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Ask a Career Coach: Employment Transitions to Private Sector and More

Thank you for joining a special session with Career Transition Coach Alison Bouwmeester of Futurity. Alison has a specialty in helping government and military individuals transition into the private sector. Her experience, which she writes about in her book, Mission: Career Transition - A Career Change Guide for Intelligence, Military, Foreign Affairs, National Security, and Other Government Professionals, can also be useful for anyone looking for their next opportunity.

AARP Online Community is proud to bring this opportunity for you to have your questions answered by an industry leader. Participation is easy, simply ask a question in a reply post below.

Looking for your “what’s next”? The AARP Veterans and Military Spouses Job Center is a new platform which offers tools and resources for veteran and military families’ job seekers, including Veterans Career Advantage, a course powered by MindEdge to learn how to effectively leverage military skills and experience to transition to civilian careers and advancement. Learn more at aarp.org/VetsJobCenter.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this event are those of the speaker and do not reflect the views or positions of AARP. For more information, please visit the  AARP Terms of Service.

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Good morning! This concludes “Ask a Career Coach” with Alison Bouwmeester. Special thanks to Alison for spending the week with us and providing participants with a wealth of information and resources.

For additional information and resources, please visit the AARP Veterans and Military Spouses Job Center, the Careers area of AARP.org and Futurity professional services firm.


Many thanks for your participation--we hope to see you again in the AARP Online Community!

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Hello, @ALISONPB, what can you share with our audience about leveraging LinkedIn to attract recruiters? Will you also talk about what goes into writing an effective resume and the role of ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) in hiring? Thank you!

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Hello Lynne.  Thank you for the great question.  LinkedIn is a very powerful tool which enables recruiters to identify talent. When recruiters use LinkedIn, they generally conduct key word searches based upon the skills needed for the specific job they need to fill. Because of this, I strongly encourage clients to make their LinkedIn profile “skills based” (or you might not surface in a search as a viable candidate). Be sure to list the technical and soft skills that you would like to be recruited for, in addition to skills specific to the industries where you might want to work.

 

You are also given the opportunity to flag your profile as being “open to work“. This is sometimes useful if you are not currently employed, or if your employer knows that you will be leaving.

 

It is also important to have a professional looking headshot as your profile picture.

 

Make sure that your profile is up-to-date in terms of your employment history. You also have the ability to attach documents to your profile such as a résumé or publications that you may have produced.

 

LinkedIn is often used when companies are doing due diligence on potential employees, so it is important that your profile is accurate and highly professional looking. Also be careful about what you post on the site … nothing political, keeping it focused on thought leadership in business.

 

Let me know if you have additional questions.

Alison

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Periodic Contributor

I work as a Director of Fiscal Services in CT and want to move somewhere around the Carolinas to get more in between weather and for retirement in a few years. I am interested in renewable energy sources and investment services.  Next week we will be taking a vacation down to northern North Carolina area.  Is there anything I should do to seek out possible employment opportunites while we are down there?

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Hello there, @gmdgibbons. It sounds like you are beginning to formulate a plan for your next stage of life. Smart!  I hope you will enjoy North Carolina. I grew up there myself, and love all the changes of seasons.

If you are interested in the investment industry, the area around Charlotte is booming with banking and investment firms.

In terms of renewable energy, you will probably want to do some research about the various companies that might be located in North Carolina and which are leaders in that field.  A Google search might turn up some interesting technologies and companies for you to explore.


I might suggest that you do some job searching on LinkedIn, using search terms for the industries that interest you and filtering it by location — for example — North Carolina.
The hottest job markets in North Carolina are probably around Charlotte, and the Research Triangle Park area (which consists of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill).

Once you have narrowed down the specific geographic location where you might like to live, or a specific industry that you definitely want to pursue, you might consider engaging a job placement firm/headhunter locally. These firms are paid by organizations that are trying to fill vacancies, and you should not have to pay for their services.

I wish you every success.

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I graduated class of 1988 from Blue Springs High School, Blue Springs, MIssouri.   In the winter before graduation, I heard about a program with Missouri Job Service called Summer Youth Job Corps.  I applied, figuring that I'd probably end up flipping burgers or mowing lawns.  They called for an interview, I went, then a month or two later, they offered me a job:  "We want a few of you to work here in the office, to kind of be go-fers, doing clerical work.  Would you like that?"  "Yes please!"  So I rode my bike to work most days(it was in walking distance, but I preferred the bike), and wore business-type clothes to work in an office.

If I had high school to do over again, I might do an office skills vo-tech course(I majored in music in high school, strictly because it was fun).  I'm not sure I would like to work in an office, but I'd like to try taking an office skills course(would I be bored to tears?  I don't know, but I want to try).  I'd also like to see if perhaps I could get my old MO Job Service job back, and work at it while I did office skills courses, and work into it that way.  I would like to perhaps work in a realtor's office, or a dentist's office or something like that, or maybe work from home.  I think I'd also like a museum or library. 

