Are you a Professional Generalist?

I went to an interview at the local shipyard for a curriculum developer job. I thought my resume was pretty good for this. I have a 9518 NEC (Facilitator) in there. I also have my Master Training Specialist Certification, along with a Master’s Degree from a major university. Part of my selling point for the position was that I was a lead developer during the development of the Leading Petty Officer’s course at NAVLEAD.

Ed note: Yes I’m the one to blame for the leadership week exercise in the class.

During the interview I thought I did really well. I was able to handle all their questions and felt like I had some great responses to the questions they asked. There were two managers doing the interview and when I walked out I felt great about the interview and got some positive feedback from one of the managers.

Turns out I didn’t get the job. However, when I called and talked to the manager that seemed very enthusiastic, he told me I could not have done any better at the interview. He told me that there was a guy that walked in after me that had exactly what they were looking for. He didn’t tell me what that was but did tell me he would forward my resume up to his boss and “put in a good word for me.”

A few weeks after that interview, I went to an interview for a position as an adjunct at the university I graduated from. The interviewer told me that he was very excited to have me and thought my resume was great for being a college instructor. He then started going through the course guide to find a course that would fit my professional experience. He looks at resume, then looks at me and says, “Your biggest problem is, you are a Professional Generalist.”

A Professional Generalist? And this is bad?

We as senior enlisted are taught to be jacks of all trades and we are good at learning new skills and putting them to use. I felt like I was successful in the Navy because of this fact right here. I also thought this would make me desirable and hirable in the civilian world.

Very true, this does make you extremely successful in the military. If you are able to do your trained profession well and adapt to doing leadership roles outside of your NEC or MOS along with an ability to accomplish a wide variety of collateral duties you have a better chance of success. These are all the reasons I thought I would be successful finding and getting a good civilian job. I had a variety of different duties from rotor wing to fixed wing, from prop to jet, from sea to shore, from combat to instructor duties. I also took on collateral duties from training to safety to Drug and Alcohol Program Manager. I was awarded and promoted for my success in all these endeavors.

I’ve mentioned it previous posts, the question so many of us wrestle with as we go through our military careers: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t think my answer to this was much different from many who served or are serving now. We didn’t know and weren’t too worried about it because we had a job to do and we were/are very dedicated to the job we have. But this goes against why many of us enlisted in the first place.

Many of us, if not a majority of us enlisted in the first place to serve our country, but I believe it was in the back of most of our minds that we could enlist at the age of 18-20, do our 20 years and still be young enough to start another career. It is important that you make a decision early for what you want to do when you grow up.

To begin your decision on what you want to be when you grow up I suggest you use a job hunting site like or Simply type in the words of an occupation you think you would enjoy doing, into the job search block. With the results you get, look at the qualification needed, paying particular attention to the certifications they are looking for. This should be done as early in your career as you can. You don’t need to apply for any jobs at this point this is just an information gathering exercise. Look at several different job listings, compare similarities and differences in qualifications in each job. Now you have an idea of what you need to work at to gain the qualifications you will need to transition from the Navy into your next career. It is also important to begin thinking about where you want to live after transition. Begin looking for the jobs in that area and the requirements for those jobs.

Civilian employers, for the most part, do not want generalists. They want people with a particular set of skills. Those skills need to be very particular to the job you want. It is not simply enough to have a resume that is aimed at the job you also need all the qualifications and certifications of your career choice.


Using Social Media and Networking

As the saying goes, it’s who you know not what you know.  As I said in an earlier post, I am an introvert and have never gone out of my way to meet more people.  In today’s world it is much easier to meet and hold on to relationships with people.  Social networking makes it very easy for one to keep track of all the people you come into contact with.

One of the military professional’s biggest challenges is meeting people outside the military.  Many of us at one point or another in our careers do a tour that allows us to connect with contractors and to meet those in a related field to your military career field.  This is the time to make those connections outside the military.

Using social media like Linked in are great tools for keeping track of those contacts.  I suggest Linked in over Facebook for these professional contacts just on the mere fact that many of us use Facebook to give updates on our daily events, family and joke with friends.  Linked in is normally used for a more professional setting.

