Today we have the honor of hosting a guest writer with recent military experience. Mitch Olson is an Army Officer who recently began his transition out of the military. He shares his experiences below and offers tips for those looking for credentialing, up-skilling, networking assistance, and other aspects of the transition experience. His views do not respect the views of the Department of Defense and do not constitute on endorsement of its behalf. Let’s see what he has to share. I know I’ve learned a lot from his experiences and look forward to publishing a few other pieces of his which provide valuable insight to those in similar situations!
Transitioning from the military is a stressful time for Service Members as they prepare to re-enter the private sector. Medical, personal, education, financial, and family stressors undoubtedly increase during this time, and that stress can compound if your separation wasn’t planned well in advance.
“Do I go back to school?”
“Do I get vocational training?”
“Do I want to enter the workforce immediately?”
“What do I want to do on the civilian side?”
“Do I need credentialing/training for that job?”
If you are someone who is entering the workforce immediately after your ETS date, and may want to add an industry skills or credentialing — but you are on a budget as you save for transition — this article might be for you.
First, if you are wondering “what is credentialling?” see the definition below from http://www.monster.com:
Credentialing is basically a certification that tells an employer that you possess the skills that are required in order to perform a certain job…The two primary types of credentials are:
- A license, issued by a political entity such as the local, state or federal government, which allows an individual to practice a specified occupation.
- A certificate, issued by private organizations that maintain skill-set standards, which documents an individual’s capabilities.
Credentialling can add a lot of value towards a successful transition from the Army. For many, time and money are probably the two most valuable resources between now and the time they start terminal leave and are essentially fixed until ETS. In college, we used the term “opportunity cost” to define this relationship. A simple Google search defines opportunity cost as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” An example of this inside a service member’s transition is as follows:
“I can’t afford to pay for additional training/credentialling because I have to increase my savings for my separation, because I may not immediately find employment.”
Whether you recognize the term or not, we can all comprehend (and empathize with) the example above. If you have decided that you do want/need to pursue industry credentialing as part of your transition, you might ask yourself the following questions:
- What Credential do I want? (If you don’t know, click here)
- Can I afford this course/credential?
- What is the return on investment for this course/credential to future employers?
- How much will this course/credential increase my annual salary?
- How much do I need to have in savings in-order to transition?
- Can the GI Bill help me?
- What about VR&E through the VA?
Let’s pretend that you don’t qualify for VR&E/VA Employment Services/GI Bill or don’t want to use them right now. Let’s also pretend that you plan to enter the workforce immediately after your ETS, which is about 15 months away, and that while you absolutely would benefit from a credential, you might not be able to pay out of pocket for the course and/or certification test given your current checking/savings account balance. Guess what? There are programs available for you to gain training and save money at the same time. Remember, you will be unemployed in the coming months. How long will your savings last you if you don’t immediately find employment?
If you are looking for both structured and self-paced as well as credentialling pathways, below are two options to look at:
(Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) A few months back, I was talking to a friend of mine before he PCS’d. We were talking about credentialling because I was ETSing and he said he had a lot of time on his hands before his PCS. He told me he was going to get a Project Management certification and that the Ed-Center on post had just approved his COOL application for the course and test fees. He told me:
“I didn’t know that COOL existed and I don’t know why I spent the first 10 years of my time in the Army and haven’t taken advantage of it.”
You know what? I knew about it, and I never thought to use it.
Now, this article isn’t a “plug” for credentialing. But it is a WAY to “up-skill,” and it’s possible that an in-demand credential can provide a return on investment towards increased future earnings potential. What’s great about this program is that the only thing that you risk is your time because COOL provides $4,000 towards credentialing per fiscal year so long as you meet the pre-requisites. Participation in the COOL program incurs a 1-year ADSO, therefore if you are already less than 12 months from your ETS date, you might not be able to take advantage of the program. But if you are more than 12 months out, or are even just considering transitioning out, take advantage of the program now. For a link to COOL programs by branch, click here.
When I was in Afghanistan back in 2016, I signed up for what was then “US Army Skillport/E-Learning,” and never used it (again, another missed opportunity) until I started my transition journey. Powered through Skillsoft, this site offers a wide array our subjects and courses that are available on demand for you to learn as you go whether you are a transitioning service member, or someone simply trying to improve existing skillsets.
Remember to check the course offerings to see if Skillsoft offers a certification path as part of your membership, as your learning pathway may not in fact accredit through Skillsoft. For example, Skillsoft offers a wide array of Project Management Professional (PMP) courses and pathways to use as you prepare for the certification. However, the Project Management Institute (PMI) is the governing body for 1.) application review 2.) testing 3.) certification issue and maintenance requirements. If you used Skillsoft to study for PMP, that is fine, but the certificate you get from Skillsoft does not certify you as a PMP: only PMI can do that.
We highlighted these two programs in this article because they are provided to you as a benefit of your service. So long as you meet the requirements, you have access to these resources!
No matter what path you want to take after your transition from the Military, it is important to remember that you only have so much time and so many financial resources to make your transition a success. Start as early as possible! COOL provides credentialing resource’s but you can’t use it if you’re within a year of your ETS. You can use Skillsoft for studying material but it may not provide a certification/credential. No matter what, your Installation’s Education Center is your first stop you need to make on your journey. They can point you in the right direction with resources and are able to guide you towards the right courses/certification/apprenticeship based off your individual needs and goals.
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