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Prepare for Combat


Prepare for Combat

Before you initiate military action, you must confirm your own military readiness and ability to execute critically assigned tasks. Doing this properly could mean the difference between success or failure. As you get ready for your military-to-civilian transition, use the following tips to prepare for combat. It’s way more than a job hunt.

Identify Your “Top 10” Needs


Determine what you need or want from your next career for professional and personal fulfillment. Also, consider the differences between your current and future operating environments, and how they might impact your needs. Finally, routinely review and update your “Top 10” needs, prioritize them and remain focused on them throughout your military-to-civilian transition war.

Consider the following questions to help you develop your “Top 10” needs:

Where do you want to live/work? (Confirm this with "Household 6"?)

What are the taxes in this area?

What is the cost of living in this area?

What family obligations do you have?

What financial obligations do you have?

What is (are) your targeted career field(s)?

What types of jobs within your targeted career field(s) are suitable?

For what companies are you interested in working?

What is their culture like?

What are the expected employee values?

When do you want to begin work?

How much money do you need to survive – at least initially?

How much are you worth \ what kind of value can you create?

Do you need insurance (medical, dental, vision) and how much will it cost?

Will you use your final move to relocate?

Do you need to be close to a VA hospital or Regional VA office?

Will you need additional education or certification to start work in your targeted career field(s)?


Focusing on your needs will enable you to produce a winning plan for each step of your transition war:

  • Target a career field to narrow your search.

  • Concentrate on companies whose culture aligns with your values.

  • Look for an acceptable company that has job opportunities in your targeted career field(s).

  • Define an acceptable salary range based on your value, and factor in income you will receive for disability and compensation as well as retirement.

Preparing for combat could mean the difference between military-to-civilian transition victory and defeat.

Define Your End State


When preparing for your military-to-civilian transition war, you must first consider your end state: a set of required conditions that defines achievement. More than likely, succeeding in a new career is your end state. So, spend more time identifying what career you will pursue instead of searching for a job. Your first job is merely your first tactical objective leading to your end state.

In the military, an end state is a broad description of how things should look after a military operation. It is guided by your vision and defines the conditions for success. Defining a desired end state provides the essential focus even when things don’t go as planned.

When you use that thinking in your military-to-civilian transition preparation, your end state will orient you even if your application or interviews don’t go as planned. So if you don’t get
selected for a specific job or hired by a desired company, you can keep moving in the right direction.

Your personal career end state should have a “long-term” view.


  • Look beyond just successfully transitioning; that’s only the first step toward your new career end state.
  • Don’t just orient on your first job after transition; that is too shallow of a focus.

"If you go to work and it genuinely makes you happy, you’re going to get more out of life, and the company will get more because you’re enjoying it and giving it your all. If it’s not a fit for you, don’t waste your time or the company’s time.”

Human resources administrator, Georgia-Pacific

Despite terrific veteran unemployment statistics at the end of 2019, those veterans who did not prepare for combat and who had a short-term view confronted greater challenges.

Recent statistics confirm this:

  • Veteran underemployment was rampant: Between 1/4 and 1/3 of newly hired veterans were underemployed (nearly 16% higher than their non-veteran peers).

  • Veteran turnover was high: Nearly 50% of newly hired veterans left their first job within the first year; nearly 70% in 18 months.

  • Veteran retention was poor: Around 15% of newly hired veterans remained in their first job.

Defining your career end state will help you reduce uncertainty in your military-to-civilian transition. It
will also increase your flexibility during this difficult and challenging time. And, it will help you keep focused
on what’s important – achieving your fullest potential, being sufficiently challenged and professionally satisfied.


Develop A Proper "Sight Picture" on Your Career


With a proper sight picture on a career target, appropriate jobs will come clearly into view. A proper sight picture will ensure applications and resumes are properly aimed, and career targets will start to fall.koch-industries-target.jpg

To succeed in basic rifle marksmanship, you must develop a proper sight picture. Without it, your rounds will go everywhere except where you are aiming. By aligning your sight posts, your dominant eye and the target, you will knock down what you are aiming at practically every time.

