As a Military Service Members, we are accustomed to change and adversity, from year long deployments to moving across the globe for reassignment—but transitioning back into civilian life may be the most difficult adjustment of all.
After serving your country, finding a place outside of the military can feel like an uphill battle. With some resourceful planning, self-awareness, and goal-setting, the transition from military to civilian life can be more manageable than you think.
1. Start Early
Start the transition process as early as 12 months prior to separation or 24 months prior to separation. The sooner you start researching and thinking about reentry into the civilian workforce, the better. Maintain an open mind as you explore all the possibilities that lay ahead. Ease any doubts or fears that arise by getting equipped with the knowledge and confidence that you are going to make the most of this transition. Take some time to self-assess, consider your experience and goals and take the time to ask yourself:
- How do I want to define this next chapter of my life?
- What would I choose to do if I knew I could not fail?
- What unique skills have I learned in the military that a civilian employer would appreciate?
To help with this self-assessment, talk to your family, friends, and colleagues who have already made the transition. Try not to rely solely on people still on Active Duty with you because they have not had to write a resume or search for a job in some time either. Take advantage of the many services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help you identify your strengths and assist you in choosing a career path. Try to connect with recruiters and hiring managers to get feedback on your true market value in the civilian world.
2. TAP Into Your Resources
The DoD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is is a vital resource to ensure that your separation/retirement choices are truly in your, and your family’s, best interests. The transition process will begin with the completion of the DD Form 2648 (“Pre-separation Counseling Checklist”). All separating and retiring service members should make an appointment to see their local transition counselor for information on transition services and benefits. For more information on the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) contact:
- Army: Army Career and Alumni Program – The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP).
- Air Force: Airman and Family Readiness Center. -Search here for the nearest office.
- Navy: Fleet and Family Support Center. -Career Options and Skills Evaluation Program.
- Marines: Career Resource Management Center (CRMC)-Transition & Employment Assistance.
- Coast Guard: Worklife Division – Integrated Support Command.
3. List Your Skills
The skills you developed as a service member are truly valuable and in high demand, but describing those skills to a prospective employer can be difficult. Think beyond the specific function you carried out and identify the core value, skill or expertise you brought to the table.
- As a Service member or Veteran with past or present Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard service, in either Active Duty, Reserve, or Guard, can electronically download your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) and personal cover letter from from the Department of Defense your military service by visiting Transition GPS. Your VMET will give you an overview of the skills you’ve gained while in the military.
- Make a list of any technical skills that could be used in the civilian world. Even if your overall military training does not easily translate into a specific civilian career, you can deconstruct your responsibilities and pull out the individual acts performed for conversion into civilian terms. For example military experience in the field of medical, engineering, mechanics, computer technician, electronics, administration or budgeting can all be easily converted into critical skills for managers in most civilian companies.
- Make a list of your of your professional leadership skills. Think in terms of the future value that you will bring to an organization and what skills will best position you to effectively compete against other candidates with substantial corporate experience. Some examples include: Team Building, Training & Development, International Relations, Strategic Planning, Cost Control, Financial Forecasting, Multi-Site Operations, Cross-Cultural Relations, Supply Chain Management and Technology Leadership.
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