CPOs: Careers and the
Transition to the Private Sector


Transition Timeline

You’ll attend a TAP seminar when you’re about 12 months from retiring.  However, as you can see from the timetable below, if you wait to begin until then, you’ll be so far behind that you’ll never catch up.

Ø    10 years of Time in Service–it’s time to make a plan.

·    Sketch up a “Sea-Shore Rotation” plan. 

o    Your goal is to transfer ashore to a duty station with great civilian job opportunity, so that you complete your shore tour at your approved retirement date.

o    Other considerations include, state taxes (some states don’t tax a veteran’s retainer/retirement pay), access to major military medical treatment facilities, and nearby family.

·    You should strive for a “single field” career (progression) for the maximum civilian opportunity.  (See, “The Bottom Line,” below.)

·    Plan to take several collateral duties in your Navy career that will translate well to the world of civilian/contract employment.

·    College–see the Navy Campus counselor now to arrange to have your Navy schools evaluated for your degree plan, which may be only a class or two away.

o    Consider getting a Master’s degree during your last shore duty assignment.

o    Personally, I think it’s criminal to allow a CPO to consider retiring with no degree or certificate.

·    Let me ask you a question about your finances, “Do you have a problem with Credit Cards?”

o    “If you have more than two credit cards… You may have a plastic problem…”

o    “If you don’t pay off your balance in full every month… You may have a plastic problem…”

o    “If you do anything really creative with your savings/checking accounts to move money around to make your credit card payments… You definitely have a plastic problem…”

Ø    15 years (If you choose to retire at the twenty-year point), or 5 years before you retire (The R-5 Years point), regardless of whether you plan to stay in the Navy for 20 or 30 years.

·    Negotiate your final set of Orders so that you can be near your “new hometown.”

·    Get your finances and credit score/rating under control. 

o    Order a copy of your credit report from all major providers.  You need to correct any mistakes and become familiar with the reports.  Make sure to write or call to “Cancel at owner’s request” any cards that you’ve paid off, so that they won’t lower your credit score.  Most employers will order your credit report as part of the application process; so, be ready for this.

o    Credit Cards–you have to have one (or two).

o    Savings for your “transition,” including an “emergency fund,” is going to be critical.  You should be able to sustain a 3-6 month period of “unemployment” when you retire.

o    Do you have a household budget?  If not, start one by writing down every dollar spent and after you have 3 or 4 months of spending documented, you’ll be sufficiently motivated to develop a budget.  It’s not that difficult, if you use one of the commercially popular software applications.

·    Continue taking classes or tests toward completing your college degree and/or certifications.

Ø    R-2 Years–you’ve kept your options open.  Now, you must be ready to make the transition decision.

·    Make sure that your security clearance paperwork is up-to-date.

o    You’ll need to have this paperwork finished before you submit your request to transfer to the Fleet Reserve.

o    Make sure that you keep a copy of your clearance submission/application and a copy of the email/message granting your clearance.

·    Start writing your resume.

o    You’ll spend an enormous amount of time creating these two pages.  It will take you about a year before you have a resume that you can use to begin successfully marketing yourself.

o    Buy a book on how to write your own resume.

o    Your primary resume should be in MS Word.  It should have minimal formatting and should be the basis for your “text” resume, which you’ll need for Internet posting.

o    Use Fitness Reports from the past ten years to find specific entries that show “Problem, Action, and Results” items–these will be bullets in your resume.  Use examples that have “transferable skills,” target job “keywords,” and have numbers associated with your results/effectiveness.

o    When you begin editing your resume, you’re going to seek out the advice of those whom you respect.  You’ll find that some advice will “sound right” (to you) and some of it won’t.  You have to choose which advice to use and which to lose.

o    Here’s my RESUME (MS Word).

·    Get a hard copy of the handouts presented at TAP.

o    These are frequently updated, so you need to go to the local Navy Transition office.

o    Some material is online at http://www.nvti.cudenver.edu/TapFacilitator/home/index.htm, including forms that you’ll need.

o    You’ll be attending the course in about a year, but you should read over this material now.

·    Finish your college degree and/or certifications.

·    Fine-tune your budget.

·    If you use tobacco, there’s no better time to quit than now.

·    Join a few organizations and become an active member.

o    A local professional organization, to find networking opportunities and “to expose yourself” to the civilian job market/mentality.

o    The U.S. Naval Institute, and read PROCEEDINGS every month.  You’ll find cutting-edge articles to get you thinking about current critical issues that are just beyond your horizon.

o    A nationwide veteran’s group.

·    Get your contacts list/address book squared away.  Use a Palm Pilot and an Email application to get organized.

