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Stay competitive after you get a civilian job

Sep. 4, 2012 - 11:23AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 4, 2012 - 11:23AM  |  
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For those looking to turn a military specialty into a civilian certification, President Obama signed a bill July 23 that directs federal agencies to treat military training as sufficient to receive a federal license or certification.
The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act gives federal agencies 180 days from the date of enactment to draft regulations on exactly how they will credit military training for federal licensure, especially in the aviation and maritime fields.
The chief sponsor of the measure is Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., an Air Force veteran.
"Despite being trained to maintain some of the most complex aircraft in the world, when I left the military, I was told I needed to go to school for three years … to perform that same job in the private sector," Denham said. "It is unacceptable that the federal government has still not reformed its licensing process, especially at a time when so many veterans are out of work."
Obama said Denham’s initiative could give a big boost to separating troops seeking jobs.
"If you are a young man in charge of a platoon or millions of dollars of equipment and are taking responsibility, or you’re a medic out in the field who is saving lives every single day, when you come home, you need to be credentialed and certified quickly so you can get on the job," Obama said. "People should understand how skilled you are. There shouldn’t be bureaucrats or runarounds."
Rick Maze

You have your degree, and your military experience has helped land you a job. But to stay competitive for the long term, you'll likely need more training and maybe even certification.

Certification for folks in education, project management, finance, accounting, health care even happiness coaching, anger management and grief is one way to stay on top in your field.

But even if your field or one that interests you doesn't offer or require official certification, you'll still need to stay up on the latest techniques to stay competitive. Doing so not only will keep you up-to-date but could lead to your next career or niche.

Take, for example, flight attendants. Their primary role to ensure passenger safety and comfort and the responsibilities associated with that have changed because of events and technology. After Sept. 11, 2001, their training became focused more on physical protection. Due to technology concerns, they are now asked to enforce Federal Aviation Administration rules about the use of electronic devices.

The latter task "is only going to become more complex," said Nick Bilton in a recent New York Times article, as technology moves from your backpack or purse to you.

He cited examples of wearable computing. A smartwatch "enables people to use Twitter, read emails and check the weather, all from their wrist." The Pebble is a computerized watch that "displays data pulled in from an iPhone or Android phone." And soon to be available, Google's Project Glass glasses "are essentially a smartphone squished into a pair of glasses."

Will flight attendants' jobs change even more and the scope of their knowledge need to increase due to the new gadgets? Or might an entirely new gadget-savvy flight attendant job be created? Who will train them?

In recent years, many of my clients from all types of industries have gone on to get further training or certification to stay relevant, valuable and competitive. Some who work in architecture and engineering have become LEED-accredited professionals.

It can be a valuable credential if a company's project leads to tax credits or grants or a company works with public agencies, many of which require projects to be certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Many clients have gotten their project management certifications and are quickly recognized as having the most relevant experience and training in the field. Some got interviews for jobs because those positions required the Project Management Professional certification.

Now nurses must think about going back to school since many hospitals require their nurses to have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing. Professional groups and employers "continue to push for more education, citing studies linking better-educated nurses to better patient care," said a different New York Times article.

Just two years ago, the Institute of Medicine called for raising the number of registered nurses in the U.S. with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing to 80 percent by 2020, according to the article.

Keeping up to stay up is now the norm. Whether you're going back to school or simply being a keen observer of trends and changing expectations, whatever your field, you can't afford to shrug it off.

Andrea Kay is the author of "Life's a Bitch and Then You Change Careers: 9 Steps to Get Out of Your Funk & On to Your Future."

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