12/13/2012 05:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Finding a Civilian Job, Your Last Mission Before Leaving the Military

Ask anyone who has served in the military, especially in a war zone, and they will tell you the key to any mission is great preparation. The military takes the "measure twice and cut once" method to a whole new level. Soldiers prepare daily in many cases for a mission that may never come, but time and time again it is that preparation that means the difference between life and death when they are called upon to act.

Of course, finding a job does not in any way equate to preparing for a battle, but it is a battle nonetheless that many of the men and women who leave the military often find themselves unprepared for. They often think that finding a job will be easy given their service, education, training and veteran status, but they soon realize that is not the case when they get out.

Take Richard T., who served in the Marines for 12 years, received a bachelor's degree in economics and had multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would think that employers would have been waiting for him with job offers in hand the day he left active duty, but the reality is that he has been out of work for 13 months.

"I had no idea just how competitive the civilian job market was. All I have ever done is work for the Corps, and I thought finding a job in the civilian world would have been much easier. I have spent the better part of the last six months retooling myself to be as attractive to an employer as I can be. Employers do not know what we do in the military, and we can't expect those who haven't served to know where we match up against their civilian jobs without first understanding ourselves."

It is never too early to start preparing for a civilian career, and we often counsel service members on this very issue. Do not leave it up to Uncle Sam to do the work and preparation for you, or you may find yourself like Richard. There are some very simple,basic steps you can take that will help you in your search for a civilian career, and we recommend that you start your employment transition process at a minimum of 12 months prior to you leaving the service. Some require very little effort, and some require ongoing activity.

1. Understand what civilian jobs are best matched to your MOS, but also be sure to know if your MOS is really what you want to do in the civilian world. Many of the men and women we come in contact tell us that they were told what to do in the military, and in reality, like many in the civilian workplace, they really do not have a passion for or even like what they do. Understanding what you want to do is the first step in considering a civilian career choice. This will determine if you have the skills, education and experience needed to enter that field directly after serving. There are a variety of military skills translators available that will not only show you how your MOS translates, but will also show you actual jobs that are available. Here are a few:

Veteran Recruiting JobsThe jobs available here are from employers who also have a booth in the veteran recruiting services virtual recruitment center. You can chat live with employers in their virtual career fairs each month, and visit the environment to research the employers 24/7/365. Think of it as a career fair that is always open

Hero 2 Hired is a Yellow Ribbon program. In addition to the skills translator, H2H also provides a career assessment online test that will help you understand and determine where you are best suited in the civilian job market.

2. Understand what services are available to you under the new Transition GPS program. TAP is mandatory for all branches of service, and the more serious you take it, the more you will benefit.

3. Civilianize your resume. We in the civilian sector have no idea what 92W means, or what your unit acronym stands for, and to assume we do will result in your resume being passed over much more often than you realize. Do not wait until you are ready to leave the service to start putting your resume together. With every job you hold in the military, understand what that correlates to in the civilian sector and build your resume accordingly. Leave off the military jargon is my point here, because it is very likely that the person receiving it never served.

4. Network, network and network! There is no shortage of employers who are willing and eager to hire more veterans to their workforce, but you have to be visible and, in many cases, you have to make that initial contact. One of the best ways to start this process is by developing your personal brand and to connect with those in the field or company you would most like to join. If you have not done so already, take the time in the very near future to create a LinkedIn profile, but again, keep in mind that most on LinkedIn will not be a veteran so keep the terms and job descriptions civilian focused as best you can. Find people through LinkedIn who work for the company you would like to join or who hold similar jobs to what you would like to have, and send them requests to connect. When sending a request to connect, be sure to let them know that you are serving in the military, but starting to think about your post-military career, and are looking to connect with people who might be able to guide them or advise them. I don't know many who would turn down a request to connect with you if you put it the correct way.

With a little effort, focus and preparation, you will be able to find a job prior to leaving the military, provided you take the necessary steps ahead of time to prepare for a civilian career. As with anything in life, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be, and that will surely come across in any interview you have.

Best of luck in your search and thank you for your service