It is important that you keep your own account updated.  This is important because you never know when or by whom your account will be viewed.  As of the writing of this post, my account has been viewed by no less than 14 different people over the past 30 days.  Of those 14 people, six were people I had not connected with or knew.

I recently corresponded with Ellen Brown, a senior recruiter with Aurora.  She says that she gets many applications from people who are not qualified for the position they are applying for.  If she has a position she has advertised for and gets no qualified applicants she tells me she will go on the hunt through her connections in Linked in.  She has over 500 connections.  It’s always good to connect with Human Resource folks and Placement Agency guys, they will often look through their connections to find good fits for positions they are trying to fill.

As a side note, I would like to let you in on my application with Aurora.  As I illustrated in “What are you qualified for?  PT III” we are at a disadvantage in the military due to separation from the civilian workforce, terminology and certifications.  While on active duty I lead and managed a department of 134 personnel in complex world-wide operations.  I was responsible for short and long term planning and well as the discipline of the personnel under my watch.  I was also responsible for 6 supervisors and many reports up and down the chain of command.  Not that much different from any other senior enlisted.  After retiring from the Navy I came across a job announcement for a plant manager position with Aurora.  The job description on the announcement sounded very similar to what I had done while on active duty so I applied.  Within a few days I received the rejection letter.  This one was a little different than other rejection letters.  Most come from a non-reply email.  This one came from a real person.  Figured I didn’t have anything to loose so I replied and asked where I fell short on the application.  Ellen was very kind in her explanation.  She informed me that the number one reason was my lack of working in an ISO 9001 organization.  At that point I didn’t even know what an ISO 9001 organization was.   I found that an ISO 9001 rating was nothing more than a company that operated within the industrial rules of OSHA.  One of those little things that make us less marketable due to operating under NAVOSH rules as opposed to OSHA rules.  Now to be fair, I believe I did meet the minimum requirements for the position but was not a perfect fit for exactly what they were looking for.  In today’s economy the other big block for many transitioning military is that hiring managers can be so choosey about whom they hire.  With military unemployment at over 10%, and civilian unemployment at or near 8% companies can look for and find a candidate with the exact qualifications needed.

I know we all know “that guy” that left the military and walked right into that job that paid six figures right off the top.  I worked with a Master Chief (E-9) that was the Maintenance Master Chief of a squadron.  His job was to manage and direct the repair of aircraft by as many as 200 squadron personnel.  He had his Linked in profile up to date and one day just before his retirement he got a call from a recruiter looking for a Maintenance Master Chief to come run a factory in New Jersey for a six figure paycheck.  This is one of those, in the right place at the right time stories, they don’t happen to everyone.  As it turned out the owner of the factor was a retired Naval Aviator and knew what an Aircraft Maintenance Master Chief was capable of doing and requested that specifically from the recruiter.

At this point I think it is important to caution you from relying solely on Linked in or any other social media for networking.  As Bill Bishop, author of “Coming Home” has told me, face to face networking is more effective.  As I mentioned in previous posts, it is important to become a part of networking groups.  As you meet people at different events, luncheons, meeting, etc. connect with them on social networks.  Once connected with them on the social network you can ‘cultivate’ that relationship.  Bill goes into some detail in his book about how to cultivate that relationship.  It’s also important to remember that this network is a two way street.  You can’t just use these relationships for your own good without giving back.

One more thing that I have noticed as I troll through connections lists, are the pictures used in profiles.  I’ve found nothing that says what a good Linked in profile picture should be, so this is just my opinion.  I see pictures with folks in the back of a boat on the lake or high fiving a fellow partier, or a picture in uniform.  With hesitation I mention, it appears that many of the less professional pictures are from service members.  I’ve noticed the profiles of the most successful members are in a suit or button up shirt in a professional setting.  It’s important to remember your profile may be looked at by head hunters and company recruiters.

While on the subject of social networks it is important to emphasis the need to ensure you know your privacy levels on your non-professional accounts.  For example if you are on Facebook, you need to know who can see your wall and ensure there is nothing that, if a potential employer seen, would be a negative.  As I’ve been told, many future employers aren’t too concerned about your jokes and outlandish activities, they are most concerned about your integrity and if you have stolen anything.  Bottom line:  If you steal you might not want to put it on Facebook.

