After military service, while veterans reintegrate, questions come up about their next career. Should they get more education? Does a new career path need to be explored? How do the learned experiences from their time of service translate into skills they can use in a civilian professional career?
Veterans who have already established themselves in new civilian roles should not stop! It is essential to seek professional development opportunities and learn new skills, broaden relationships in a current or desired industry, and help improve new employers’ organizations.
Professional Development Tips for Veterans
Here are some tips veterans can use for professional development:
Pursue Career Development Opportunities
Career development opportunities can come in many forms. As a veteran, the desire to learn more is vital for personal, professional, and company growth. Not all military members attend college or obtain a degree before entering the military.
Professional development, training, and continuing education courses are excellent ways for veterans to explore new skills and roles to help them advance in their careers and become a more valuable asset to any company.
Identify Your Career Goals
When considering professional development opportunities, you should first identify your career goals. What areas of your daily work would you like to expand upon? For instance, is there a new software in your line of work you would like to learn more about?
Research How to Get the Skills You Need
Once your questions are answered, you can research different programs and courses to expand your skill sets. Sometimes, these opportunities are available directly through your employer.
Talk to managers and supervisors—if the skills earned will be valuable to the business, they might be open to sponsoring your participation in development courses or covering the cost of higher education.
Tap Free and Affordable Resources
Take advantage of affordable resources, like LinkedIn’s premium features, which are free to veterans for one year. These features include certificate programs, where veterans can receive additional training and take courses free to help broaden their skills and knowledge in their career field.
For example, suppose you’re a project manager. In that case, you can continue learning through certification programs, such as a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, an Agile Project Management certification, or SCRUM through programs such as PM-ProLearn. Having the motivation, understanding, and drive to pursue development opportunities, shows you are a team player willing to broaden your knowledge to help your company.
Tip: CareerOneStop has many resources for veterans, including a Skills Matcher and Veterans Job Matcher.
Communicate Your Interest in Professional Development to Employers
At first, communicating your professional goals with your employer might appear intimidating, but maintaining open and honest communication with your team is crucial.
Your employer hired you because they saw the value in translating your military skills to the civilian workforce, and it’s essential to be a self-advocate in the workplace to ensure your goals and needs are met while you serve shared company goals. When walking into these conversations, make sure you have answers prepared for any questions they might have.
During these talks, you should stress the benefits your new skills and knowledge will bring to your team and the company. Will professional development courses help build company relationships and allow the opportunity to tap into a new audience? Continued learning helps improve the organization and is a short-term investment for businesses to gain long-term benefits.
Broaden Your Career Networks to Find New Opportunities for Yourself & Your Company
Identifying different professional resources to broaden your career networks can also help you and your employer in the long run. Whether you’re attending a networking event on LinkedIn or participating in a certificate program at a college or university, as a veteran, it’s always beneficial to seek out opportunities to grow your network.
Not only is networking a great way to meet like-minded individuals in your field of work, but it is a great way to learn about new resources and connect with prospective colleagues, business partners, or clients. If you’re interested in joining fellow veterans in your industry to discuss development and mentorship opportunities, investigate organizations like Vets2Industry or HireMilitary, which offer free services to military veterans.
You might even be able to connect with potential recruits for your company. Whatever approach you take, your employer will welcome any efforts you make to develop and grow the business!
As a military member, you might feel drawn to fellow veterans since they have similar experiences as you, but it’s also essential to grow your network beyond just military professionals. Take advantage of digital networking programs to build new meaningful connections with professionals in your industry.
Having a business and entrepreneurial resources at your fingertips can help your career flourish and improve your productivity through new skill sets. Applying these to your work can have a ripple effect that enhances your company’s bottom line. Your employers should view professional development to benefit your professional growth and the organization.