State of the job market
Published: January 30, 2012
Last week, I watched the State of the Union address: The yearly event set aside for the president to make like a cheerleader and the opposing political party to make like an oil painting. No matter who’s in office, I’m inspired when the commander in chief makes a speech summing up what is best in our country and how it can improve. Likewise, I’m amazed at the determination of lawmakers in the other party to remain unmoved.
Over the past 10 years or so, presidents have learned that one way to get a State of the Union ovation from both sides of the house is to mention military heroes. This year was no different.
Jobs and the military were among the subjects that got plenty of attention and applause. The president also combined the two, mentioning programs to help veterans get jobs when they leave the military.
The drawdown means many military members will be leaving during a time of high unemployment rates across the U.S.
Janet Farley, a military spouse and an expert on employment issues, agrees this is a frightening time to leave the military and enter the job market.
“Scary, yes,” she said. “Impossible, no.”
Janet is the author of several books of career advice for military members and spouses, with two more due out this spring: “The Military Spouse’s Employment Guide: Smart Job Choices for Mobile Lifestyles” and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job.” She also writes the “JobTalk” column for Stars and Stripes.
She and her husband, who retired from the Army, live in Germany, where they have parlayed their military experiences into successful civilian careers.
“It’s very easy to take off the military uniform, but it’s very difficult to remove the military from your mind, from your heart, from your way of thinking,” Janet said.
“It’s something you live and breathe. You can’t cut those ties all that easily, nor would you really want to.”
Moving from military to civilian life is a challenge. Finding employment adds a new dimension.
“The secret, I think, is to realize that you’re on to a new chapter,” she said. “Don’t try to live by some old rules because you’re not in that culture any more. It was dear to you, it will shape your philosophy ... but you have to stay in the moment. That moment is over, and this is a new one.”
Every job seeker needs a well-crafted plan of action, Janet said.
“Whether you’ve been in 20, whether you’ve been in two,” she said “you need an ideal to reach for, to plan for. Goals may be adjusted along the way, but you need to start somewhere.”
Job hunters need to know their marketable skills and discover how their military-related skills transfer to the civilian work world.
Janet said it’s never too soon to start making connections and building relationships — both civilian and military — in one’s field of expertise.
“The time for applying for jobs is three to six months before you get out,” she said.
“The time to start networking is the day you join the Army. ... If you do that, you’re able to tap into (your network) when you need it the most.”
Of course, job hunting is a stressful process even in a good economy, but Janet said some stress can be a helpful indicator.
“You have a goal and you have a plan of action for getting there. Life changes along the way,” she said.
“Look at stress. It may be a signal that something needs adjustment. What are you doing that maybe you can do differently? What is working that you should do more of?”
If transition to civilian life is on the horizon, Janet advises making plans and taking action now.
As every State of the Union speechwriter knows, military service is a current crowd pleaser, and this might be an advantage for veterans seeking jobs.
“Right now the country is engaged, and they seem to want to help people make the transition,” she said.
“This goodwill will not last forever, so take advantage of it now.”
For links to more of Janet's books and job-search pointers, go to janetfarley.com
The latest government initiatives and programs to help veterans looking for post-military careers are outlined in this military.com article about the Joining Forces initiative.