It’s GubMints Mailbag time again!  This time the topic is Making the Transition from Military to a Civilian/Federal Career.    GubMints reader ‘Woop’ writes:

Sir,

I have been following your blog for a while and appreciate the time you take to distribute this information.  I am… hitting my 6 year active duty mark this month in the Army.  (I have an) undergrad degree … and I recently earned an M.S. degree in Engineering Management.  
 
I… have  been considering a transition to the NG or Reserves.  Additionally, I would like to transition my skills into a federal job and pursue a federal retirement much the same as you.  I have been on the USA jobs site looking at positions and I realize I don’t have a great understanding of the variety of positions or the process.
 
Did you utilize the site in your job search or is there a better way?  I also have my concerns over seeking federal employment during the current federal financial situation as I have read your entries over the sequestration and possible furloughs.  I have next to zero experience with federal jobs and would appreciate any advice you may have as I consider making the leap.
 
Thanks again,

‘Woop’.

Woop –  Thanks for Reading GubMints!

My response is long, but distinguished.  It’s going to take multiple posts-  For the First Post,  here’s some generic career search advice that can apply to just about anyone.

A job hunt is a lot like fishing- There are many ways to catch a fish.

As an aspiring fisherman, The first fishing method is to walk, drive, or bike to the nearest major body of water, put an unbaited hook in the water, and wait. However, when you put an unbaited hook in to a randomly selected fishing hole, chances are very slim that you will catch a fish.

Fishing with an unbaited hook is the equivalent of ANY electronic job database (I don’t care if it’s glassdoor, the Monster board, or USAjobs.gov).

A second method to fish is to charter a boat and guide to take you to a pre-selected spot, hopefully during optimum season and conditions. You pay a little, but the probability is very high that you will return home with a sack full of fish.

The ‘Headhunter’ job placement services are like charter fishermen– you ‘pay’ a little bit for a valuable service (guided fishing expertise). Personal advice: NEVER pay an upfront fee or sign an exclusivity deal with a headhunter (more on this later).

The third method to catch fish is to hang out and shoot the breeze with other friends and coworkers who like to fish. Hang with them during off-hours and weekends- Talk about fishing, and sometimes even go fishing with them. Some of the fishing buddies you hang with will give you great advice and take you to some prime fishing spots, some fishing friends you hang out with will be just as clueless as you!

In case you have not guessed it yet, the third method of career searching is Networking. I believe Networking to be the most effective job search technique (time permitting).

So these are the 3 Ways to Fish for a new job- Networking, Headhunters, and the ‘Blind Squirrel’ method.  I’ve landed job offers using all three of these methods, and by far the most satisfying opportunities (for me) have come through Networking.

Now, some more specific advice for networking.

How to network:

1) There’s the ‘old school’ way to network- This is keeping contact via face-to-face, phone calls, snail mail, email, and text messaging.

2) Social Networking. Be careful which social network you use for professional networking. I’m going to paraphrase Brandon Turner from BiggerPockets.com, but I also believe these to be truths on how to use social networks:

Facebook is for keeping tabs on Friends. If you can’t name my spouse or at least one of my kids, you’re not really my ‘friend’. And unless your wife was a mutual acquaintance of mine prior to your Wedding Day, I don’t want to hear her grouse about carpooling and dishpan hands- I hear enough of that at home. Don’t expect your wife to become my ‘friend’- she’s your ‘friend’.

Twitter – Twitter is for politics, hobbies, and passions.  As a word of personal advice, if you insist on posting political diatribes, keep them off of Facebook and put them on Twitter instead.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn was made for the ground-up for professional networking. Use It! As yet another word of personal advice, I prefer not to muddy the waters too much between Facebook and LinkedIn- Personal friends are on Facebook, and work colleagues (people who I have actually worked with) are on LinkedIn, When I make friends on the job, that’s where there is some overlap between the Facebook and LinkedIn Venn Diagrams.

I wholeheartedly endorse LinkedIn– LinkedIn has been surprisingly effective at helping me manage my network of colleagues. I’ve had colleagues endorse me (unsolicited!) for skills and professional expertise. In the past year I’ve had 2 headhunters call me asking me if I wanted to interview for a job opportunity (one of which was actually a good fit!).  If you have not done it yet, create a LinkedIn account, create your resume, and join some ‘Groups’ for your school alumni and similar Military Occupational Specialties as yours.

NEXT POST- Narrowing your Federal Career Search

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