How to Search for a Civilian Job

For many transitioning service members, searching for a civilian job is a new experience. But with a little guidance and the right strategies, your job search can be smooth and successful. If you organize your search well and take advantage of the many job-search outlets available today, you'll be able to efficiently identify and target the positions that best suit your needs.

Organizing your job search

These steps will help you focus your time and energy on finding a job that matches your needs and skills:

  • Assess your skills - Get a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training through the DoD at the Transition GPS website. Think about your job-related skills and how they apply to careers outside the military. A career assessment test will help you identify the fields best suited to your interests and abilities. The tests are provided at no cost at your installation's transition office.
  • Check into civilian licensing and certifications - Many military licenses or certifications are not readily transferable to their civilian equivalents. For more information on converting your military license or certification, visit the Army's Credentialing Opportunities Online website.
  • Research - Take a look at the jobs you're most interested in and research salary information and specific skill requirements. Be sure to visit job-search websites and read trade publications in your field. Your research will help you concentrate on the areas that suit your interests and experience.
  • Set goals - Identify a specific goal that includes your desired type of job, pay range and location. But be flexible enough to adjust your goal if you need to. If your job search is not turning up any good leads, you may need to look for jobs in another location or search for another type of job.
  • Coordinate your search - By tracking the details of your job search, you can focus your time on the most productive efforts. Set a timetable, identifying what you'll do each day of the week. Schedule time for online job searches, mailing resumes, reading want ads and making follow-up calls. Keep records to track your contacts, resumes and interviews. A written record will remind you to follow up with contacts and keep you from duplicating your work.

Job-search resources

Companies fill jobs through a variety of sources including recommendations from current employees, recruiters and employment agencies, military transition offices, local employment offices and direct contact. Using all the available resources will give you the best shot at finding your ideal job.

  • Your installation's Transition Assistance Program should be the first step in your job search. The Transition Assistance Program office offers an employment workshop, which will help you get started. In the transition office, you can get referrals to employment agencies and recruiters, job leads, career counseling and computer access for online searches.
  • Your local employment office maintains a listing of local jobs and can provide other information on potential employment opportunities. A state-by-state listing is available from the Department of Labor.
  • Private employment agencies are hired by companies to find specific candidates for job openings. Several agencies specialize in recruiting military members. Make sure you understand who is responsible for the fee. Your installation transition office can help you find an employment agency that helps military members find jobs in your area of expertise.
  • Ads in local newspapers and trade journals are still an excellent way to find a new job. Most new ads are placed on Sunday, making it a great day to concentrate your efforts on the newspaper.
  • Job fairs let you meet employers and deliver resumes in person. Dress as if you were going on a job interview and be sure to have plenty of resumes to pass out. Contact your transition office or local Chamber of Commerce for local business fairs. The websites of the Army Career and Alumni Program and the Marine Corps Transition Assistance Management Program also have listings of job fairs on and off military installations.


Networking is one of the most effective of all job-search tools. Many employers look for candidates through referrals before they begin advertising a job. Follow these steps to help you develop an effective networking plan:

  • Make a networking card - This mini-resume, printed on card stock, should contain your contact information on one side and a brief description of your skills on the other. Carry your networking cards with you and be ready to pass them out.
  • Make a list of people you know - Co-workers, family, teachers and friends can be great help when you're job hunting.
  • Contact trade organizations and unions - Get in touch with trade organizations and unions in your field for job leads or contact information that can aid in your search.

Online job searches

There are hundreds of websites offering thousands of job opportunities. But navigating these sites can be difficult. Once you get on a site, you'll want to identify the locations where you're willing to work and the type of work you want. Then enter keywords to narrow your search.

  • Federal jobs online - Many transitioning military members find civilian jobs in the federal government. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the official federal government site for federal jobs and employment information. Although this site has a resume builder, each agency has specific requirements for applying for jobs. You can create an account and build a resume at USAJOBS, but be sure to read the instructions for submitting your resume.
  • Other job-search websites - You may already be aware of other job-search websites, many of which provide sound job-hunting advice and allow you to view job listings, post your resume and explore other job-search resources. A simple Internet search for "job search websites" will turn up many examples of well-known job-hunting sites. Also, you can ask other retired or "transitioned" service members about the websites they found most useful in their job search.

Finding the right job may sometimes seem like an uphill battle but eventually, your persistence will pay off. Remember all of the great skills and experience that you bring to the table, develop and stick to a plan, stay positive and you'll have the best possible chance of making your dream job a reality.



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