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A Veteran’s Perspective

Transitioning to Civilian Life.


By Beau Higgins.
Senior Manager.
Military Recruiting Center of Excellence
Worldwide Operations Talent Acquisition.
Amazon.com

As a military recruiter for Amazon I have the pleasure of talking to veterans and military spouses of all different backgrounds every day. Over the past 18 months that I’ve been on the Military Talent Acquisition team, I have noticed a few things that I wanted to share with those entering the transition to civilian life and in search of the next phase of their careers.

1) Start Early.

If you are waiting to start your transition from the military less than 90 days out you are not setting yourself up for success. In the military we go through detailed plans for every operation we conduct and talk through secondary, even tertiary plans of action in case something goes wrong (which it most often does). You need to think of your transition in a similar way.

2) Be intentional.

If your plan is just applying online to a few jobs in your hometown or going back to school somewhere without a degree in mind, I hate to tell you that there is not much strategy behind this plan.

3) Use your resources.

Network with your friends from high school, college or the old neighborhood. You never know how those folks may be able to help when it is your time to transition. Stay engaged with a life external to the military, many veterans I talk to have become uncomfortable in civilian settings over time.

4) Always work to improve your education.

Get certifications that apply in the civilian world. Try and finish, or at least start your college degree, if you don’t have one already.

5) Practice Interviewing.

You shouldn’t show up to your annual physical fitness test in the military without practicing some beforehand. Same goes for interviewing. If you get to the interview process make sure you have done some practice beforehand. Set yourself up for success by doing some research on the company and think about questions before the interview even starts. As recruiters we are interested in the questions you have for us in addition to how you answer the questions we ask you.

6) Know what you want.

One of the most frustrating things for a recruiter to hear from a possible candidate is that “I will do anything, anywhere.” While that attitude may have been acceptable in the military, that is not an approach that will help in your transition. The more specific you can be about the desired job or desired location you want to pursue, the better recruiters can help refine your search. Applying for 25 different jobs at one company is not helpful and actually can hurt your chances because the company doesn’t know what you really want to do.

The bottom line is that as a veteran you have the most important skillset employers are looking for: leadership. Companies can teach you the specifics of a job but they can’t teach leadership, bias for action, and the ability to make decisions quickly.

As the leader of Amazon’s military talent acquisition team, Beau Higgins leads an organization that is focused on hiring, developing and retaining the best and the brightest military talent available for positions within Amazon. Additionally, his team is focused on developing Amazon’s ongoing efforts to increase hiring of military spouses and wounded warriors, to engage with multiple Military Support Organizations (MSO’s) to educate transitioning veterans, and to meeting Amazon’s pledge to hire 25,000 veterans over a 5-year period. Prior to joining Amazon in 2016, he served for 25 years as an intelligence officer with the Marines. This included deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, 3 tours to Iraq, and 3 tours to Afghanistan. He commanded 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Following his retirement in 2014 he ran operations for a fiber optic cable assembler for two years. Higgins has a Masters in Business Administration from George Mason University and a Masters in Military Strategy from the Air War College

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Running the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon in Afghanistan as part of Team Travis and the Travis Manion Foundation.

Jimmy Higgins, Beau Higgins, Liz Higgins, Casey Higgins Boys in front (Cooper Higgins and Connor Higgins).