As you transition from the military, you’ll get a ton of advice. Some of it will resonate, and you’ll move forward. Other advice will feel wrong, and you will need to discard it. Here’s my two cents into the mix. [Note about the links — Yes, I get paid if you buy after clicking on them. If you prefer to buy from somewhere else, or to use your “smile” account, that’s fine with me.]
- Tackle your debt. Now is the time to get your arms around your budget, ensure that you’re living below your means, and paying down all unsecured commercial debt. Pay off your credit cards, your student loans, your car and even pay down your mortgage. Build up some savings. Most financial advisors recommend at least six months of living expenses. Take advantage of the free resources available to you on base, while you have access to them. For this, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.
- You need to understand how compensation packages work in the civilian world. In the military, you get paid what Congress says you get paid. Because this isn’t something that you’re used to doing, you need to learn how it works. And you must know what you’re worth. The person on the other side of the interview table is doing their homework. You should do yours as well. Know what people get paid for your kind of work in your area. Any honest, decent employer is looking to pay you a fair wage. We don’t want to overpay you, of course, because that would not make business sense. We also don’t want to underpay you. You would figure it out soon enough, be unhappy and leave. The book for this is Jack Chapman’s How to Make $1000 a Minute.
- Finally, once you have your financial house in order, and you know what you’re worth, you need to figure out what your passion is. What motivates you? What inspires you? You also need to clearly articulate the values that are important to you, and find a work environment that shares those values. You will need to interview them, as much as they are interviewing you. The interview is a two-way process. The book for this is the classic, What Color is your Parachute? Be sure to get the latest edition if you get it used or from your library.