Network early and network often.  As you go through your career take time to connect with people that you come in contact with.  Finding a job in today’s economy is much different than when many of us last applied for a civilian job.  Simply filling out an application and submitting a resume is very inefficient and time consuming.  Knowing a reference in a company may make your application process much easier and can benefit you much quicker.

Rob Hirons

8 Oct 12

Speaking like a civilian professional.

So there I was…My second job after retiring from the Navy and I was a supervisor at a steel foundry in Pittsburgh.  My shop was responsible for making cores that go inside a mold to make rail road coupler castings.  One of our machines was acting up.  I needed to get it fixed quickly or we would have been the reason for the entire foundry’s production slowing down.  The parts I needed were in another department, so I made the walk down to the department with the parts I needed to ask for help.  I walked into the department and found the only person in that department relaxing in a chair.  I supposed he may have been doing something productive.  He had no supervisor and was doing what he thought he needed to be doing.  I immediately asked him for the needed parts and expressed my urgency.  He looked me straight in the eye and began playing the world’s smallest violin.  I immediately felt my blood pressure going up and I wanted to throttle him.

I relate this story, because it is important that you understand civilians have a different way of doing things.  Doesn’t make them less effective or not as good, just different.  In the military a senior may have at the very least gave a young sailor of soldier a good dressing down, but in the civilian world you cannot do that.  You must treat everyone with respect and dignity…whether they deserve it or not.

In civilian industry the subordinates will not respect you just because of your position.  How many times have we seen in the military a leader that will enter a room behind his rank?  They use that as the vehicle to command respect.  Depending on the industry you go into will make the difference as to how much you can use your position to command respect.  I can tell you in the foundry industry there are many former convicts and people who might have trouble in a more customer service industry and commanding respect is dependent on your ability.

To my defense, I will tell you that this incident had happened within the first couple of weeks of beginning the job at the foundry and it was the first encounter this employee and I had had.  Because I did not throttle him on this occasion and acted professional in all my encounters with this employee, within weeks I was able to ask this employee for anything and he would do his best to help me with whatever I needed.

It may seem like a little thing but the military dialect will hurt you in many civilian industries.  As Gina from has told her adopted soldiers, on her planet she is a woman not a female.  I have added this article in because it is important that you understand your new environment.  If you continue to speak in military-ease you will become less effective as a leader in the civilian industry.  Your employees will start paying attention to the words you use but not to the message you are trying to convey.  For many transitioned military translating everything you say to civilian-ease is trying and difficult, but it is important to your success.

In previous articles I talked about the retired Army Sargent that worked second shift.  When he would come to work, he and I would give/get a passdown.  When we spoke we used military-ease and spoke in a very formal short sit-rep kind of way.  To him and me it was completely natural and we found no humor in our speech patterns or the words we were using.  Other supervisors and employees within ear-shot would listen like we were speaking a foreign language and at times laugh at the conversation.  If we spoke to the other supervisors or employees like we talked to each other we would have two problems.  First they would not understand the information we were attempting to pass to them.  It’s important that you use words in a pattern the employees can understand.  I say it that way because; let’s take sixteen hundred as an example.  To military types that immediately conjures up an hour between fifteen hundred and seventeen hundred.  Civilians understand the words but to them it conveys a number between one thousand nine hundred ninety nine and one thousand six hundred one.

In my experience the next problem was that the civilians I worked with liked to use a lot more words to convey the same amount of information.  In the military many conversations are very short and to the point when conveying orders.  Military (enlisted) leaders tend to only use enough words to pass the orders and the conversation is done.  As I said, when the Sargent and I gave our pass down we talked in a more “sit-rep” (situational report) kind of way.  We conveyed the information with no emotion and with the least amount of explanation possible

Referring back to the beginning of this article, civilians have a desire to ensure they are being respected.  Short conversation to pass orders feels like you are barking orders at them.  Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to coddle them.  In my last few years on active duty, I had heard many senior military members complain that the new recruits needed to know why on every order given.  To me this always just seemed like good leadership to let them know why, when there was time, so they knew where we were going and my plan to get us there.  The civilians I worked with didn’t so much care about the why but they wanted to know that I valued their presence in the plan.

