Let’s talk about your transition…
No matter where you are right now in your transition you need to start thinking about what you’re going to do next right now, or, you’re probably going to run into some problems later down the road.
You basically have three choices:
- Go to school and use that GI Bill
- Get a job
- Start a business
Although we’ve got a great free online course for those of you interested in starting a business, we aren’t going to cover that topic in this post… So let’s talk about number 1 & 2.
Let’s talk about college
I’m a firm believer in continuing your education, especially when the GI Bill is there to pick up the tab. However, it’s important to gather all of the facts about just what that shiny degree is going to lead to after graduation before you take the leap and put all of your eggs in the college basket.
For example, according to a study by the website PayScale.com they found 11 colleges where NOT going to college was worth an extra $30,000 in your pocket.
This same article, citing the PayScale data, also noted that certain degrees can have a negative net return over 20-years of as much as almost $200,000 over a high school graduate. Although this data is not perfect, as it was compiled from self-reported income statistics, it does paint a rather bleak picture.
The bottomline here is this: Do your research and make sure you understand the return you are getting on your college investment, even if that investment is only going to cost you time. So where should you start your research? How do you know what information is good and what information is out as a marketing tool to entice you to apply for a specific program?
Take a free class and find out if it is right for you
You might have you hopes set on a specific career or a specific college major only to find out that a few semesters into your program you absolutely hate the classes you are taking. I have a ton of peers who had this realization and ended up spending an additional 1-2 years in school correcting their mistake. I’d rather you not be the Van Wilder of your school so I’ve got a very simple, and free, solution to this problem: Free classes.
It is easier than ever to take some very high quality college classes for absolutely free these days. A couple of my favorites are from a company called Coursera and from a little school in Northern California called Stanford, you may have heard of that one… Those not good enough for you? Check out the offerings from Yale and Harvard too!
Interested in a career in computer engineering, biology, or business but not sure if it is really right for you? No problem, enroll in one of the free courses covering any topic you’re interested in and dig in. Both of these schools offer a ton of great online, college level, courses for absolutely free so you can test the waters without spending the time and money you might end up wasting at your local university. This is an amazing way to figure out what you are truly interested in, dive in, work through some material, and see for yourself if the filed you are thinking about is going to keep your interest for another few years.
Let’s talk about getting a job
Many companies these days, especially the smaller, more innovative ones that are making all that cool technology you love, are becoming less and less interested in only hiring folks with a strong formal education background. In fact, many of them prefer the job applicant who can best demonstrate their ability to think outside the box, teach themselves new skills, and get stuff done.
This means that your awesome resume, with the list of all of the great things you did in the military, may not be as important to your future employer as your ability to clearly demonstrate the value you’ll bring their company.
So how can I show off my value to a potential employer?
You first step should be to sign up for our Find Your Dream Job Course as you’ll find a ton of information and resources inside that will help you answer that question.
However, it really comes down to a couple things:
- Who you know
- What you can show
In our Dream Job course we spend a whole week talking about Networking, including a handful of great scripts you can use to gain access to the companies you are researching and the people who may be currently working in the field you are considering. Not only will this networking help you build the interpersonal skills you’ll need to be successful when you transition, but it will help you navigate the job market in a much smarter way (i.e. Not sending out a 1000 resumes, crossing your fingers, and hoping to hear back, then banging your head against the wall). In fact, many of the best jobs out there are never even posted to a public job board!
For the non-technical folks in the audience networking, and having real genuine conversations with people in the field you plan to pursue can make all the difference in the world. You’ll be able to ask great questions, learn what your future potential employer is struggling with, and figure out if your skill set would be a good match to help them solve their problems.
For those of you out there looking to get into a technical field such are web development, software engineering, or something similar you’ll find it incredibly beneficial to start building a portfolio of work that you can use to showcase your talents.
I’d love to work for a tech company, but… What if I don’t know anything about programming!?
Fortunately, there is a growing list of great resources out there for you to learn the skills many of the top tech companies are searching for. Interested in learning how to code? You can hop on over to codecademy and build an interactive website or Ruby on Rails application. Build out one of those projects and add to your portfolio! Interested in front-end web development, iOS development, or becoming a data analyst? Our friends over at Udacity have you covered with a number of free and paid courses you can use to learn a valuable new skill set while completing projects that will showcase your abilities to future employers.
These resources are a great way to learn new skills, test the waters of that career you might be considering, and begin to build a portfolio that speaks much louder than the words on your resume.
We are living in a very interesting time where you have more control over what you do with your life than ever before. No longer are we forced to grow up, go to school, get a “good” job, and retire at 65 from that job you never really loved. With schools like Stanford, Yale, and Harvard releasing free courses, and companies like Udacity, codecademy, and Coursera releasing a ton of great content you can use to expand your knowledge and level up your career, you no longer have an excuse to settle for a job you don’t love so get out there, test a few courses out, meet some people at companies you’d like to work for and take control of your future!