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Every prospective retiree should prepare a personal business plan. Keep at it; revise it; update and use it as a road map for your new career. Develop a realistic schedule of milestones, based upon your availability for employment:
- Start your planning approximately one year (or earlier) before your date of separation (DOS). Check out companies, review technical publications and indexes, and build a good file on what you learn. This will pay dividends when you interview with a prospective employer and show your knowledge of the company and its products. Generate two preliminary lists: those companies most likely to employ your skills, and those for whom you would like to work. These should be your primary targets.
- At DOS minus nine months, define your employment objectives and preferred geographical area. Prepare a draft copy of your resume, and keep revising it until you are satisfied that it is the best you can make it. For this part of the plan, list your skills, expertise and experience, and formulate a second list of
things you would like to do. Combine these lists within three months, i.e., at DOS minus six months.
► At DOS minus six months, you should be ready to start your job search with a good resume, smoothed and ready for distribution. Start networking, contact friends, write to corporations or contact a professional recruiting agency. An important part of this plan is to state clearly your qualifications and when you will be available for employment. You need not specify your salary requirements at this time, because it is likely that you could price yourself out of the market by being either too high or too low. Salary negotiations can be very complex, and unless you are skilled in this area you will need the guidance and assistance of a capable recruiter. This can come later during the interview process, after your skills have been evaluated and your job responsibilities identified. No matter how well you plan your job search, do not expect a 100% response to your inquiries. A good ratio is about a 10-15% response.
► At DOS minus three months, you should start your followup action. Respond to those companies or agencies who have answered your inquiries. Tell them of your interest and plans, and when you will be available for interviews. By this time, you should have established points of contact with your prospective employers.
A well-prepared resume is the hallmark of a professional who knows what the business world is all about. Your resume reflects your image. There are good books available on resume preparation that can help you produce one that will be read. Personnel managers see hundreds of resumes a week and barely have time to review them all. Your resume will arrive in a stack of mail and no matter how much of yourself you have put into it, it will just be one of many to the person reading it. If it does not tell the readers quickly what they want to see, it stands a very good chance of winding up in the circular file. Harsh but true! Remember the one cardinal rule of job hunting—the resume is intended
When they returned home, they had four affirmative replies to the letters of inquiry. The two most promising came from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Hank and Rita were on a roll, and anxious to get on with Phase II.
By contrast, Jim’s entry into the rest of his life was a piece of cake. In 90 minutes, I was able to chart a course for Phase II with both Jim and Bev. They liked the idea of returning to New Jersey—where their families and friends lived but his primordial uneasiness about commuting to New York City in a suit and tie offset this plus factor for Jim. A bit of probing surfaced his near-passion for building his own home, preferably a log cabin. He had built a lakeside cabin when they were stationed in Charleston, and two additions to earlier homes. “Jim is a craftsman,”' Bev said. “He is happiest when creating, building, or improving something.” Some additional probing revealed that Jim had a good working knowledge of plumbing, was a fair mason, and held a master electrician’s license.
Next came the homework. A local research librarian located about 200 companies in the United States that
dealt in log cabin homes, ranging from kits for the do-it- yourself types to custom-built luxury models. The best news was the steady upward movement of the log-cabin- home industry, unaffected by the fluctuations in the regular homebuilding market. The Log Cabin Association in Washington, D.C., put Jim in touch with two companies.
He used a combination of weekends and leave time to dig in and get dirt under his fingernails. He saw every phase of the business—from site selection to clearing the land, to ' construction, financing, and sales. Within five months,
Jim knew he d found his cup of tea. The owner of the more expansion-minded company offered him a choice between running a Charleston-based operation and opening up a territory in the eastern part of Pennsylvania that showed great promise. The choice was clear: Pennsylvania is next door to New Jersey. Bev enrolled in a refresher course to bring her skills as a registered nurse up to speed.
She had been away from her field for nearly ten years, and had some catching up to do. But she had a portable career that could be rolled up and carried anywhere.
The Thompsons settled in central Massachusetts, where
By Andrew R. Buist
to get you an interview; the interview gets the job.
Keep your resume to no more than two pages. It is best to use a good quality white bond paper. Purple or orange papers are gimmicks and provide no "^vantage, other than telling the reader that you are interested in gimmicks. Your resume should he concise and factual, and show very quickly that you are qualified for the job. Start off with the things that you consider ruost important to your reader, to some cases, this could be your level of experience or unique skills, while in others it 'night be your academic creden- hals. Whatever they are, put |hem up front and save the less important details for the end.
Two types of resumes are acceptable. In the chronological resume, you begin with your current position and list in inverse order previous positions you have held. The second type, which is becoming more popular, is the functional resume.
This resume breaks your experience into functional blocks: e.g., technical supervision, management, financial management. It describes the skills you have developed that you can bring to your prospective employer.
If you choose a professional recruiting agency, it is important to find out something about it before you begin your job search. Phone calls or letters of inquiry to agencies are not out of order. Most reputable agencies do not mind responding to bona fide inquiries. First, try to find an agency that specializes in your type of skill—be it defense, electronics, finance, marketing, sales, medical, legal, accounting, or something else. Next, ask the agency about who pays the fee—you or the employer. You need to know this before making any kind of commitment. If the employer pays, the agency will not disclose its fees, since they are usually negotiated, privileged information between the agency and the corporate client. But you should know if you are going to be charged for anything. Ask about the distribution of your resume and the type of confidentiality you can expect. Be sure to tell the agency whether or not a wide general distribution of your resume is acceptable to you. Initially, do not expect the recruiting firm to name their clients. You will find this out after your resume has been presented and an interview schedule is established. In due course, the recruiter will probably give you a general summary of the company, including the type of business, annual sales, geographical location and other relevant information. If you do not want to work for a particular company, you should discuss this with the recruiter, before a lot of valuable time is wasted by both of you.
Now that you have some idea of how to start your quest for a new job and a new career, you’ll find it to be an exciting challenge. Thousands of people have already done it successfully. You can do it, too—and perhaps even make a dream come true!
Mr. Buist is a retired naval officer with more than ten years' experience in defense contracting. He now heads an executive search firm in Annapolis.
Hank began to teach math at a prep school. He rose to department head within three years, and was soon coach- "ig the school’s ski team. Rita worked nearby at a therapy center for handicapped children.
T/te Tough Call
The down side of a military career can be devastating. Ask the ones who’ve been there. One former Marine colonel, now vice-president of a major bank on the West Coast, compares his experience with that of a prize fighter who hangs in for one more payday and winds up flattened °n the canvas.
“The key is the decision to leave,” he says. “Too many of us hang in there, going that extra mile—only to see the rest of the active-duty pack catch up and run us over. There is—or should be—a little buzzer inside your head that signals when it’s time to go. Some of us listen to toe signal and press on to something new. Others ignore it and hang on too long.”
Career military officers and noncommissioned officers get paid for making timely decisions. But many of the decisions are already made for them—where to work, where to live, when to deploy, even when to start work each day. Many timely choices on a career path really are not basic choices. They are decisions about details. For many, the first real decision point comes at the 20-year mark. Another choice may be offered in another 6 years, but for most of those who survive the up-or-out process, all the cards are on the table and many of the earlier choices are gone a scant 4 years later.
A real decision is possible only when genuine options are available. Uncovering such options usually takes foresight and preparation—inventorying skills and needs and taking steps to fit them together. Looking at the true options before it’s too late is the only way to move forward with confidence, in control of your own destiny.
Mr. Mastin has 14 years’ experience as an executive-search and outplacement specialist and career-transition counselor. After five years’ active duty, he served 17 years in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Proceedings / June 1990