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Oct 09

Gaining Clarity About Your Next Career

One of the most challenging aspects of the military-to-civilian transition process is figuring out the “right” civilian career path for you.  How can you begin to sort out the many vague, undefined possibilities into more specific choices that can be evaluated?

Here are some useful things to keep in mind:

  • Many career assessments encourage you to look inward. While internal reflection is important, avoid using it as a barrier to actually experiencing specific career-connected activities.  In other words, explore ways in which you can actively get a feel for a specific career path or work environment on a trial or temporary basis. Consider short-term pro bono projects or volunteering for a limited time to see what it’s really like “behind the curtain” of an organization.
  • Join professional associations in the field of greatest interest to you. Read their newsletters, attend their conferences and do your homework to build your understanding of the industry/field. Cultivate your network in the industry through conversations at events, informational interviews, active participation in related LinkedIn groups and ongoing communication with those you’ve met.
  • Talk with former colleagues who have pursued the career path you are considering. Ask them what additional skills or qualifications they would recommend for those interested in the field.  What minefields did they encounter as they entered the industry?  What do they see as the most critical factors to consider before pursuing the specific career path? For example, if you are thinking about starting your own consulting firm within your areas of expertise, you will want to know who else is doing similar work, the market demand, and how you will stack up against your competition. You also will want to consider the up-and-down nature of the consulting business, the number of hours and dollars you will need to invest to achieve sustainable success/ a reliable source of income, and other unforeseen  factors that could impact your chances for success.

Remember that changing careers is not typically a straightforward process; more often, it is an ongoing exploration, filled with bumps, detours and small achievements along the way.

Remember that changing careers is not typically a straightforward process; more often, it is an ongoing exploration, filled with bumps, detours and small achievements along the way. In many cases, the first job you accept in your new field is not always the best fit, for any number of reasons. If things don’t work out, don’t second-guess your decision to have taken the job or view your departure from the company or organization as a personal failure. Instead, think about it as an opportunity to better understand what to avoid next time around and the steps that are within your control to help you achieve a better outcome.

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