and have cause and effect for each bullet. Your TAPs resume will not have this. I encourage finding a resume writer or recruiter to help shape your resume for the position.
Special Note: Spell out your acronyms or find the private sector equivalent. For example, I was an Air Force Computer Systems Operator (3C0), a USCENTAF NOC Engineer who learned to be a Full Stack Developer at HQ USSOUTHCOM. The civilian translation is “I am an IT Professional with extensive network operations background and full stack development experience. This includes working in Central Asia and South America.”
But I had TS/SCI when I was in…
The key word is “was.” For example, you lose your TS/SCI eligibility after two years
. A Top Secret clearance expires after five years, and a Secret clearance expires after ten years. Still, the issuing agency determines the exact expiration date. However, in some cases, any changes in your circumstances may call into question your suitability to hold a clearance. Keep this in mind when you try to reenact the scenes from “The Hangover.”
Special Note: Always print out your copy of your e-QIP.
What are the benefits?
The challenge of comparing military benefits to private sector benefits can be significant because the two are quite different. For example, military benefits are generally more comprehensive and include housing allowances, medical care, and retirement pensions. On the other hand, private sector benefits can vary widely depending on the employer and may include things like health insurance, 401(k) plans, and paid time off. Keep this fact in mind when you pick the next employer.
Special Note: Benefits are negotiable.
The answers to the above questions will help you find the job, pay, and benefits you are looking for. However, there is a lot more to take into consideration when making a move out of active duty. If you have yet to start the planning process at least two years out, the options can be limited when you are out, but you are smarter than that.
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