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Transitioning to a New Mission: 7 Tips for Military Veterans Pursuing a Career in IT

For me, transitioning from the armed forces to civilian life was a bit scary filled with so much uncertainty, coupled with anxiety, presented its challenges but opportunities have been endless. As for you, a military veteran or retiree you will experience some if not all of what I experienced and that's quite normal. A career in IT is so worth it! The IT industry offers a refreshing and rewarding environment that values the skills, discipline, and leadership traits honed during military service.

Check out these 7 tips to pursuing a successful career in IT, if you are a military veteran or retiree:

1. Conduct a self-assessment of your capabilities: Evaluate all your skills, the things that interest you, and all the experience you've gained throughout your service, whether 4 or 20 years. Then, identify those transferable skills such as teamwork, adaptability, and attention to detail. If you have technical acumen, consider that and any related training. It could be as simple as having to attend a mandatory IT Security training in which you learned how to safeguard documents and physical components or, better yet, that additional duty that was IT related that had nothing to do with your current career field. This self-assessment will help you identify the areas of IT that align with your strengths and interests.

2. Get relevant certifications and educational training: While military training provides a solid foundation, acquiring relevant certifications and education in IT can enhance your marketability and expand your skill set. Research industry-recognized certifications such as CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, ITIL, or Cisco certifications. Many organizations offer training programs and financial assistance designed for veterans transitioning into IT careers, such as ACT Now, Boots to Books, and Onward to Opportunity (O2O). Leverage these resources to bridge knowledge gaps and demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning.

3. Leverage Military Resources and Networks: Tap into your network of resources available for veterans. Organizations like Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Labor (DOL), HireHeroesUSA, Hiring Our Heroes, and HireMilitary offer career transition assistance, job boards, DoD Skillbridge and educational resources tailored to veterans. Many of these organizations offer veterans mentorship, networking opportunities, and industry insights. These resources can provide valuable guidance and support throughout your IT career journey.

4. Translate Your Military Experience: When applying for IT positions, it is crucial to effectively translate your military experience into relevant skills and qualifications sought by employers. Tailor your resume to highlight just that and emphasize your accomplishments that closely align with the IT role you are pursuing. No position will be the same, but many share similarities in soft skills such as attention to detail, problem-solving, communication, etc. Try to avoid military jargon but use language that can be understood by hiring managers and recruiters. Suppose you've utilized similar systems that were branch specific such as any Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), project management tools identical to Jira or Asana, and/or Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) tools. In that case, you can identify them on your resume, for example, Routed service requests for senior leadership by submitting through the Air Force IT ticketing system (name of the system) for assignment and immediate resolution.

5. Get to networking and seeking out a mentor: Networking is a powerful tool for career advancement. Attend IT industry events, veteran-specific job fairs, and professional networking gatherings to connect with individuals in the field. Seek out mentors who have successfully transitioned from the military to IT careers. Your mentor doesn't have to be someone retired or a senior-level executive; however, they must have profound industry knowledge and can help you carve out the best career path. Mentors can provide guidance, insights, and invaluable advice. Their experience and networks can open doors to new opportunities and help you overcome challenges.

6. Get Hands-on Experience: Consider gaining practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, or volunteer work in the IT field. This hands-on experience can provide real-world exposure, enhance your skills, and expand your professional network. Seek out companies or organizations that prioritize hiring veterans and value your unique perspective. Remember, practical experience can be as valuable as formal education when entering the IT job market.

7. Shine the spotlight on your abilities: As military veterans, you bring an enormous wealth of soft skills and leadership qualities. Use this to your advantage and communicate these attributes during interviews and throughout your IT career. Showcase how you've worked through ambiguity, led teams, bridged gaps in communication, and exemplified curiosity. Despite what you may believe, these are important, and it helps paint the most authentic picture of you throughout your career.

Remember, transitioning from military service to a career in IT offers exciting possibilities for veterans. You can successfully embark on a fulfilling IT career by assessing your skills, pursuing relevant certifications, leveraging resources and networks, translating military experience, networking, gaining practical experience, and shining the spotlight on your abilities. The qualities developed during military service will be a solid foundation for your new mission in the IT industry. Steer the course, stay positive, and continue moving forward despite uncertainty.

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