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Hi @GinaB566599. It seems as though you were given a great opportunity to learn about working in an office at a fairly young age. Even now, when we are older, there are opportunities to learn about office skills through your local community college. There are also online courses to teach your skills that you might need in an office such as how to use the Microsoft office suite of tools like MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These are all great things to know how to use in every day life as well. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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Social Butterfly

Why would I want to change careers when I’m in my dream career of retirement?

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Hi there, @2Papa. There’s no question that you are in a situation that almost everyone aspires to. Congratulations!

For various reasons, some people choose to continue to work after a typical retirement age, whether it is for intellectual stimulation, social engagement, or added income.
I’m very happy for you that you have found yourself in a place where you can enjoy your retirement. I wish you all the best.

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Good morning, everyone, thank you for being here. Please feel free to ask a question at any time. Simply hit "reply" to post a question for Alison.

@ALISONPB, I wonder if you might explain about the importance of position “fit” and what that means. Does that go hand-in-hand with first creating your "value proposition"?

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Hi Lynne!  Position “fit” has to do with how your behavioral and communication style and your technical skills fit with the team and the responsibilities of the position. It is important to accept a position where the requirements and your role are a good fit for your natural style and strengths.  A bad “fit” requires you to adapt yourself to be someone whom you are not naturally, which can be exhausting and frustrating.

Your value proposition is what you bring to a company that makes you a stronger candidate than others. It generally comes down to your understanding of the biggest business challenges faced by your prospective employer and articulating how you can help them solve these problems and grow their business. Business is all about the bottom line.

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Thank you, @ALISONPB, that makes a lot of sense.

What can you share about the importance of leveraging your personal and professional network to advance a job search? How can someone get started if they are hesitant to ask for help?

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Hi Lynne.  Particularly for more mature job-seekers, your personal and professional network can be key to finding your next opportunity.  There is data that shows that between 50-75% of jobs are obtained through networking.  

It can be awkward to ask someone for help in finding a job -- and truthfully, your approach to friends and family should really be more nuanced (and less direct) than that. The key is to let people know that you are looking for your next opportunity.  Some people might ask for your resume, and others won't.  However, when those in your network are aware of your job search and later  hear of appropriate opportunities, you might come to mind if you have been open about your interest in finding something new.

Hope this helps!

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I have been looking for a job for over six months.  My resume gets me calls but when I interview, I get no callbacks.  Could this be my age.  I have revamped my resume and eliminated work experience older than 15 years.  I applied also to some of the supermarkets and retail stores with no call backs.  Very frustrating since unemployment ended and I am using my savings.

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Good morning, @do2590!  A couple of suggestions:  First, regarding your resume, make sure it is “skills-based” and not just a chronological work history.  This is because a vacant position requires a specific skill set (usually outlined in the position description). If your resume does not specifically state that you have these required and desired skills, your resume will not make it past the Artificial Intelligence programs used by corporate hiring Applicant Tracking Systems, and a human being may never even get to see your resume.  Second, regarding your follow-up calls/interviews, make sure you emphasize how you can help the organization increase their business.  Their financial bottom line is why they exist.

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My resume is not the problem.   I have been getting calls on it but it seems when I get to the interview stage,  there is no second interview.

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Hello again, @do2590.  If you are not already doing these things, here are couple of tips that might help you improve your phone interview performance:  

- Have a notecard that you can refer to during the call.  On the card, list 3 key points that you want to make about yourself and why you are especially qualified for this job.  Be sure to make these points early in the conversation, and also again at the end, if time allows.

- Make sure you have a copy of the job posting in front of you and are prepared to address each of the requirements and how you are qualified.

- Have a couple of stories prepared with examples of how you have solved problems on the job that are similar to the kinds of problems you might expect in this job.

- Prepare some good questions to ask at the end of the interview (on topics that have nothing to do with compensation and benefits). Questions about company culture and team dynamics are always good.  It is also insightful to ask the interviewer about the biggest challenges that you might face on the job.

- show that you have done your homework about the company and are committed to help them grow their business.

Please let me know if you have additional questions.

 

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Looking for your “what’s next”? The AARP Veterans and Military Spouses Job Center is a new platform which offers tools and resources for veteran and military families’ job seekers, including Veterans Career Advantage, a course powered by MindEdge to learn how to effectively leverage military skills and experience to transition to civilian careers and advancement. Learn more at aarp.org/VetsJobCenter.

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Alison P. Bouwmeester spent a 28-year career as a senior leader in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations (Clandestine Service), where she received the Career Intelligence Medal and the National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction. Following a full career of worldwide service in Intelligence, Ms. Bouwmeester successfully transitioned to a second career in the private sector career as a senior business executive in the defense services industry. She is now a Certified Professional Career Coach and the Founder/CEO of Futurity (www.futurityservices.com), a professional services firm that provides Career Transition Coaching, Executive Coaching, and Human Resources Consulting to individuals and corporations.  Ms. Bouwmeester is on the Board of Advisors of the International Spy Museum and is a contributing Expert to The Cipher Brief. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book Mission: Career Transition - A Career Change Guide for Intelligence, Military, Foreign Affairs, National Security, and Other Government Professionals

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Looking forward to taking questions from our readership this week!  Do you know why each résumé you submit to a prospective employer should be tailored? I can tell you more about the reasons why.

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