“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”– Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Transitioning from military service to civilian life can be a daunting prospect for professionally ambitious veterans like yourself. You may have built a strong identity around your military experience, and it can be challenging to figure out how to translate that experience into a personal brand that will help you succeed in the civilian world. But fear not, because your military experience can be a significant asset in building a strong personal brand that will help you stand out in your job search and career development.
However, military service alone is not enough to make you stick out. You must know how to package yourself. This process of packaging yourself is the part of the game when it comes to building your personal brand with intent.
I know from experience.
When I got out in 2010, no one mentioned building a personal brand to me. I was all too happy to accept my DD-214 and peace out from the Corps. Unfortunately, that meant the next 5 years of my life would be spent wandering aimlessly through career purgatory. Because I had not developed my personal brand, I did not have any ability to determine what type of job I wanted. I was only able to accept jobs that were available. As you might imagine, those jobs were typically very low paying and stressful. If I had appropriately packaged my military skills for the purpose of building my personal brand, a lot of heartaches could have been avoided.
You do not need to suffer the same fate as me. To help you avoid that fate, this article will look at the following:
- 5 Tips on Leveraging Your Military Experience
- A Titan Mission to Get You Started
I highly recommend you sit down and take the time to actually do the homework assignment. Remember, you are trying to become a Titan of business. It is far too easy for intelligent people to say “ya ya, I know that already” without ever sitting down and putting pen to paper or stylus to tablet. This planning process is what helps you transition successfully. Not doing the work means you are not truly engaging with the process. This mindset will lead you down the path to Transition Purgatory.
With that said, here are some tips on how to leverage your military experience to build a strong personal brand.
5 Tips on Leveraging Your Military Experience
Tip 1: Identify your strengths and values
The first step in building a strong personal brand is to identify your strengths and values. Take some time to reflect on the skills and values that you developed during your military service. Were you a team player? Did you demonstrate leadership skills? Did you develop a strong sense of discipline and work ethic? These are all strengths that can be translated into your personal brand.
Tip 2: Translate your military experience
Once you have identified your strengths and values, it’s time to translate them into civilian terms. This can be challenging because military jargon and terminology may not be familiar to civilians. However, by breaking down your experience into civilian terms, you can help potential employers understand how your military experience is relevant to the civilian job market. For example, if you were in charge of a team of soldiers, you could describe your experience as managing a team of individuals with diverse skills and backgrounds.
Tip 3: Develop your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a short, concise statement that summarizes who you are, what you do, and what you bring to the table. It’s called an elevator pitch because it should be short enough to deliver during an elevator ride. Your elevator pitch should be tailored to your personal brand and highlight your strengths and values. Practice delivering your elevator pitch until it feels natural and authentic.
Tip 4: Build your online presence
Your online presence is an essential component of your personal brand. Building a strong online presence can help you connect with potential employers, showcase your skills and experience, and demonstrate your professionalism. Be sure to create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile that highlights your military experience and your civilian career goals. Use social media to network with other professionals in your field and to share content that demonstrates your expertise.
Tip 5: Leverage your network
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your network. Your military experience has likely given you a network of contacts that can be valuable in building your personal brand. Reach out to former colleagues and superiors for advice and introductions. Attend networking events and join professional organizations that align with your career goals. Building relationships with other professionals can help you stay up-to-date on industry trends and opportunities.
Your Titan Mission
I’m sure you’re reading this saying, “come on Carson, I’ve heard all of this before. So what?” Well now comes the fun part. Putting it all to work. Now that you understand some of the high-level theories of what you need to do to develop your personal brand, it’s time to make yourself sit down and actually start doing the work. Here’s your Titan mission:
- Identify your strengths and values: Set a 10-minute timer. Use this time to brain vomit the skills and values that you developed during your military service. The goal is to identify your top five strengths and values that you believe will be relevant to your personal brand. But don’t write 5 and stop. Write as many as you can think of and edit the list once your brain is out of vomit.
- Translate your military experience: Break down your military experience into civilian terms. Write down your job responsibilities and accomplishments in a way that a civilian employer would understand. If you’re not sure how to get started with that then DVNF has a good tool to help you get started. However, be wary of your use of this tool. This tool will spit out civilian jobs that are related to your military job. If you are not looking to duplicate your military employment in the civilian world then this tool will have limited value. But it does give you useful section headers and skills written in civilian language that you can adapt for your purposes.
