Thinking About Making a Career Move? Here’s How to Prepare

Thinking About Making a Career Move? Here’s How to Prepare
Photo by Constantine Johnny/Getty Images

By Brian Anderson and Ginni Guiton


The Air Force has seen more people opting to remain in uniform than at nearly any other time in the past 20 years, according to Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, the service’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, in a recent Air Force Magazine article. Higher-than-expected retention, driven by pandemic uncertainty, led the service to pare back its recruitment goals, Kelly said, with the Air Force seeking about 1,800 fewer enlisted airmen than anticipated.  


The positive stability in recruitment and retention can’t necessarily be said for the civilian labor market.  


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on retention the job market. Due to lockdowns and decreased economic activity, employee retention statistics for 2020 were a bit more volatile. Based upon the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average turnover rate was especially high in March, at the beginning of imposed lockdowns, when the turnover rate spiked to a record 9.7%


You might be thinking, “When it comes to work and companies, people come and go, right?” That’s true, but it may present some challenges for servicemembers transitioning to civilian careers and for veterans already in the labor market seeking career advancement opportunities.


[RELATED: Visit MOAA's Job Board, in Partnership With Indeed]


And just because an employee isn’t showing clear signs of leaving the company doesn’t mean they’re not actively looking. According to studies, 65% of employees believe they can find a better position elsewhere. Add them to the 10.7 million people unemployed and you may find the competition to be fierce. So, what can you do now to make yourself better prepared for when you do decide to make your big move?


First and foremost, you need to address a key question: What do you want to do? You will need to spend some time in self-reflection. Early in the transition process, make a list of your key strengths, define your unique value, and identify what matters most to you in your next career – travel, work/life balance, supervising people, overall compensation, or serving the greater good.


Determining these requires an understanding of self — something that isn’t always done before transition. However, this step is absolutely essential to best align your strengths with your future opportunities.


To get started, think about ways your military experience has helped to grow and shape who you are. Then shift the focus slightly to your unique strengths. When we work with people in transition, we ask them to define their value proposition to a prospective employer: What problems can you solve for them? What are you good or not good at? What do you enjoy doing? Are you more comfortable in the details or big picture? 


[RELATED: MOAA's Upcoming Career and Transition Events and Webinars]


Spend some time considering your responses. These links might help you generate ideas – a list of values to get your mind working via author Steve Pavlina, and a list of 31 core competencies to consider via You want to be able to paint a picture of who you are, what your strengths are, and where you’ll be most happy.


This reflection provides a road map for you for to determine what is important to you and which direction to travel. It will help you understand yourself and increase the chance of any civilian job that you undertake will best fit your strengths. Then as the opportunities and offer letters come your way, evaluate each against the criteria you established early in your job search to ensure you are making a sound decision along your career journey.


Need assistance along the way? MOAA’s career and transition experts offer a range of service, including one-on-one guidance for Premium and Life members. Learn more about these programs, find links to member-only publications, and register for upcoming webinars and other career events at MOAA’s Transition and Career Center


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