Going the other direction.  Managers want to know that you, the supervisor, buy into their plan.  It was my experience that they don’t necessarily want your input but they do want your buy-in.  Our manager would tell us his plan and he would spend a lot of time with each of us making sure we understood and were convinced it was the right way to go.

Your results may differ, but learning to speak in a new culture is something many of us did when we went to boot camp.  Upon your transition it will be time to learn a new speaking culture.  Understanding the difference will help you be a success in your next career.

Rob Hirons

October 1, 2012

What are you qualified for? Pt III

I apologize for the language in the clip, but I wanted to make a point.  The point is:  This is what many civilian employers think the typical military leader looks and acts like.  I believe this is one of our biggest challenges to breaking into the management of a company.

As a Navy Senior Chief (E-8) I led a department of 134 personnel, I’ve served in war zones, I’ve had to push people to continue to work after a tragedy a sea.  I was also responsible for publishing daily work assignments for several different shops along with long and short-term planning for the department.  I was also responsible for preparing reports for my seniors as well as budgeting for training and travel of the department.  But all many civilian human resource managers see are a leader similar to R Lee Ermey’s “Full Metal Jacket” character.

What does this mean for the transitioned job seeker?  As you have been told so many times before, make sure you have taken all the military terms out of your resume.  You were a Departmental LCPO/NCO.  What does that mean?  You were a Departmental Manager.  This also means you must be ready for job offers well below your level of competency.  Many civilian managers just aren’t willing to gamble with what they don’t understand and will offer you a position that is well below your abilities.

My personal example is my second job upon transition.  I was hired as a supervisor for a steel foundry in Pittsburgh.  As a supervisor, my sole responsibility was too stand in a shop of 6 machines and observe the machine operators.  If any of them had a problem I would go to that machine and help troubleshoot the machine or call maintenance personnel to repair the machine.  I was also responsible for going around every two hours ensuring the machine operators were producing the established goal of product.  There was no planning, no coordinating and very little mental thought.

At this point, I’d like to put in a little bit of touchy-feely stuff.  I know how well we, military members, deal with that but here it is.  As I mentioned in a previous post, for many of us, our jobs have become who we are.  It can be very difficult to transition from the world’s greatest job to the civilian sector.  For me, it was very depressing to go from running a warfighting department of 134 sailors to supervising 15 personnel on six machines.  Thinking I may have been the only one to feel this way, I began talking to the second shift supervisor who was a retired Army Sergeant First Class.

The Sergeant First Class had served in Afghanistan and had seen action.  He was in the same position as me.  After leading troops in combat, to just stand and wait for a machine or operator to begin having problems was a real change from his previous life.  He too had said he was going through some withdrawal and it was difficult for him as well. You need to be prepared for the change.  It is important that you understand and believe you are not alone in your depression as you approach transition.  You cannot let that depression take the place of who you are.  SEEK HELP!

Unless you are applying to a military contractor, there is no need to put anything more than the fact that you were in the service in one place on your resume.  Every bullet you use in your resume to describe your military job needs to be in the form of a civilian.  This civilization of your former self-needs to apply to your speech as well, you must revert to your pre-military dialect.  When you talk to a potential employer you need to lose the ‘roger that’, ‘whooya’, ‘yoorah;’ ‘oohya’ and whatever the war-cry for the Air Force is.

Just remember, no one cares that you lead 30 troops into a firefight and killed the entire enemy.  They may say, “Thank you for your service.”  What they are really saying is, “Sure glad you did it so I didn’t have to.”

What civilian employers are looking for first and foremost is someone who is not going to bring a lawsuit against the company.   The employer’s mistaken idea of what a military leader is, prevents them from hiring many of us at higher levels because they fear our reactions to bad situations.  If a civilian leader/manager were to explode as Gunny does and tell a civilian employee to “Choke themselves” the company has been set up for a lawsuit.

There is some good news.  As we, the military leaders, know the military has changed over the years.  Today’s military leaders are capable of motivating employees to accomplish great tasks through many other tools than to scream, yell and threaten them with bodily harm.  The same traits that allowed you to be successful in the military will allow you to be very successful in the civilian sector.

