The cherry tree in our front yard is full of white blossoms, which can only mean one thing: the arrival of spring. It is the season of renewal, new growth and transition into summer.
Spring is also a transition time for many military service members moving from a career to a whole new way of life. I retired from the Navy years ago, and while I was excited to become a civilian in a new job, I was also apprehensive and unsure of what to expect.
When I made my transition I was fortunate to have been a member of my local PRSA Chapter, which provided a very supportive network of colleagues and friends. That kind of support has grown into PRSA’s Moving Veterans Forward Initiative, which provides transitioning veterans a free one-year PRSA and section membership, and career resources from the Jobcenter.
I want military veterans to know they have an entire cheering section available to them. Tap into all of it! Ask for a mentor. I frequently mentor individuals preparing for similar career changes. While considering the many PRSA resources, here are three other ideas to consider:
- Get involved. Become a member of the local Chapter or attend local events if you haven’t done so already. Build your network! Talk to other practitioners, seek advice and ask questions about the many different career path options available to you. Bring your resume and business cards, and be ready to talk about what you want to do in the future. Keep track of your contacts and keep in touch with them over time.
- Set up information interviews. I’m amazed at how many people have never heard of this route. Reach out to individuals in jobs, companies or positions you aspire to and ask how they came to be there. Go out for coffee or lunch, have a phone conversation or shadow them for a day. Remember: You are not asking for a job. You are gathering information on career paths and the work you would need to do to follow a similar path. This is research you can tap when you put together your own road map for the next three to five years.
- Become Accredited. Get your Accreditation in Public Relations or Accreditation in Public Relations and Military Communications to distinguish you from your competition. If you believe in lifelong learning, this is it! There are candidates across the country preparing for their Panel Presentations and studying for the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations. Study groups, workshops, online courses and many other resources are available to get you across that finish line. I had no idea the positive impact the APR would have on my career when my boss encouraged and persuaded me to do this.
If you are retiring from or leaving the military, these resources are easily available. You need only make use of them. The possibilities are promising and exciting, and your PRSA cheering section is waiting to help!
Barbara Burfeind, APR+M, Fellow PRSA, is the director of the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center for the Department of Defense, Defense Media Activity at Fort Meade, Md.