January 22, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

8 Tips from a Veteran on Transitioning to a Civilian Career

A Military Transition Success Story from Aetna

Joseph Miraglia served in the United States Coast Guard for eight years and was an E-5, Information Systems Technician Second Class. Currently, he is a Senior Security Information Analyst for Aetna. Joseph shared some real-world advice with us on successfully transitioning from the military to a civilian career.

Focus on your passion. “The job hunt was relatively easy for me because I knew exactly what I wanted to do”, said Miraglia. “Find something you’re passionate about, find the career that’s best suited to that, and pursue it.” While Joseph’s experience as an Information Systems Technician translated directly to his position with Aetna, he is optimistic about the overall outlook for veterans in the job market: “Personally, I think veterans will succeed no matter what their rating or position was in the military, as long as they want to succeed.”

Understand what your skills are worth. Use resources like Salary.com and Payscale.com to get a stronger sense of what you can expect to make as a civilian. Compare skill sets, not just titles. You’ll need to get at least a 70% job skills match to use that information. Don’t be greedy, but don’t sell yourself short either. It’s a negotiation.

Be prepared for uncertainty. Being in the military guarantees you get paid. A civilian job search can take a lot of time, and your savings may take a hit, cautions Miraglia. “Don’t wait until the last minute like I did. Start looking for a new job at least a year out if possible.”

Your branch’s core values are an advantage. “Use everything the military taught you,” recommends Joseph. For example, the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty speak to ethical conduct, fairness, creativity, teamwork, accountability, and goal accomplishment. Employers like people who hold those values, and this can make you shine in interviews.

Get on LinkedIn. “Whether you’re searching for a General Schedule (government) position or something completely different, an up-to-date LinkedIn profile will get you looks that your resume by itself won’t.” LinkedIn offers a free premium account to job seeking veterans, along with many free resources and training.

Be prepared for a change of pace. Many veterans find that the collaborative nature of the civilian workplace creates challenges at first. “My toughest adjustment so far has been the tempo,” shares Joseph. “Compared to the military, the civilian world is turned down about three or four notches. Even when the company is in crunch time, it’s nothing compared to our experiences in the military. Take those experiences and apply them to your new job”.

Look for great companies that are military-friendly. From Joseph’s experience, Aetna managers tend to be more personable than other companies. “As a veteran, I have absolutely felt supported by Aetna. They make a real effort to acknowledge the veterans working for the company and has a strong focus on recruiting veterans.”

Bring your best to your new career. “No matter which company you decide to work for, you should strive to be the reason that they keep actively recruiting veterans,” encourages Miraglia.

Joseph also has some advice for hiring managers: “I truly believe that you will never hire a better person than a veteran. We have all sacrificed time with our parents, spouse, children, and friends for the protection of our country and everything it stands for; and that was simply because we felt it was our duty to. Imagine what we’ll do for a company when we’re doing something that we are passionate about.”