Another point, it is important to remember is that times have changed.  For the retiring military who last worked in the civilian workforce in the late 80’s or early 90s, you remember a time when someone began working for a company and continued to work for that company for decades.  That just isn’t the way things are done now.  A caveat here would be that this is truer when we are not in a recession.  Currently, many employees are staying with the job they have because there are fewer jobs available.  I believe this is a short-term issue and am not going to discuss it any more than that.  So if you are in a job that is below your ability and competency your military traits will allow you to move up the company’s ladder or the experience of this job will set you up for the next job.  I will discuss the mechanics of moving to the next job in a future article.

In summary, this is my last part of the “What are you qualified to do?” series.  You need to be prepared mentally for your transition.  You are qualified to do almost anything, the problem is going to be finding that employer that believes that.  If you are going to do a job that is not the same as your military job, be prepared to start low and quit high.  Your military skills will allow you to move up quickly but don’t go out with the expectation of starting at $80,000+ because you have a degree and 20+ years of military experience.  There are exceptions but they are few and far in between.  Good luck and start networking now.

Rob Hirons

September 27, 2012

Ed note: I love getting “Likes”, it is the only way I know that I’m connecting with anyone. So if you read this and get something from it, give me a like. I also enjoy conversations, so make a comment and we can discuss the impact of this article. I also love drinking a beer, so if you got something out of this and would like to buy me a beer, I would happily accept. You can buy me a beer through PayPal

What are you qualified for? PT II

This may be more relevant to those rates and military jobs that don’t have a comparable civilian vocation or those that might not want to pursue your current profession in the civilian world.  What are you currently doing to set yourself up for your transition to the civilian industry?  This question is not just for the close to separation or retirement set.  This is a question for anyone in the military, right down to the newest boot camp graduates.

Here is where I failed.  Colin Powell talked about this in his “18 Leadership Principles by Colin Powell” as found at  Aviation Ordnanceman was not only my profession it was who I was.  I was not prepared for my transition because I had no idea how to be a civilian.  Don’t get me wrong, you can have complete pride in your service and in your military job, but remember you have to prepare yourself for someday transitioning into the civilian workforce.

How do you prepare yourself?  You need to expose yourself to the civilian workforce.  It is never too early to prepare for that transition.  The Navy recommends you take a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class at your 15 years of service mark for those that plan to retire.  This should be the very latest you begin thinking about your eventual transition.

Your preparation needs to begin with your interests.  I have a friend and fellow Ordnanceman, who was very interested in law enforcement.  While still on active duty he began serving in the local community as an auxiliary sheriff deputy.  Upon his retirement, he immediately began working full time for the Sheriff’s Department.  So, in essence, his volunteer job became his full-time money making a career.

If law enforcement isn’t your interest, you need to find that interest and research it.  Find your interest and cultivate it.  To cultivate it, it would be wise to join an organization that caters to that interest.  For example, if you enjoy making the big decisions and managing those huge projects and operations you may want to look into the Project Management Institute.  Or if financial accounting is more you thing, there is an association for accountants as well.  Almost any interests you can imagine have an association or group associated with it.

There are also support groups for job seekers.  At this point, I will warn you to not get too worked up about the title of the groups you may encounter.  For example, I went to a support group in Northern Virginia about a year ago.  The name of the group implied it was for retired military officers only.  I went because I figured with a Master’s degree, and has been a senior enlisted, I was as qualified as any officer for a management job.  It was very enlightening and the members were very welcoming to me.  I made some good contacts and learned more about networking from their guest speaker.

Another resource for networking opportunities is local universities.  Many times they will have conferences and luncheons or breakfasts for networking.  More times than not they will have a guest speaker, which can be your best source of information.  Networking has not been my strong suit.  I have tested to be an introvert.  I’m not afraid to meet people but I have a difficult time just walking up to them and introducing myself.  That is where these group meetings and networking conferences can be a real added benefit.  You can start out simple, just talking to the people seated next to you or sitting at your table.

