Military active duty is a calling like no other. The men and women that you serve with understand and support each other because we “have all been there” at one point or another. Whether you have been serving for 28 years or 2; there is a change that you go through, a world that opens, that is so unlike anything else out there. You may not always agree with your fellow enlisted or officer, but there is a team understanding.
That young airman that you disagreed with while on deployment suddenly becomes a lifelong friend. There are mentors in the form of officers or senior enlisted that have detailed plans to help you succeed – the path to growth is clear and concise.
When on the cusp of leaving such a structured environment, it’s no wonder that many servicemen and women become nervous, maybe even fearful, of the unknown in the civilian world. Suddenly, things are no longer as clear. You are not on one concrete career path and you are overwhelmed with the amount of options available to you.
And while it might seem odd that this could be overwhelming, you might be a little uncomfortable asking for help to make those tough decisions.
It’s at this time that you can make a choice to reach out to that buddy that left the service a few years ahead of you, or perhaps you think that it might be better to speak with someone experienced in the field that you are considering entering. There are many options out there for military leaving active duty and taking those scary transitional steps – you just have to know where to look.
With the advance of social media, finding professional contacts has become easier than ever. If you haven’t already built a profile on one of these sites like LinkedIn, I would highly recommend that you do so now. It’s not only a great place to connect with colleagues and former supervisors, but corporate recruiters and the like scourer this site to find their next candidates.
If you are looking for something a little less formal, Facebook is still a viable option. I can’t imagine that many of you reading this article don’t have a Facebook profile, however, you can certainly use this to not only socialize, but there are many groups on Facebook to help military members. Groups where you can connect with others that are transitioning like yourself who might have some great tips and tricks to help you along.
If you prefer to not rely solely on social media, you might consider connecting with a professional organization like Veterati (www.veterati.com) – whose purpose is to mentor and assist transitioning military members to help them either get a great job, become an entrepreneur, or even explore another career.
Their services are completely free and they connect you with mentors with years of experience in their respective fields who are passionate about helping not only active duty military members, but their families and spouses as well.
Lastly, I would also suggest that you speak with your base’s Transition Office, where they usually not only have classes to help, but can connect you with local experts or resources to help you make these new and big decisions.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. It can feel like you are losing a piece of yourself when you take off the uniform for the last time, but I hope that you remember that there are those that have taken these steps before you and are happy and eager to help you begin your new civilian life.
Nicole Grabner is a military spouse and veteran who is also a homeschool mother and full-time author. You can usually catch her with her nose in a book; she isn’t afraid to admit that she is always carrying one, or traveling.