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Consider a Professional Journal

If you are considering a transition to Corporate America or have decided to make that transition, I advocate starting your career search process as early as possible.  Consider the amount of time many people spend preparing to get accepted into and thrive in college, and the amount of time most Junior Military Officers spend ensuring that they are ready to transition to a successful military career.  It just makes sense that those who desire to make a successful transition to leadership roles within Corporate America spend ample time preparing for such a transition. Ideally, sometime around a year before the transition, you should begin conducting in-depth self-analysis and taking inventory of strengths, weaknesses, leadership traits and accomplishments.  After completing that self-analysis, the next step is to spend time writing out answers to commonly-asked interview questions.  This step requires much time and thought – not only considering how to answer each question, but also what you want to communicate to a hiring manager.  The final step should consist of  significant practice verbalizing each answer, ensuring you feel comfortable describing how your strengths and accomplishments specifically relate to the competencies of the positions for which you are interviewing.

A comment I hear often from JMOs as they are attempting to write out their answers is, “It’s difficult to remember some of the details of the accomplishments I achieved early in my military career.”  So, what if you have more than a year before your transition to a career in business?  Spend time now considering how your military experience relates to business.  One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and order your experiences in the military is to keep a professional journal.

Whether you decide to keep an analog journal (using pen and paper) or digital journal (using Evernote, Notability, Noteshelf or another digital note-taking software), dedicate a specific time of the week or month to journaling.

For those who are in the Cameron-Brooks Development and Preparation Program, I recommend using Tab 5, Module 5.4 as your guide.  When you start, describe specific details about the times in your past when you have:

  • Led teams
  • Solved complex problems
  • Led complex projects
  • Changed someone’s behavior
  • Influenced a boss to see things your way
  • Influenced peers to support your initiative
  • Led a group through change
  • Managed risk
  • Consider things you do well and areas you want to improve.
  • Consider a time in the past when you failed to reach a goal and describe what you learned from it.
  • Write about your favorite boss and what made him or her great.
  • Write about your least favorite boss and how you’ have learned from their leadership style.

As you continue to journal, you’ll be more attuned to ensuring that when you encounter challenges and achieve accomplishments, you are capturing the highlights in your journal.

What you’ll find is when it’s time to start writing out answers to commonly-asked interview questions, you will have a lot of good information from which to draw.

Best of success with your journal!

Pete Van Epps