·    Get fit and lose the excess weight.

o    This isn’t about some unreliable fitness test; this is about looking good and making a good impression.

o    The image of the old, overweight Chief doesn’t play well in corporate America.

·    Begin to “Civilianize” yourself.

o    Get new eyeglasses.

o    Find a good barber or hairdresser.

o    Adapt your vocabulary to the needs of your target position.

Ø    R-1 year–you’re committed to your transition.  Fine tune your plan and keep working it.

·    Attend TAP class.  Have your resume completed and ready to hand out before class starts on day one.

·    Tell everyone you know (addresses/contacts/family) that you are in transition and briefly, what your plans are.

·    Join a local fitness center–not only will this help you to get the weight off, but chances are you’ll meet the kind of people that can help you network.

·    Become proficient in all MS Office applications.

·    Write an article for PROCEEDINGS.  Being published will set you apart from the competition and validates your qualifications.

·    Register a professional Internet domain name and establish a “professional email address,” such as, John@JohnPurdew.com.

·    Ask six people to write a letter of reference for you.

o    Make a list of those who agree, complete with their phone numbers and email addresses.

o    This should be a diverse group of “professional” and “personal” references.  These letters need to be sufficiently different, so don’t give your chosen six too much guidance on what to say.

o    Ask each of them to keep a copy of their letter and send one to you for your records.

o    When you get to the phase of the interview process when the potential employer asks for your references, you’ll want to email scanned copies of each letter back to it’s authors to let him or her know that they can expect to be called (and to give them a chance to review what they wrote).

·    Write your Biography while you’re editing your resume.

·    Order your college and high school transcripts.  You’ll also need to keep the addresses and phone numbers of those schools available to give to employers.

·    Get Medical and Dental needs addressed.

o    Now is the time to get your hearing aids, crowns, other “big ticket” items.

o    Make a list of everything you’ve “been living with” for the past 20 years and get the help you deserve.  You will need this list for your Separation Physical and for your claim to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (the VA).

Ø    R-6 Months

·    Buy a book on interviewing skills.  Develop your own answers, based on the examples in the book.  Every conceivable question will boil down to only about a dozen answers.  But they have to be your answers, and you’ll need to know when to use each one to:

o    Answer the question just asked, and

o    Market yourself in the most positive light.

·    Write your 3-part, “Tell me about yourself” script.

o    The short version is “Part 1” only (“Tell me about yourself”) and should last 30 Seconds.

o    It will extend an additional 30 seconds when “Part 2” is added (“What Did You Do in the Navy”).

o    The “full blown” version will last two full minutes (adding the, “What are your plans” part of your introduction).

o    These three parts may be used separately or together, depending upon the interviewer or setting.  Be prepared to give a flawless performance on a moment’s notice.

o    Once you’ve rehearsed these 40 or 50 times, you’ll be surprised how your confidence improves.

o    This will be the foundation of your “first impression” which has to be solid.

·    Write your “generic cover letter.”

·    Shop around and get a “no frills” term life insurance policy that will protect your family and assets for the next 10-15 years.  Consider the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)–you got all this information during TAP class, but you may need to recheck your figures, now.

·    Get an in-state driver’s license.

·    Get a certified birth certificate, from the county/state in which you were born.

·    Get a U.S. Passport.

·    Unbelievably, you’re going to have to have a real (“paper”) Social Security Card.

Ø    R-90 Days

·    Start Terminal Leave.

·    Practice your “Tell Me about Yourself” script at every opportunity.

·    Line up a few Informational Interviews (“practice job interviews”) with professionals in your network.

o    The focus should be, “Tell me about your field” instead of “I want a job.”

o    Interested managers and executives use these sessions to scout out individuals to mentor.

o    Make sure you approach the interview just like a real job interview, because it certainly may turn into one.

·    Make sure everything is on your DD-214.  Take an active part in this document.  One day, this may be the most important paper that you, or your surviving spouse, have…

·    Get four copies of your Medical and Dental Records, including your Separation Physical.  Get one copy of your service record.

o    Keep one copy of each of these (including the service record copy) in a safe place.  Don’t forget to file other paperwork as it arrives (e.g., your DD-214 and correspondence from the VA).

o    Give one copy of each to the VA with your claim and get a receipt that they accepted it.

o    Hold one copy to provide to your Medical and Dental providers after you’ve left active duty–otherwise, they will start a new record for you, from scratch.

o    Give your last copy to the Veteran’s Services Officer (VSO) of your veteran’s group, together with a copy of your VA claim and the VA’s receipt, to help “expedite” your claim.  Your VSO may be collocated with the VA in a local Federal Building.



    Curtis D. Haggard


    This information is copyrighted.

    Any copying, distribution, or action taken or omitted is prohibited.