This article by Nina Semczuk originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
One of my old bosses was smart about his Army exit. He used the days between transitioning his duties to his replacement and signing out on terminal leave to beef up his resume. Instead of whiling away the remaining days surfing YouTube or disappearing for three hour lunches, he stuck around the office ready to answer any question his boss or replacement needed and diligently worked away at online classes. While you might not be in the same situation as him — trapped in an office with fast internet — it doesn’t hurt to use some of your remaining time productively.
Take an Online Class
I can’t speak to the other services, but the Army had all sorts of resources; you just had to poke around to find them. For example, my old boss discovered the eLearning Skillport. He pointed out useful classes found on the site such as database and IT certifications. Another site I found out about is Safari Books. This e-book hub has a free account feature for military folks and features a wide range of genres in the business and tech space. Many of the titles were ones I found recommended on sites for learning how to code and other technical skills.
Other online class resources include Udemy, ALISON, Skillshare, edX, Codecademy and Udacity. While many of the courses come with a price tag, you can generally sort and find free options if you want to try it out before opening your wallet.
Even if you don’t completely master a skill from one of these courses, dipping your toes into the material can help you decide whether it’s a career you want to pursue.
Check Out What Your Transition Center Offers
A friend of mine was able to take an introductory electrician course on his way out the door as part of his transition program. Now, he wasn’t planning on pursuing that sort of job in the civilian world, but he figured it was worth taking advantage of one last learning opportunity before departing. You never know when something like that may come in handy. You might do a 180 after you realize your first choice of a civilian career isn’t what you expected.
So, leave no rock unturned. See what courses, classes, and certifications are available to transitioning service members. Talk to the people working at the center and express what you’re trying to pursue, or, if you have no idea, ask what they recommend.
This option can be the most time intensive but adds not only a skill to your resume, but references as well. As great as it is to knock out online certifications, it often pays to have a human observe your skill and attest to it if a future employer requests a reference. Let’s say you want to work on marketing. You could work with a volunteer organization to help market their next fundraiser or event. Or, say you’re working on project management experience. You could find a nonprofit in your area that needs help organizing the next volunteer day, event, or project.
Do some research to see what’s available in your area and then reach out. Explain how you could help and your time frame. Most places welcome free labor as long as you clearly communicate your level of expertise. And don’t worry if you’re trying to do something completely outside your wheelhouse; the volunteer coordinator might have you shadow someone instead or suggest another way you could gain experience. Putting yourself out there is not only great for adding to your resume, it’s a great way to network.
The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job
Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.
Nina Semczuk served as an Army officer from 2011-2016. She earned a B.S. from Boston University prior to military service and now lives in New York and works as a writer and editor. Find her work on SmartAsset, The Muse, The War Horse, Fast Company, and at ninasemczuk.com.
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