If you’re making the transition from military service to civilian life, you’re not alone. According to statistics, approximately 200,000 people leave the military service every year and begin the search for a different career.
Although the employment process for veterans has improved over the recent years, determining the next step and choosing the right career path can be a challenging task. After years of serving under a chain of command, working in uniform, and living within a closed and strict culture, the civilian working world comes as a shock to many veterans.
Creating a perfect resume? Networking? Interviewing? Many veterans really haven’t been coached to do these things, and they shrink at the prospect of meeting with employers who don’t understand their military past. Fortunately, there’s help.
If you make the most of the resources available to you as a veteran, you can ease the transition into your next endeavor. Here are tips to make your shift into a civilian workforce less stressful:
- Get ready for your transition as early as possible
When is the perfect time to begin preparing for the transition to civilian life? While you’re still in the military. If you wait until you’re out of the service to tackle these tasks, it can make your transition more overwhelming and potentially prolong your veteran job search.
Some basic things to do when preparing to leave the military include the following:
- Explore the job market and learn about different industries to find opportunities and discover where your interests lie.
- Enroll in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). This program gives service members access to employment information as well as training within 180 days of their separation or retirement. This is the time to explore career ideas and learn job research and application strategies.
- You should also get your paperwork done while you’re still serving. Important documents include recommendations and transcripts of any military training or coursework you may have completed while in the service.
- Get all the education and certification you can before you separate
Some servicemen and women join the military already knowing their career goals and begin applying for jobs immediately after leaving the military. On the other hand, a lot of military members decide to explore other options.
For instance, some military members choose to pursue a degree or enroll in a trade school as part of their transition back into civilian life. In fact, schools offer online college degrees for military veterans that help former servicemen and women optimize their military education benefits. The military offers many ways to pay for additional education, including college degrees and technical training.
No matter which path you take, it’s best to have a clear idea of your goals for post-military life. If you plan early on, you can even begin coursework while still serving.
- Start networking
Some people consider networking in the military world a taboo since “it means going outside your chain of command”—and isn’t allowed. In turn, many veterans don’t know how to network successfully, and often they feel uncomfortable trying.
However, veterans need to break off from this mold if they want to succeed in the civilian workforce.
Just like you needed the support of your unit or division members while in the military, in the civilian workforce, you need people to help guide your job search, serve as references and even pass on your resume to the right hands.
- Adjust from military to corporate speech
Though communication is one of the most critical skills you can develop as a service member, its methods and manner can vary significantly between military and civilian life. While senior military members use commands and orders to drive subordinates into action, this manner of communication is ineffective in the typical civilian workplace.
For a successful transition to a non-military career, you should adjust the way you communicate. This is your chance to explain to hiring managers and recruiters how your experiences and skills would translate to the job you’re seeking.
This adjustment can be challenging, so be sure to take the time to practice interpersonal communication skills as well as having professional conversations.
- Think about transferable skills
As an ex-military member, you most likely possess skills and attributes that employers find valuable. For example, servicemen and women tend to have strong skills such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, accountability, and the ability to negotiate high-pressure situations. To give yourself a competitive edge, be sure to highlight these skills during every interview.
However, when you explain these skills and experiences to hiring managers, you do have to be careful of how you word things. Instead of using military terminologies, use civilian language. This way, recruiters with no military experience can understand how you’ll apply your strengths to perform your job duties.
Transitioning from the military to civilian life is a pivotal moment for all former servicemen and women. Following these veteran career tips will smooth your transition and help you overcome common obstacles. With the right preparations, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful career.
Have you made the move from military to civilian life? How did you find it?
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