Transitioning From a Military to Civilian Career

The military culture does not prepare veterans for life after the barracks. Two-thirds of veterans report difficulties moving to a civilian profession, according a survey by Prudential Financial on post-military employment. They find a different culture from that in the military world. Learning how to manage the cultural differences can help you use your skills to your advantage.

Choosing the Right Career Field

Tough economic times can force you to take a job that you do not like or into a career field that does not fit you. Working with a career consultant will help you answer some critical questions and find out what is right for you. Ask yourself what you excel in and what gets you recognized quickly. These can range from communication to people or data management. For example, if you were good at investigations in your military career, you can consider an opportunity as a private investigator or police officer. If you serviced field equipment, consider a career as a factory technician.

Starting Off on the Right Foot

Once you get your first job, try to understand what your boss expects from you. Do not assume as things like protocol and assigning of duties can vary widely in the civilian world. Ask your boss for guidance on how to interact with your colleagues. Make ground rules just like you did with your colleagues and commander. Areas that can be different include communication, visits to your seniors’’ offices, meetings, reward mechanisms, and flow of information, among others.

Overcoming Culture Shock

Since the public holds veterans in high esteem, it is easy to have very hight expectations that can derail your career as you transition to the civilian world. The gap between the military and civilian culture can be too broad and overwhelming to cope with, according to Orion International. People may expect you to be perfect, and some will assume you don’t understand profit and loss concepts. Your boss may allow you to make decisions without consulting, and employees under your supervision may not recognize authority as it is in the military. Take the time to understand the expectations, capabilities and weaknesses of your colleagues. Read the mission, vision, values and culture of the organization. Seek clarification before doing anything and be ready to learn. Seek genuine friendship with colleagues to help you navigate through the tough changes, and avoid using military jargon.

Leveraging Your Skills

As a military person, you learned how vital your responsibilities were to the overall mission of the armed forces. Use your strong work ethic to earn your employer’s and colleagues’ trust. Put to use your refined leadership and management skills to handle tasks. Volunteer to help in training on life-saving skills such as safety. In addition, compile your achievements in the military into a portfolio and use it to negotiate better deals and salary at work.

While you may have gone through transition assistance trainings before exiting military, the civilian world can be tough to deal with. However, veterans have many admirable capabilities that you can leverage to make your job search easier. You worked with a service that taught discipline, hard work, and dedication, among other laudable skills. Use these skills to beat job seeking competition as you start a new life as a civilian.


Image Source: PRSA




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