Yesterday on Encore, we heard from Tony Goode on the subject of military personnel making the switch over to civilian work life. The age of retirement in the military tends to be a lot younger than in the world of civilian professionals, so it is certainly not uncommon for these military trained individuals to look for work after retiring from military service. Likewise, civilian boomers tend to look for changes in this stage of their lives.
Mr. Goode discussed the challenges that can face people who have spent years in the military when they enter the civilian job market. Chief among these struggles is the fact that civilian employers don’t know what to make of their extensive but specialized work experience. While most civilian professional professionals don’t have to deal with such challenges, it did bring up an interesting topic of translating one’s skills into a whole new field. When boomer professionals seek a change in their career, it’s not unusual for them to take positions in a completely new industry. But how does one convert those years of experience and well-honed skills into a totally new area of work?
Make a skills inventory.
One early approach you can take is to consider the skills you’ve already acquired over the years. Don’t just think about the skills that might be useful in the new position – consider all of them. Start with the most valuable skills, think about the first skills you learned on the job, skills you need to improve on, soft skills that are useful in any type of work. The more you think about it the more you’ll be able to come up with. Once you have a thorough and complete inventory of your skills it will be easier to determine what you can bring to this new job.
Consider your strongest assets.
Out of all those many skills you’ve acquired throughout your professional life, there are some that will standout as your strongest skills. This might be difficult for some to consider as this type of self-reflection is not easy, but if you really think about your work, I’m sure you’ll be able to identify where your strengths are. Now, these types of skills are not always transferrable, but identifying your strongest area, you can begin to see how you can sell yourself most effectively.
Study the job thoroughly.
Now that you have a sense of your experience and where you have been, it’s time to look at where you want to go. This is when you do a deep dive into your new position and learn everything you can about it. As with any new job, you should know the job description inside and out. Read through every line of it to get the best understanding of the skills required to perform the job exceptionally. Look into the new skills that are emerging in the industry as well. Begin to examine the jobs responsibilities through the view of your own identified skills. Know what is expected of you in the job so you are entering with as few surprises as possible and know how your skills can match up with the requirements.
Talk to someone in the industry.
Entering a new area without prior experience leaves a lot of uncertainty. You know your skills, you know what the job is, but there’s still a lot about it you won’t know until you actually start working. The closest you can come to gaining this experience ahead of time is by learning from someone else’s experience. Find someone in the industry, or better yet, someone who has performed the same job. Pick their brain for details, challenges and advice. Discuss what skills are best put to use in the position and ask them about their own experience within the position. Second-hand experience is the next best thing to first-hand experience.