As great as it is to get an education and learn new information, we know that the outcome is what is most important. Beginning a career in your desired field and successfully completing the transition from military life to your civilian career is what it's all about. For this reason, we place an emphasis on teaching you the skills that you need to land that dream job.
Kristin Schrader, assistant director of InternPLUS and military career programs at University of Maryland University College, offers advice on how to transition successfully.
After creating an impressive résumé, performing well in the interview is the next critical step toward securing your target opportunity. Chances are you will be asked, "Why should we hire you?" It's critical that you consider your answers to the following questions:
- What assets (education, experience, skills, etc.) do you bring to the table?
- What makes you unique?
- What value can you bring to our organization?
If you have experienced a military promotion board, then interviewing for a job may feel very familiar, and to be successful, preparation is key. In my work as a corporate recruiter, along with observing countless practice interviews, I have noticed some characteristics that make all the difference in separating a so-so interview from one that is outstanding.
Research the opportunity and the organization: Prior to the interview, take the time to research both the opportunity for which you applied and the organization. If you're preparing for a job interview, identify at least three reasons why you are excited about joining the organization. These may include the organization's reputation, their products or services, or the organization's culture. Be sure to consider how you would fit into the organization and what makes this job a good fit for your education, skills, and/or experiences.
Another point to consider is why you want to work for this particular organization. (HINT: Just saying, "Because you are military-trusted," is not enough. Plenty of companies say this, and many do make hiring veterans a priority.) Is it because they are located close to home? Do you know people who work there who say it's a great place to work? Are you excited about their mission, the job, the company's reputation, etc.? Make sure you know the answers to these questions before you interview.
Make the most of the first 10 seconds: The first moments are key. We all make judgments about people as soon as we see them, and this is especially true in an interview, so do everything you can to make a good first impression. Arrive at the interview 15 minutes early dressed professionally. Be courteous and have a firm handshake, upright posture, and good eye contact. Smiling is also a good way to show your personality and to demonstrate that you are not overly uptight and rigid (negative stereotypes that some recruiters may have about veterans).
Give examples: One big mistake many job seekers make is not providing specific examples to prove they have the skills they claim to have. For example, when answering the question, "Why should I choose you?" many job seekers will provide a laundry list of characteristics (for example, "I'm a great leader. I have excellent communication skills."). Instead of this strategy, give an example for each of these traits to PROVE that you have these skills.
While explaining your experience, be sure to use terminology that the employer will understand. You should not assume that a recruiter will understand terms like PCS, FOB, ICBM, fleet, squadron, battalion, etc. At the very least, avoid using acronyms and abbreviations without explaining them first and clarify how many people are in a battalion or aircraft or how many ships are in a fleet. Ideally, you should have a nonmilitary friend to listen to you explain what you did in the military and ask for candid feedback about whether your explanations were understandable.
Ask questions: Be sure to ask the interviewer relevant questions to show your strong interest and to help you determine if this is the right job for you. Usually, this takes place at the end of the interview. Prepare your questions in advance, and bring them with you to the interview. This is often the only time when you are truly in control of the interview. The questions that you ask can end your interview on a high note and leave a positive last impression.
Practice: Interviewing is a skill that can be developed over time. Most interviewers can spot individuals who walk into the interview without adequate preparation. If you do not come to the interview prepared to talk about why you should be chosen, then why should the employer choose you? Researching the organization, preparing your list of questions for the interviewer, and practicing your answers to interview questions are simple tasks that are critical to your success. To help you practice your interview skills, UMUC's CareerQuest platform offers two tools, Quinncia and Interview Stream, that will allow you to conduct mock interviews, review your recordings, and receive feedback.
Learn more about UMUC's Office of Career Services and how the resources they provide can be used to assist you in your transition.