Similarly, you must have a proper sight picture on your career after military service so your resumes don’t go awry. By aligning your passions, skills and experiences with your values, you will achieve the new career for which you are aiming.

To develop a proper sight picture on a career, identify the things you are good at doing and then find careers that match your skills.

These steps may help you gain a proper sight picture on your targeted career field(s) – see Self-Evaluation and Career Research.

Get to know yourself. Identify your interests, passions and goals, and always orient on them.

Identify comparable skills. List your aptitudes and military skills, then match them to those in civilian career fields.

Research Potential Careers. Narrow down these career fields by ensuring they will help satisfy your interests, passions and goals previously identified.

Ask the pros. Network or conduct informational interviews with professionals in those career fields.

Establish your target. Identify only those jobs that will lead you to your newly identified career.

It is paramount to have a proper sight picture on a new career field target before you start shooting applications downrange. Aligning your effort this way will ensure your application efforts are more precise, accurate and effective.

Self-Evaluation & Career Research


Before you apply for jobs, let us help you examine your passions, skills and goals to determine your targeted career field(s).

1. Get To Know Yourself

This important step seems so obvious you’ll be tempted to skip it, but consider this: If you don’t know who you are and what you want, how are you going to convince anyone to hire you? Get in touch with your passions, interests and goals so you can better sell yourself to potential employers in your resume and interviews. Here are just a couple of the resources out there to aid in your self-evaluation:

  • Take the StrengthsFinder.com test to determine your natural skills and abilities.

  • Use the tools on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, CareerOneStop.org.

  • Do an online search for “career assessment” and utilize some of the tools you find, or visit your
    local library for more resources.

2. Identify Comparable Skills

It’s important to determine where your passions and interests intersect with the skills, knowledge, abilities and attributes you gained in the military. And, it’s crucial that you can match them to those in civilian career fields. Non-veteran recruiters and HR leaders will not be able to connect the dots between military skills and experiences with their relevance to their business needs. Here are just a few online tools to help guide you:

  • Check out the "Crosswalk Search" or "Skills Search" on OnetOnline.org.

  • Find out what your interests are and how they relate to your career on MyNextMove.org/vets.

  • Use the military skills translator on Military.com.

  • Find a career training opportunity on DoD Skillbridge website to explore potential career field(s) to target

  • NOTE:  Koch Industries is a DoD Industry Partner and sponsors career training opportunities = Military Veteran Internship Program (Military VIP)

3. Research Potential Careers

Results from a study at Syracuse University revealed half of transitioning military veterans left their first job within one year, and nearly 75% within 18 months. Rather than jumping into the first job that comes your way, make it your objective to succeed in a private sector career that will allow you to grow, advance and experience enjoyment long term. Instead of asking yourself, “What job could I do?”, ask, “What career will I pursue?”
REMEMBER: Target career fields that will satisfy your passions and interests, and will allow you to showcase the skills, knowledge, abilities and attributes you previously identified.

4. Ask The Pros

Next, focus your networking effort and conduct informational interviews with professionals in those career fields. It is best if you gain insight into specific career requirements, work environments, challenges, lifestyle changes, advancement opportunities, required certifications and more.

  • Connect with employers at job fairs and ask them honest questions about what their roles require.

  • Create a profile on LinkedIn and make connections with people who work in your targeted career field(s).

  • Conduct informational interviews with professionals in your targeted career field(s) to learn about specific requirements, work environments, challenges, lifestyle, advancement opportunities, required certifications and possible pitfalls.

  • Read advice articles in your targeted career field(s) and research industry trends.

  • Join the local chapter of a professional association or organization related to your targeted career field(s).

5. Establish Your Target

Think of this new potential career path not as a straight line, but as stepping stones on the path to success. Set a career objective, envision how you’re going to achieve it, anticipate some of the challenges you may face and how these can help you grow.


See this plan in action in our outreach strategies manager’s article, "Dance With the One Who Brung Ya"