From Navy to civilian career: Graduate offers advice for job seekers
January 2015 marks an important milestone for Capt. Chris Phillips, who retires from the U.S. Navy after a 32-year career and has already landed a job in the civilian sector as the new city manager for Mukilteo, Wash.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” said Phillips. “Municipal government is much like my job managing the base at NAS Whidbey Island, so it’s worked out pretty well.”
Phillips took terminal leave from the Navy in August 2014 and landed the new job in September, but he started laying the groundwork much earlier for his transition from the military to a new career. He started networking months in advance, reaching out to others who had made a similar jump and asking for their advice.
“I connected with eight or nine other captains who had transitioned to ask what lessons they had learned to make their transition easier,” said Phillips. “The harder part was reaching out to friends from the Naval Academy or on Facebook to ask for help. That’s not something I’m accustomed to doing.”
He does, however, highly recommend letting everyone know that you’re going to be job searching. “You never know who knows someone who can make an introduction.”
Phillips said his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Brandman University helped in interviews, because it proved he’s a life-long learner and is willing to learn new things even in his late 40s when he earned the degree.
“The challenging part is taking the theories I learned in class and making them actionable while getting buy-in from my directors,” he said.
When asked his advice for others who are transitioning out of the military, Phillips is quick to point out that while the economy is improving, the entire process takes time. He was a finalist for several other positions before landing his current position.
“It’s hard to be a bridesmaid,” he says. “But I wasn’t shopping for a job for two or three years. I was shopping for my next career.”
The other part of the equation is where you are searching for jobs. Phillips found that there are more job opportunities if you are open to moving to a new location.
“If the U.S. or the world is your pearl, you’ll have no trouble finding a job,” he advised. “Initially, we were open to moving, but then my wife wanted to stay here in the Puget Sound area.” He recommended discussing with the family where you want to relocate and making sure the entire family is on board.
Phillips also advised job searchers to make use of Internet sites, such as Indeed.com to find job openings that might be a good fit. And make sure your military experience is translated into job skills that are recognized in the civilian sector. Phillips received help from Hire America’s Heroes, a nonprofit dedicated to helping military personal find new jobs.
“A civilianized resume gets you in the door,” said Philips. “I was well-prepared for interviews, and nine times out of 10, if I had studied the company, I could bring the questions back to my strengths that applied to the open position.”
As for his new position managing the city of Mukilteo, Phillips is learning. “I’m very happy where I am.”
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