True story:  I have an old Boatswainmate buddy that is such an extrovert that while working at a car wash part-time got his future career.  He was working the carwash one weekend and he talks to everyone who pulled into this self-serve carwash and in doing so he met his future boss.  He approached her and struck up a conversation.  During the conversation, it came out that he was going to retire from the Navy soon and she needed someone who had experience working on ships.  Upon retirement, he had a job.

In today’s culture of social media allows you to keep in touch with so many people from your career.  You never know who is going to be in a position to help you in the future.  By that same thought, you never know when you might be in a position to help someone in your network group.

If you are reading this, you are already ahead of where I was at in my transition.  For those of us that started our military careers in the 80’s or early 90s, you must realize things have changed.  Before we joined the military, for our first jobs we simply went into a prospected establishment, asked for an application, filled it out and turned it in.  Some of us may have even looked into the paper and found the job openings and sent in a resume.  Things are a little different today.  Today, who you know is as important as what you know.  For the best chance of landing that career after your separation, you need to know the people in your chosen career field.  For a more in-depth look at skills to find your next career, I would suggest reading, “Going Home” by Bill Bishop.

Rob Hirons

Ed note: I love getting “Likes”, it is the only way I know that I’m connecting with anyone. So if you read this and get something from it, give me a like. I also enjoy conversations, so make a comment and we can discuss the impact of this article. I also love drinking a beer, so if you got something out of this and would like to buy me a beer, I would happily accept. You can buy me a beer through PayPal @

Professional Dress

Some time ago I posted a shorten version of this subject on my facebook wall and it seem to make people laugh a little but for some it seemed very enlightening.  The subject I’m discussing in this post is:  Women in the work place.  It isn’t meant as a sexist post, it is just that I and many of my counterparts that served in the Navy from the 1980’s through the early part of this century remember a deployment or several deployments without women.  For me, the first time I remember working with women on deployment was when we cross decked (swapped out) from USS Independence to the USS Kittyhawk in 1998.  We were somewhere between Pearl Harbor and Yokosuka, Japan, I was on the flight deck observing an aircraft move.  As the move crew was hooking the tractor to the aircraft I smelled a very familiar scent.  It was White Linen.  The only reason I know that is because my wife wore that perfume and it really surprised me to smell that on the flight deck of an American Aircraft Carrier, the world’s greatest fighting machine.  As it turned out the tractor driver was a female.  We did not have females on the USS Independence but when we swapped out carriers we picked up the crew of the USS Kittyhawk and they had female as part of their crew.  Over the next 12 years working and deploying with women became normal and I’m proud of all of our sailors, both male and female.

One of my first encounters with females in the civilian workplace was a little different.  At the steel foundry I worked at, we had a female there that was a lot of woman packed into a small package.  Not too big but not a small little thing either, ‘fun sized’ is a term I’ve heard that might describe her.  When she walked through the plant all eyes were on her.  Now part of the reason all eyes were on her was because of her clothes.

In the military the females are dressed just like the males.  In some cases they may have filled out the uniforms better than their male counterparts but over all they all looked the same.  That is not the case in the civilian community.  As I seen in a cartoon a few weeks back, the boss lady behind the desk is looking at what you suppose is a female interviewee.  The caption reads, “Your clothes say your last job was in an office but your shoes say it had a pole in the middle of it.”

This is a fact in the civilian world.  The female that drew all the attention at the foundry like to wear tops that had a pretty low neck line.  Well at least compared to a crew neck t-shirt that I was used to seeing on all my sailors.  As I said before she was not a little thing and she liked to wear her pants about a size smaller than would be normal.

But just to be fair.  Some of the guys don’t do much better.  As I sat in my Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Class, we had a clothier come in and talk to us about interview clothes and professional dress.  One of the points he made was how to dress for men.  He said to go to an interview you should dress in a single breasted suit.
The guy next to me gets mad.  He says, “Single breasted?  I look good in a double breasted suit!”

The reason for the single breasted suit advice is because double breasted suits are normally most at home in extremely formal settings.  Single breasted suits are professional.

The lesson for this is:  Wear what you want but if you want to be accepted as a professional save the night club clothes for the night clubs.  You’re not going to work to find a mate or to impress the opposite sex.