- Develop your elevator pitch: Write a short, concise statement that summarizes who you are, what you do, and what you bring to the table. Practice delivering your elevator pitch until it feels natural and authentic. For the uninitiated here is a drill to develop your elevator pitch:
- Write down the key points you want to convey: Start by writing down the key points you want to convey in your elevator pitch. This might include your name, your profession, your unique selling points, and your career goals. Keep it short and to the point. One to two sentences is ideal.
- Time yourself: Set a timer for 30 seconds and practice delivering your elevator pitch. This will help you refine your message and ensure that you can deliver it within the time constraints of an elevator ride.
- Get feedback: Ask a friend or colleague to listen to your elevator pitch and provide feedback. Did they understand your message? Was it clear and concise? Did they feel motivated to learn more about you?
- Refine your message: Based on the feedback you receive, refine your message to make it more effective. Eliminate any unnecessary information and focus on the key points that will make you stand out.
- Practice, practice, practice: Practice your elevator pitch until it feels natural and authentic. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be delivering it in a real-life situation.
- Build your online presence: Create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile that highlights your military experience and your civilian career goals. Connect with other professionals in your field and share content that demonstrates your expertise. Also, create a personal website that showcases your skills and experience, and share your website link on your LinkedIn profile. The personal website is not essential, but over time I highly recommend it. At a minimum, you should purchase your domain name. For example, I own carsonhoneycutt.com. I use this domain name to create a Google account that uses my domain name instead of “@gmail.com” so my emails are taken seriously and not filtered out as SPAM.
- Leverage your network: Reach out to former colleagues and superiors for advice and introductions. Attend networking events and join professional organizations that align with your career goals. Use your network to stay up-to-date on industry trends and opportunities. If you’re not sure how to put this into action here’s a drill for you:
- Identify your network: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Brain Vomit out a list of people in your network who can help you achieve your career goals. This may include former colleagues, classmates, mentors, and industry contacts.
- Schedule time to connect: Schedule time to connect with each person on your list. This could be in the form of a coffee meeting, a phone call, or a virtual chat.
- Prepare for the conversation: Before you connect with each person, prepare some questions to ask. This will help you learn more about their career paths, their experiences, and any advice they have to offer. Also, be prepared to share your own career goals and ask for any help or advice they can offer.
- Follow up: After each conversation, be sure to follow up with a thank-you note or email. This will show that you appreciate their time and help you build a stronger relationship with them.
- Keep in touch: Don’t just reach out to your network when you need something. Stay in touch regularly by sending updates on your career progress, sharing interesting articles, and congratulating them on their own achievements.
- Offer value: When you connect with your network, be sure to offer value in return. This could be in the form of introductions to other people in your network, sharing your own expertise on a particular topic, or volunteering your time to help with a project.
- Put your plan into action: Set a timeline for yourself to complete each of the above steps. Start with the step that seems easiest to you and build momentum from there. Remember to be patient with yourself, building a strong personal brand takes time. Even accomplishing one of the steps a month is FAR beyond what many people are doing to manage their personal brands.
- Review and refine: Once you have completed the above steps, review and refine your personal brand action plan. Adjust as needed based on feedback from your network, and new information you have learned.
By completing these action steps, you will be on your way to leveraging your military experience to build a strong personal brand that will help you succeed in the civilian world. But don’t stop here. Continue to revise and refine what you did today. You are going to learn things about yourself in this process that you didn’t consider during your initial brain vomit. Add those into the applicable section and debrief yourself whenever possible. Don’t let good ideas go to waste by not immortalizing them in some place you can quickly reference them later.
Remember, personal branding is one of the few elements of business that can’t be hacked or bypassed. You must be in control of your brand at all times. If you aren’t, then someone else will control your brand for you. And that is how you end up where I was after 2010.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Founder – Veteran Mentor and Career Coach
No veteran should feel like civilian life is purgatory. It’s my job to help professionally ambitious post-9/11 veterans avoid entrapment in transition purgatory by challenging the B.S. of Conventional Transition Wisdom.
I challenge the B.S. of Conventional Transition Wisdom by breaking down the mindsets, strategies, and tactics of world-class experts (Titans) to help veterans compress the transition learning curve.
Learning directly from Titans helps veterans escape entrapment by avoiding the costly mistakes encouraged by Conventional Transition Wisdom.