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Veteran’s Perspective

How to Successfully Find a Meaningful Career After the Military.

By Max Lujan, Military Recruiter, BNSF Railway.

When I got out of the military I fell flat on my face trying to figure out what in the heck I wanted to do next. Everyone who leaves the military struggles in some form or fashion. Sometimes that struggle is a shock from starting in a new workplace/culture. Other times it’s dealing with moving across the country or even adjusting to a new, and perhaps lower, paycheck. More struggle in linking their military service to corporate terms and then filling in the gaps that may be left from that translation.

In addition to those struggles, almost every Veteran has difficulty finding satisfying and meaningful employment after leaving the military. Transitioning from the military cannot be done passively; your transition must be a deliberate and aggressive action with help from others. Because every Veteran is different, there isn’t a “silver bullet” guide on how to transition that can apply to each member of the military.

First, you need to network.

Connect with everyone: peers, friends, people you know from other units, your pastor or priest, your commander who got out six months ago, your old platoon sergeant, and even your drill instructor from boot camp. Connect with everyone you can because you never know who will be the link between you and your first job out of the service.

Second, write a resume.

Make the meat of the resume about how well you did your job, not just the duties and descriptions you pulled out of the field manual or a regurgitation of the Noncommissioned Officer’s Creed. Qualify and quantify all of your results – recruiters love to read about professional achievements, rankings, training, and early promotions. Where do you get all of this great information? Your evaluations and award citations are a great place to start.

Finally, know what matters to you.

Where are you willing to move? What is your salary range? What benefits are important to you? Do you want to be near or far away from family? If you are married, ensure your spouse is in agreement with you before you set foot in an interview. What kind of culture do you want?

Companies are moving mountains right now when it comes to establishing culture. Things like mentorship programs and after-hours events are becoming increasingly popular. However, if you don’t like the company’s culture none of that will matter and you’ll join the ranks of nearly half of Veterans who leave their first job post-military within a year. How good is a mentor at a company you don’t want to work for? How good are after-hours events when you count down the seconds to leave the office? Understand if a company is a fit for you and don’t accept an offer, no matter how tempting, just because it pays the most money. Complete the total body transition and move into a new culture with a purpose that aligns with your beliefs. For me, I’m right on track at BNSF Railway. Learn more about our opportunities at bnsf.com/military.

Max Lujan currently resides in Fort Worth, TX and oversees military recruiting for BNSF Railway. Lujan commissioned as a field artillery officer following his graduation from West Point with a degree in electrical engineering in 2011. He served across the world for five years in the U.S. Army before leaving the Army in 2016.

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