By Don Orlando
The services grow leaders. You were promoted based on how well you could solve leadership challenges. Your MOS, AFSC, or rating was certainly important to the mission. But, if you spent any time on active duty, chances are you found yourself doing a variety of jobs. And you did all of them well. Therein lies the culture trap. Private, government, and non-profit hiring decision makers ask applicants to provide specific capabilities—abbreviated by job titles. They don’t want leaders so much as they want marketing leaders, or sales leaders, or IT leaders. Too often, all those jobs are poorly announced.
The postings often include what you think of as minimum requirements: management, strong communications skills, and the ability to solve problems. Your natural reaction is: “I know I can do that job!” And so you respond enthusiastically. Just after you do, you find another “opportunity” in a field unrelated to the first. Soon you “active” job search has you applying for many, often unrelated, jobs. But if your resume doesn’t provide a close match between your excellence in the specific career field the employer wants, you won’t get the job. Worse yet, you can hardly apply to the same company again. The more you follow this flawed model, the longer and more unsuccessful will be your job search.
Avoid that trap by focusing on a specific career field. Think of a career field as a collection of knowledge, skills, abilities, and passions that provide a given service or product. Career fields are approximately defined by a job title. Now you can apply for any position that calls for a given career field. For example, a production professional understands manufacturing very well. It doesn’t much matter if the manufacturing company he applies to is large or small, in Maine or Washington State, is privately held or publicly traded. To a large degree, it doesn’t much matter what the company makes. Production professionals do production kinds of things.
There are entire books written on the subject of how one gets clear and compelling proof about which career field is right for you. But do get the answer to that question before you apply for that next job.