What to Do If Your First Civilian Job Doesn’t Work Out

OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert visited with veterans and community leaders in San Antonio, TX.

You’ve followed the experts’ advice on de-militarizing your resume, networking, job searching and interviewing. You got your first civilian job, hooray! It’s going okay for about six months. It doesn’t seem to be your dream job, but you figure, it takes a while to get trained and on board, so you’re giving it the benefit of the doubt.

At about the eight-month mark, you realize, this job is NOT for you. Maybe you’re not using your skills. Maybe the job seems boring to you. Maybe the culture or people aren’t a good fit. Or maybe it’s just not what you thought it would be.

It could also be that your manager has decided that, while you seemed like a good fit from your resume and the interview, after sufficient training and on-boarding, perhaps it’s not as good of a fit as s/he originally thought. And so, regretfully, your manager has to “let you go,” and once again, you find yourself on the job market.

That happens sometimes, whether you’re a veteran or civilian. Either things aren’t how you expected they’d be at the job or you aren’t exactly what they expected. You can only tell so much from a job description and an interview. Likewise, they can only tell so much from a resume and an interview. The important part is that you can move forward and determine what your next step is going to be. Here are 4 tips on what to do if your first civilian job doesn’t work out.

  1. Get Feedback - If your manager didn’t feel like you were a good fit for the job, talk to him/her and ask the honest question….Why not? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, feedback is a gift. You can take the feedback and learn if there’s something you can do differently to make your next civilian job more successful.
  2. Write Down Your Likes - What are the things you liked about the job? It may not have been a good fit, but I’m guessing there were certain aspects of the job you liked. Make a list. When you’re looking for a new civilian job, look for those things you did like in a new job.
  3. Write Down Your Dislikes - If you didn’t feel like the job was a good fit, make a list of why it wasn’t. If the culture was not a good fit, write down what the culture was like, why you didn’t like it and what you would rather it be. If you didn’t like what your job responsibilities were, write down why not and list out what you would like to do instead. Taking note of these things will help guide you on what to and what NOT to look for in your next civilian job.
  4. Get More Information - Perhaps if you had more information before taking the job, you would have had a better feel for what the job was really like and you wouldn’t have taken it. Before taking your next job, try to collect some more data. Informational interviews are always a good way to collect information from the company and what it’s like to work there. Try talking to some of the other employees who work there and ask them some honest questions about the culture and position. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn from their answers and even their personalities when talking with them.

The bottom line is, don’t get discouraged if that first civilian job didn’t work out. It happens to everyone at some point in their life. It’s important to learn a lesson from your experience and use what you learned to make the next experience on your journey a better one.

About Lida:

Lida Citroën is an international reputation management and branding specialist and CEO of LIDA360. Lida serves her corporate clients with personal branding, reputation management, online positioning and reputation repair strategies and implementation programs. 

Lida is passionate about helping our nation's Veterans navigate the military-to-civilian career transition and is a popular speaker at military installations and events on Veteran hiring. Her best-selling book, Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition, offers veterans the tools to successfully move to meaningful civilian careers. 

Lida also leverages her 20+ years in corporate branding to help private employers recruit, onboard and grow veteran employees. Her book, Engaging with Veteran Talent: A quick and practical guide to sourcing, hiring, onboarding and developing Veteran employees, provides companies seeking to start or build on their Veteran Hiring Initiatives with the tools and insights to be successful.

Lida is a regular contributor for Military.com and Entrepreneur.com and is the recipient of numerous awards for her service to our veterans.

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