David Winfrey and Meg Pearson
IMCOM Army Career and Alumni Program
SAN ANTONIO – Under the Veterans’ Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act, transitioning service members must attend five days of intensive transition-related classroom courses before they can separate from service. These courses cover the gamut of job-searching skills, resumes, education, goal-setting, financial management and many other vital skills for competing successfully in a crowded job market.
Your Army Career and Alumni Program counselor is a valuable asset before, during and after attending the transition workshops to answer questions, clarify information and help you personalize all the information coming from Departments of Labor, Veterans’ Affairs, Army and other organizations who present information during the workshops.
“The ACAP center and counselors play a critical role in helping lay the foundation for a successful transition to civilian life,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl L. Rice, Installation Management Command senior enlisted adviser. “This is an opportunity Soldiers have that not everyone does, and we need to make good use of it.”
Before attending the workshop, the ACAP counselor helps the transitioning service member set the stage for transition planning. During the preseparation briefing and initial counseling, the ACAP counselor assists the service member with starting to set post-military goals, assess the state of current skills, education and training, and evaluate the steps needed to reach their desired goals.
This initial counseling and planning leads to developing a resume – not the typical dry, meaningless piece of paper, but a compelling document that makes the case for hiring its owner.
A strong resume is a targeted document that presents a clear-eyed, compelling personal vision for what the applicant wants to do and what relevant knowledge, skills and abilities he or she brings to the table.
Such a resume requires thought and direction. Before even starting to write, an ACAP counselor can help a service member define goals and assess strengths and experience.
The ACAP counselor also can provide useful tools for translating military experience into transferrable skills and researching what is required in the service member’s next career. An ACAP counselor builds a relationship with a service member that will continue throughout the entire transition process.
During the five-day workshop, an ACAP counselor is available as a subject-matter expert and consultant for the service member. During the workshop, service members have many questions and start to really think about how to present their skills and strengths to their next employer.
“ACAP has been available to transitioning service members for years, but with the new VOW Act legislation, the focus is much stronger on preparing people for their next careers,” Rice said. “We owe these heroes no less.”
In addition to setting goals and building a targeted resume, the workshop classes provide excellent information on effective job-searching, which also begins with careful planning. The military occupational specialty crosswalk is a tool that provides the “gap analysis” between current experience and job goals.
As service members start to realize the importance of having specific goals and having a timeline to achieve those goals, they begin to formulate their Individual Transition Plans. The ITP is an important navigational tool for keeping transition focused and on track to where the next big opportunity lies.
The ACAP counselor contributes to the ITP with one-on-one guidance and feedback. Service members can reach back to their ACAP counselor to go over individual concerns, get help brainstorming and articulating skills, and get personalized guidance on how to best present skills and experience on a resume.
Transitioning service members will have a draft resume by the end of the workshop. This is a great time to follow up with an ACAP counselor for feedback and guidance on the next steps.
Whether a service member needs help polishing off a resume or even just getting started, an ACAP counselor is a valuable resource.
The ACAP counselor can review a resume to make sure it “pops” and strongly presents the service member’s value to that next employer. The counselor coaches a service member on how to tailor a resume to the job he or she wants. And, of course, an ACAP counselor is a good second set of eyes to be sure the resume is sharp and error-free.
Most of all, the ACAP counselor can help service members make the resume matter by assisting them with all the other important pieces of an effective job search – networking, researching and interviewing, to name a few.
ACAP counselors have:
w Professional experience from varying backgrounds;
w Knowledge of best practices in resumes and job searches;
w Understanding of military careers as well as civilian careers; and
“Use your ACAP counselors to good advantage,” Rice said. “They are your enablers – your force multipliers as you take on the transition to your next phase of life.”
Mastering the resume
Ever felt stuck staring at a blank screen when trying to start that first resume? That is a great time to come and see an ACAP counselor. Your ACAP counselor can ask the right questions and help you get over that writer’s block.
Having trouble describing your skills in a way that a civilian can understand? The ACAP counselor can help you learn to present your skills in a way that is relevant to your targeted industry or employer.
For the resume, ACAP does not necessarily recommend a cut-and-paste approach to building a resume. Instead, it is important for the service member to take the time to build the “master resume,” with every job, all schools, all skills and all possible network contacts.
From the master resume comes the information available to write an effective targeted resume, which includes only the credentials that connect with the intended reader. Taking the full information contained in a detailed master resume, then reducing and focusing this information to meet the objective of the reader, is a key to success.
Don’t forget to include a targeted cover letter when submitting a resume. The cover letter must get the attention of the reader. The cover letter must explain the key skills and experience in such a way to ensure an invitation to the interview. The cover letter, when combined with a targeted resume, is the “print advertising” intended to bring the interview invitation and the ultimate job offer.