You’ve served your country for a number of years, fully immersing yourself in the life of a service member, a title that is worthy of much gratitude and admiration. But now you’re ready to come home and enter the life of a veteran and a civilian.
One of the biggest transitions you’ll make is moving from being an active service member to a civilian worker, sitting in a cubicle and coming home at 5:00 every day. You may feel ready for this new pace of life, but there are some challenges that come with finding a job and entering the civilian workforce after having a career in the military.
These tips will help you have a smooth transition and make the most out of this next chapter of life:
1. Attend a Program or Workshop
As a veteran, you have access to many career and transition programs through the government. For instance, the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is available to those who sign up within 180 days of leaving the military.
You’ll have the opportunity to attend workshops, one-on-one counseling and classes that are meant to assist you with the job search and exploring possible careers.
Additionally, explore workshops that are held locally in your hometown. There is probably a career center nearby or a program run at the local community center or library that helps job-seekers prepare their resume and practice interview skills. These particular workshops may not be geared toward veterans specifically, but they will still give you valuable tools you can use as you transition to a new career.
2. Create a Civilian Resume
There’s no doubt you’ve acquired some extremely useful skills in the military that employers look for in their candidates. However, sometimes it’s difficult to take what you did in the military and translate it into terms the average civilian would understand.
The trick here is to dissect your military resume and pull out the practical skills that can be applied to a civilian career — then explain them in civilian jargon on your resume.
You could get help from professional resume writers in translating your skills, or use tools online, such as the Military to Civilian Crosswalk. It allows you to search specific positions you held in the military, and then it lists out applicable skills, tools and tasks you may have acquired from that job that would be worthwhile to put on a civilian resume.
3. Find a Mentor and Support Team
There are many veterans who have made a successful transition into the civilian workforce that would be happy to share their experiences and advice with you. Find a mentor using social media such as LinkedIn and join groups or networks of military veterans.
You may also be able to find a mentor through the people you worked with in the military. Never be afraid to reach out to somebody and ask them for help. Chances are, they’d be happy to help a fellow veteran who is in the same boat they once were.
Also, find a support team you can surround yourself with. This can be made up of family or friends who are cheering for you and love you. Sometimes, the transition may get tough. These people can help you get through this rocky part of life and can celebrate your successes with you.
4. Do Your Research and Take Initiative
Job searching can be a long and frustrating process for even the most qualified people. You may get lucky, but don’t expect to land the first job that comes up in a Google search. There are many ways to track down job openings, such as networking and browsing job board listings. Expect to spend quite a bit of time searching, applying, interviewing and researching all types of jobs.
Once you apply for a job, don’t forget to follow-up. Create connections with the people you interview with. Even if you don’t get the job, it could be a valuable relationship. Attend job fairs and talk to anybody you can. Putting yourself out there is one of the best ways to find a job you’ll love.
It’s important that in the end, you find a job that suits you and will be a good fit for your skill set and personality. You’ll hopefully be in this job for quite a few years, so it’s vital to take the time to make sure the jobs you’re looking for are the jobs you’ll truly be happy with.
5. Dream Big
During this transition period, remember that you are starting a whole new chapter of life. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? A career you’ve always wanted to explore? Have you always wanted to go back to school?
Don’t limit yourself to a simple desk job. Take the time to explore your interests and dreams. Maybe you want to open a photography studio. Maybe you want to go back to school to be a veterinarian. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This is your chance to have a second career. Take advantage of it.
Making the transition from a military career to the civilian workforce is exciting and probably a little scary. Use these tips to give yourself the smoothest transition possible. Ask for the help of others when you need it and embrace this next chapter of your life with open arms and an open mind.