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Military Career Transition Success Story: Chuck Merlo

Owner
C.G. Merlo Consulting

MY TRANSITION FROM THE MILITARY

My biggest break came when I told a friend I wanted to re-enter the job market, but knew I was going to have problems because I didn’t want to work full-time and didn’t want to move from my ranch in West Texas. She said, “Become a consultant.” I asked her, “For who and doing what?” She said, “For the company I work for. We need proposal writers.” I told her I didn’t know the first thing about putting together a contract proposal. She replied, “You’re a great writer. We can’t teach people how to write but we can teach a good writer how to prepare a proposal.” She arranged interviews with the appropriate proposal managers and vice presidents, and soon I had my first consulting contract.

RESUME AND CAREER TIPS TO CONSIDER

  • A resume is meant to market yourself just as an advertisement markets a product. If all you’re doing is providing a long list of jobs you’ve held or tasks completed, it’s about as exciting as reading the list of ingredients on a product label.

Any employer, especially in the corporate world, is focused on results. What proven talent and energy do you bring to help their bottom line? For example, in discussing management of media operations at a NW Florida fighter base, I added: 
                          
“Instituted a media outreach program focusing on television production companies rather than strictly news organizations as most public affairs offices have done. Using innovative packaged video releases and personal contact with producers, secured an agreement with ESPN to air coverage of the USAF Fighter Competition. The hour-long broadcast became one of ESPN’s highest-rated shows aired more than 25 times. HQ Air Force Public Affairs calculated the positive depiction of AF operations to our prime recruiting audience was worth millions of dollars.”

This statement shows “out-of-the-box” thinking producing tangible results and will encourage an employer to want to know more about your efforts and ideas.

The next statement shows the public affairs officer has the confidence of senior leadership to handle an explosive issue, exhibiting knowledge of both operational requirements and the public relations tools to defuse the situation.

“When an air base wing commander decided to close a section of the base long available for use by local sportsmen, public outcry was immediate and intense, including political cartoons, editorials and interviews of enraged citizens. I was personally selected by the two-star division commander to assume management of the closure, including a review of the effectiveness and timing of the proposed restrictions. I instituted a three-pronged campaign to modify ill-conceived closure restrictions, personal contact and letters to community leaders explaining the action, and media day for local newspapers and television stations to show critical facilities requiring enhanced protection and new steps to allow controlled use of wilderness areas by sportsmen. Media coverage was 100 percent positive. Public outcry immediately evaporated while security and base operations were enhanced.”

  • Next, reduce or eliminate items on a resume with little or no value. The best example of an item you can cut is the one or two line “goals” statement. No one reads it.

While it’s important to show the range of jobs and responsibilities you’ve held, action statements to show your effectiveness are absolutely critical if your resume is to stand out from others. If you are selected for an interview, they encourage the employer to ask questions, allowing you to further discuss your strengths and capabilities.

  • Also, be aware employers are wary of long breaks in service. You may have decided to take a year off to unwind and travel after you retire. Or perhaps, you haven’t able to find a job for an extended period. Don’t let this look like an “idle” period. Take the time to be productive …. even if you are working for free. Nonprofits are always looking for assistance. Look for ones needing assistance in marketing themselves or their fundraising activities.
                                                                                         
  • A cautionary note: Expect to be disappointed. The job market is not fair and equitable. Just because you may be the highest-qualified candidate for a job doesn’t mean you’ll get it. Sometimes the job is already filled before it’s even posted. An employer may have someone already in mind and the formal posting is just a legal or personnel department requirement.
                                                                                                           
  • Which leads me to my strongest recommendation — NETWORK!!! Let former bosses, coworkers, friends and family know you’re looking for work. Provide them with your resume. Ask them to let their friends know about your qualities and capabilities. They may know of jobs that aren’t even being advertised or jobs that you may not have considered or thought yourself qualified to hold.