Some good resources that might give you some ideas how do dress when you have to pick out your own clothes are: or for the women:

What is a transitioning military qualified to do?

The first thing I found when I transitioned to the civilian world was, no one wants to pay what I made as an E-8 in the Navy.  To illustrate this point I’ll relate a story:  I was sitting at lunch in Fredericksburg, VA with a Human Resource friend of mine.  This guy works for a computer company and he was telling me about an Air Force E-8 computer tech that had applied to his company.  He looked at me and says, “On her application she put down that she expects to be paid $80,000.  Who the hell does she think she is?”

He was truly insulted by her request.  He listed her qualifications.  He said she had recently received a Bachelor’s degree from a university but he made the point to tell me she had received it within the last few months and did not have time to work within that degree.  He then lets me know she doesn’t have any certifications.  Needless to say he did not believe she was worth $80,000 a year.

The big question is:  How much should I expect to make when I transition from the military?  That is a difficult question to answer…but.  It has been my experience that in this economy a retired E-8 is looking at about the $50,000-$65,000 range.  That is the range I was making at the steel foundry in Pittsburgh and that is the amount the computer technician was offered in Fredericksburg.  Not the news you wanted to hear, I’m sure.  But, don’t worry it gets worse.

What are you qualified to do?  This is the trickiest question out there.  Any senior enlisted will tell you we are qualified to do almost anything.  We are able to lead our sailors/troops in hazardous situations around the world.  We are able to ensure our company is operating within the law, whether that is law enforcement, maritime operations, DOT, EPA or any other agency.  We take whatever society gives us and makes a highly disciplined fighting machine of that person.  We are experts in our technical fields and managing large teams in any number of hazardous operations.

If you are in a job that doesn’t have a civilian counterpart, this is sometimes hard to express your qualifications in a way that a civilian manager may understand.  This was my biggest challenge.  I was an Aviation Ordnanceman.  I build, transported and loaded bombs on aircraft.  Not exactly a huge civilian vocation.

Admiral Clark and Master Chief Scott both attempted to help the transitioning sailor with this problem.  Between 2004-2009 Admiral Clark was the Navy’s Commander of Naval Operations (CNO) and Master Chief Scott was the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON).  These two men were the senior officer and enlisted in the Navy, respectfully.  During their tenures they attempted to make Navy qualifications more closely mirror civilian qualifications.  Upon their retirements these initiatives were pretty much killed by the senior enlisted.  The argument against making the Navy’s qualifications more similar to civilian industry was that this was the military not a civilian corporation.  A true statement, but again, I must remind you that we will all leave the military at some point and many of us will be looking for jobs in civilian industry.

I loved every minute of my time on active duty and the thought of leaving the Navy was not something I put a whole lot of thought too before I started contemplating dropping my retirement papers.  At that point it is too late.  You can hurry and get a quick degree from Phoenix University or you can try to talk to your security person to update your security clearance so you’ll have that, but planning for your transition is something you should be doing from the very beginning.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the question that all of us are asked at some point in our military careers.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

If you can already answer that you are way ahead of where I was at any point in my career.  I had just not put that much effort into looking at what was out there in the civilian world.  During my terminal leave I went to  A good source for jobs in any area but the first block asks, “What”.  This was a scary block because I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

My advice here is to start looking early.  Get involved with organizations outside the military.  Ask your civilian friends what they do.  Ask them what certifications they get.  If you have a particular skill you think you might have, you need to start looking into that field.

If you were an instructor or facilitator at some point in your career, and you think that might be something you want to do outside, you should be looking at possible certification you might need.  If you enjoy managing the large operations in the Navy you might look into Project Management Professional.  There are certifications for that.  Are computers your thing?  Do you have Microsoft certification?  Also start looking at being certified in more computer languages.  I’ve been asked if I know Oracle during interviews.

In future posts I will highlight some of the certifications out there and hopefully show what you might be most qualified to do.  I’ll leave you with one last thought on resumes.  I did spend the $500 for a professional resume but in the end resume are very much like Chief packages.  If you ask 4 people their opinion on resumes you will probably get 5 different responses.  There is no one right or wrong answer for them.  Again, this will be the subject of a future post.