Six Tools for Career Success, in or out of Uniform
1 Joint Services Transcript Some soldiers may not know they have an official transcript on file with DoD. This Joint Services Transcript is invaluable. It lists all military education, with a full description of each course. Training, classes and schools attended have been evaluated by the American Council on Education to determine whether a soldier might gain semester-hour credits and at which level classes are categorized: vocational, lower level, upper level or graduate equivalent. When soldiers apply to colleges and universities, DoD will send official electronic transcripts to institutions at the soldier’s request. This service is provided at no cost.
The transcript outlines each MOS held, and translates the duties and responsibilities into terminology that civilians can understand. NCOs can assist soldiers by having them register at https://jst.doded.mil/official.html to view and print a copy of their Joint Services Transcript.
2 Updated Résumé As soldiers rise in the ranks or cross to the world of commissioned officer, they will need to keep an updated résumé on hand. Most soldiers who transition out of the Army probably won’t find employment without one. Building a résumé can be a daunting task, but service members sometimes feel more overwhelmed with the project than the average job-seeker. They stumble on how to word their employment history, and how to explain their skills and experiences to potential employers lacking familiarity with military verbiage.
The Joint Services Transcript breaks down the responsibilities of each MOS and provides bullet points that effectively narrate a soldier’s career track. For example, consider 11B, Infantryman. What perception comes to mind? Maybe it’s living in harsh conditions, running around and shooting people, and blowing stuff up. Not only does this sound unfavorable to most job recruiters, but it also severely limits which career opportunities the fledgling civilian can pursue.
Reworded, however, the job candidate “performed as a member of a fire team during drills and combat”—everyone appreciates a team player; and “maintained and deployed sensitive technology and equipment”—this shows responsibility with money and national security.
Or how about 88M, Motor Transport Operator? Minimally, the job description is truck driver. However, these individuals “operated all wheeled vehicles over varied terrain and roadways” and “managed load, unload and safety of personnel being transported.”
3 Letters of Recommendation Enlisted soldiers know that receiving medals, earning awards and having positive counseling sessions can help them go far in their military careers. NCOs depend on their evaluation reports to beat out other candidates when promotion time comes. Unfortunately, medals and awards do not hold as much weight in the civilian job market, and civilian employers and supervisors never see positive counseling sessions or shining NCO Evaluation Reports.
Getting a personal letter of recommendation not only trumps merely listing references on an employment or academic application, but it also gives soldiers something to use far into the future. Having a recommendation readily available is helpful as people generally change jobs several times before retiring. Post-graduate programs at accredited colleges usually require two to three letters of recommendation. Furthermore, reading words of appreciation for a job well done can motivate a soldier at any time of life.
An effective letter of recommendation should emphasize qualities of the soldier’s performance that are valued by employers or academic committees. Examples that can be used include the ability to lead and motivate, detail-oriented, fast learner who adapts to changes, competent at multitasking, punctual and dedicated. A recommendation letter that ties these qualities to specific events during a soldier’s time in service presents a model candidate to prospective employers and universities.
4 Community Service and Volunteerism The current trend of social awareness and responsibility reverberates in the corporate culture. Here’s a heads-up to those who are entering the civilian professional workforce: Volunteering with a community-enhancing cause can rocket you past other job candidates, even if you participate only a few times each year. Be sure to mention such involvement on your résumé as well as on your support forms for NCO and Officer Evaluation reports.
5 Online Footprint Almost everyone uses some form of social media; even the Army has a Facebook page. But most users miss out on promoting themselves favorably to job, college and military recruiters who peruse online profiles—and Army higher-ups who, rumor has it, like to see what their soldiers are up to.
Most of us post material on our Facebook page that is visible only to friends and close circles. Your involvement in community service projects benefits you, however, if it is visible to the general public. Use varied social media sites to grab the spotlight and shine brighter than the rest of the job and promotion competitors.
For professional online networking tools, LinkedIn comes foremost to mind. Users can post their résumés and list professional accomplishments. They can also find valuable information about a specific company, and e-connect with people—or people who know people—who work there.
LinkedIn users may even be contacted by recruiters seeking to fill open positions. However, hiring managers at a recent professional development seminar in Tucson, Ariz., said they get distracted when perusing job candidate profiles on LinkedIn because “there’s just so many interesting people to look at.”
6 Personalized Webpages, Websites Numerous web-hosting companies provide free platforms to host personal webpages or even websites with unlimited pages. Users build their sites using the “drag and drop” method. This usually entails having a blank workspace with a sidebar of icons. You simply select whether you want to add elements such as text, images, slideshows, survey boxes and audio files, and drag that icon to the blank workspace. Then fine-tune features including text font size and color, slideshow speed, image size and special effects.
Owning your own domain proves invaluable if you aspire to succeed in professional writing, arts, music, photography, or any form of entrepreneurship. Your success can rise exponentially by redirecting audiences from crowd sites such as LinkedIn to your personal website, because it separates you from the crowd. I’ve had great success using my website to generate correspondence concerning job opportunities in more than one field. Some recruiters initially found me on LinkedIn, where I posted a link to my website, and then went to my website to learn more about me and my skills.
With your own domain, visitors can focus on you and your work. Investing the time and creativity in showcasing your skills and talents on your own website also demonstrates that you are able to utilize technology expertly and resourcefully.