How to Make a Transition From Military to Civilian Life

military transition

You might be happy to be leaving the military behind -- along with its prospects of being put in harm’s way -- but that doesn’t mean the transition to civilian life is going to be a total bed of roses. Moving from a military career to a civilian one is challenging, with many vets at a loss as to how to translate their skills into a civilian business capacity.

If you’re one of the many feeling overwhelmed, your best bets are to get as much help as you can. Here’s how to start the transition. 

Take full advantage of veteran’s transition services

The military has many services available to you as you make the transition from one part of your life to another. In the U.S. military, each branch of service as a Transition Assistance Program that can help. TAP programs include classes and counseling to help you find a job that’s relevant to the things you’ve done in the military. You’ll also have the opportunity to prepare an Individual Transition Plan that helps you look at your experience, abilities and knowledge to begin looking for areas of work. Also look for transition support from your city, state or county, or from organizations such as the American Legion

Look out for your mental health

If you’ve been in combat or you’ve experienced trauma during your time in the service, also be sure to pursue support through the Veteran’s Administration, TriCare or through the Family Advocacy Program, among other resources, to get the mental health support you need. Experiencing mental health issues is not an indication of failure, and in some cases, it might be essential to your future success in your career as well as your home life. 

Tap your military network for access to jobs

As a member of the civilian work force, you’ll need to get good at networking and looking for jobs through the channels that most job seekers use, including your local job boards, LinkedIn, Craigslist and any job listings or websites specific to your industry. Don’t, however, limit yourself to just those options. Also talk to other former service members -- including superiors and peers -- to get referrals or recommendations. Don’t be afraid to send an email to friends, family and work acquaintances, letting them know you’re getting out of the service and that you’re seeking work. Also check out career fairs specifically for veterans, as you’re likely to find employers who understand your transition. 

Get help tailoring your resume

The Individual Transition Plan process will include some time spent on resumes, but if you have your sights set on a particular industry, also get help from other professionals working in that industry. Ask people in your desired industry to look over your resume, or hire a resume expert to put the gloss on what you’ve already created. Military language and protocols can feel a bit formal to the average civilian employer, so outside help with your resume can help put your skills into language civilian employers might better understand. 

Stay active

Looking for jobs can be stressful for anyone -- but maintaining at least some level of physical activity is going to help you maintain a positive outlook. 

Bring military values to your new job

When you do get hired, chances are your new bosses are going to appreciate the discipline, leadership and hard-working, can-do attitude you bring to the job due to your military service. As you start your new job, rely on those positive attributes of military service to get you through the tough times. 

Starting a new job can be tough on anyone, but by working hard, staying positive, persevering and showing that you’re willing to go the extra mile, you’ll have the best chance of success in your new life as a civilian. 




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