How to Get Your Dream Job – Part I – The “E” Word

I recently read an article about a young man who just got out of the military and was stuck in a minimum wage job. Apparently this young man had an IT career in the military but could not land even a low paying IT position with any companies. It turns out that while he was highly trained in his specific field of IT he did not have a college degree.


Today companies across all industries claim to be eager to hire veterans. This can be music to your ears if you are transitioning out of the military soon. However, that music will quickly halt when reality sets in. The fact is that those transitioning out of the military are entering a job market that is saturated with people looking for work. Competition is extremely stiff and you will need to have made good career planning decisions to navigate the waters to your dream job. There are companies that aggressively seek to gain the coveted title of Military Friendly from organizations such as and we strongly salute those companies and their inspiring efforts. Keep those companies in mind when you are doing your career planning. However, this alone is not enough to land your dream job. Its all about preparation!

You have not started career planning??????  Its NOT too late!

For those who are transitioning out of the military, or who are veterans who have been out for any length of time, job searching can be an exercise in frustration. Giving up is never an option! It is possible to get the job you want, but it is going to take time, effort, and most of all dedication. Those who focus like a laser on their career objectives are more apt to succeed than those who make looking for that perfect job a part time job.


The first thing any transitioning military member or veteran must do is take a good hard look at where they want to go with their career.

  • What do you want to do?
  • How much do you want to make in salary?
  • What kind of work environment do you want?
  • What kind of benefits packages are you looking for?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What is your idea of work/life balance?

These and many other questions can help you sit down and logically put together a career path.

There are many guides out there in book or on-line form that can help you make those career path plans. Google best career planning books, sites, resources and apps to get started on your career planning. If you are going the entrepreneur rout then do this for entrepreneurial career planners and make sure to start networking with the SBA, your local Chamber of Commerce, and organizations that support veteran entrepreneurs such as the Bunker.

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Suggested Reading:
Figuring out just what to do with your life:

What Color is Your Parachute?  (Psst… Amazon has this book)

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Suggested Reading:
For creative people who want to dig deep into their passion. Great for artists, writers, journalists, etc. The Artist’s Way 
(Psst… Amazon has this book)

Suggested Reading:
How To Create A Career Path When Your Job Doesn’t Have One 

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Suggested Reading:
The Four Hour Work Week (Psst… Amazon has this book)

When choosing a career path you may want to consider going where the money and the demand take you. According to a recent CNN Money article the top paying positions for military veterans are:

  1. Chief Information Officer – annual salary = $167,200
  2. Capture Manager – annual salary = $164,100
  3. Senior Program Manager- annual salary = $137,900
  4. Vice President Technology- annual salary = $134,200
  5. Chief Information Security Officer- annual salary = $133,700

According to Forbes magazine in a recent article the highest paying in-demand jobs currently are:

  1. Physician
  2. Pharmacy Manager
  3. Software Architect
  4. Software Development Manager
  5. Finance Manager
  6. Solutions Architect
  7. Lawyer
  8. Analytics Manager
  9. IT Manager
  10. Tax Manager

What do these positions all have in common?

  1. Education
  2. Certification
  3. Experience Required

At this point in your career planning you should also take a good hard look at education. America has always been in love with the Rags-to-Riches stories of those who had nothing and made millions. Today talk show hosts, authors, and self-professed career gurus give seemingly countless examples of how a college education is not necessary for everyone. While that may be true in certain circumstances, the general rule still applies today. College graduates, on the whole, earn more than those without a college degree. If you are looking at working for a company or organization this is certainly true.

Education is of paramount importance. According to the Veterans Administration 73% of veterans who used their educational benefits said that these benefits were “extremely important” or “very important” in helping them meet their goals and preparing them to get a better job. While this is a fact that is pretty easy for most of us to agree with the real head-scratcher is in this statistic – only about 37% of veterans use their education benefits.

Companies might be military friendly and sincerely want to hire you as a veteran but the fact is they have a position to fill that has certain requirements. The recruiter or HR representative that is looking at your resume, or interviewing you, has to consider you stacked up against all their other qualified applicants. The best candidates have done their research, they have education, possibly certifications and they are eager. In addition to that the top candidates have most likely sharpened their resume to near perfection, practiced their interviewing skills, learned the (civilian) industry lingo, and made extensive use of networking. 

Additional Resources in this area: 

Employment Preparation Part 1 of 3

About That Social Media Thing – Military and Veteran Employment Preparation – Part 2 of 3

Resume and Interview Tips and Suggestions for Veterans and Transitioning Military (part 3 of 3)

Consider the “cold hard facts” when career planning: 

  • You are competing with a HUGE market of people looking for jobs due to the high level of unemployment that the nation has endured since 08-09.
  • You are competing with highly educated and experienced professionals who were laid off or otherwise lost their jobs due to the economic down turn.
  • The competition for any position generally has a college degree and relevant and active certifications.
  • Salaries, for virtually everyone (except high level executives in extremely large and successful companies) are down when compared to the market pre 2008.

As you study your career path make sure you do not overlook the power of an education. College degrees are important and can take your career far.

Not up for long term education but looking for a quick fix? For certain career fields certifications and specialized training can make the difference in your getting a dream job or working at the local burger joint. IT professionals know this. Those pursuing IT careers might want to look at programs such as the Open Cloud Academy run by Rackspace Programs such as this can bring a veteran up to speed in a specific IT area and give them the powerful certifications they need to get their dream job.

Other organizations such as The Good Careers Academy can get you your education and certification, with speed and low cost, in a wide variety of fields very quickly and enable you to use your military benefits to pay for it. You can learn more about them here

Did you know? Apple Pledges $50 to increase number of women, minorities and veterans in tech jobs.

Did you know? Pentagon is hiring 3,000 Cyber Security professionals 

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