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Making a smooth transition to a post-military career

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Updated: 2/03 12:06 pm

(BPT) - Leaving the military is like leaving home for the first time. Upon discharge, service members are faced with the question of: 'What's next?'

Some service members obtain their degree while in the military and have their sights set on a career path prior to transitioning into the civilian sector. Many others, though, are undecided on their post-military career, including a lack of knowing which type of degree will lead them to a career that aligns with the skills developed during their military tenure. Bottom-line, deciding on a post-military career field can be overwhelming. It is important to note that experts recommend service members begin the transition process from military to civilian life as early as two years before being discharged.

'For service members who have been assigned a specific job in a specific location their entire career, transitioning from a military career to a civilian career can be overwhelming,' says University of Phoenix Associate Regional Vice President and retired Army Colonel Garland Williams. 'One area service members often struggle with is how to apply the skills they learned in the military to a future career outside of the military.'

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job demand in the fields of health care, information security, scientific research, law enforcement and financial services will be especially strong over the next decade. Williams says service members are more than capable of meeting that need. The good news is that there are many resources for members of the military who are looking for assistance with discovering what career options are available. Some options include:

* Military Skills Translator Tool: Military members become proficient in many tasks during their time in the service, but understanding how those skills translate to civilian jobs is not always easy. University of Phoenix created a Military Skills Translator Tool, which takes a service member's military occupational specialty code and provides a list of civilian occupations that correlates to the job skills sets the service member held while in the military. Each military occupation is linked directly to labor market data to give background on related jobs and education required to enter into the specific job field, making the transition from military to civilian careers easier. Service members also can earn college credit for their military experience, helping them to advance faster to earning a degree and starting a career.

* Transitional Assistance Program: The U.S. Department of Labor's Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) is designed to provide soon-to-be discharged or retired service members helpful education and workshops on job searches, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing techniques as well as decisions that might need to be made relating to career choices. Another option is the Phoenix Career Guidance System, which is University of Phoenix's online resource providing career tools and resources. Additionally, the University provides its military students and alumni access to additional resources including a Resume Builder, links to military-specific events hosted by the university, career coaching and links to job opportunities across the country.

In addition to identifying a career, service members will need to know how to communicate their military skills and training into civilian terms during the job search and interview process. Williams cautions against using a lot of acronyms, which may not translate on a resume to employers. Instead, transitioning service members should promote universal skills like leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking - skills that will catch an employer's eye during the hiring process. These transferable skills should be included in the cover letter and resume, alongside all technical skills learned. Once in the interview, be respectful of the interviewer, but also relax. Military personnel tend to be very direct and straightforward, but the civilian business world is open to more casual and conversational interactions.

To learn more about University of Phoenix education programs for military students, as well as find additional resources, visit www.phoenix.edu/military.

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