Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be daunting. The U.S. military is a culture unto itself with its own skill sets and ways of communicating. Veterans sometimes shrink at the prospect of meeting with hiring managers who do not understand the military context. Fortunately, there are a few ways to ease your transition.
1. Translate your skills in to “civilian-speak.”
The military loves acronyms. This shorthand way of communicating becomes second nature as you learn new skills and put them to the test both at home and abroad. The trick is understanding how your skills and accomplishments translate to the civilian world. Then, once you have a solid understanding of how they relate, you have to speak about those skills in a way hiring managers can understand. For instance, talking about how you created a series of SOPs in a TRADOC environment will mean nothing to a civilian. But a hiring manager would love to hear how you created user manuals and standardized processes for a new employee training course.
2. Get all the education and training you can before you separate.
The Pew Research Center released a report called “The Difficult Transition from Military to Civilian Life.” They found that those who graduated from college had an easier time adjusting to civilian life than those who only had high school diplomas. The military offers a host of ways to pay for additional education, such as college or technical training. Take advantage of these opportunities so you can set yourself up for success.
3. Keep on networking.
Think about all the people you depended on in the military to keep you in the loop, help you accomplish tasks, and mentor your progress. Think, too, about all the people who depended on you. The private sector is similar: People network and help each other find jobs and grow in them. You don’t have to go it alone. Success grows out of teamwork in both the military and civilian life. People making hiring choices in both contexts feel more confident about someone who is a known entity. So reach out to the people you know for job referrals and recommendations.
4. Take good care of your mind and body.
Military service can be satisfying yet grueling; transitioning to civilian life can be stressful, too. In order to feel good and bring your best self to your new job, it’s important to address any health challenges that might arise. If you have not yet separated from the military, your military treatment facility can give you access to or referrals for a wide range of care. If you have already separated from the military, your local VA is there to help you maintain your health.
5. Tell your story and don’t leave out the good stuff.
Since the military is team-oriented and mission-focused, most service members don’t like taking personal credit for things their unit was able to accomplish. Still, telling these stories and highlighting your contributions will make you attractive to civilian employers. A job interview is no time to be modest. Don’t be afraid to take credit where it is due. Highlight your achievements honestly and fully.
6. Start applying for government jobs before you leave the military.
According to a Glassdoor survey of more than 80,000 job seekers, the average civilian hiring process takes just over 23 days from start to finish in the US. The timeline is a bit longer if you want to work with the government. Most government agencies notify people that they have passed the initial application phase 15–30 days after the job closes. After that comes the interviews, which are often followed by background checks, security clearance verifications, and reference checks before any offer of employment. Fortunately, most government agencies and contractors are accustomed to working with service members leaving the military and will help you make your employment start date work with your estimated separation date.
7. Always begin with the end in mind.
Envision where you want to work and what you want to do once you separate from the military. Then figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Just as a military officer sees the “big picture” and can articulate the mission and the steps needed to achieve it, you can imagine the work life you want and reverse engineer your way to it. Job counselors, Transition Assistance Program professionals, and veteran job coaches all stand ready to help you put your own mission into words and break it down into a series of steps you can take to reach your goals.
Finding and landing the perfect job involves so many variables, it’s impossible to predict how long it will take. Have patience, take heart, and let these tips support your progress.
Article sponsored by Starr Wright USA.
Starr Wright USA, a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s) a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit WrightUSA.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.