Military members work hectic schedules, putting the mission before their own time off. This can lead to an accrual of leave, or paid vacation days. But in some cases, that saved-up leave can come in handy! In fact, many people intentionally save leave days, holding them in reserve for that special time which comes in the career of every service member—their separation from the military.
Personnel are allowed to take their unused leave balances and either sell those days back or use them as “terminal leave.” Also known as transitional leave, terminal leave is designed to be taken in conjunction with your separation or retirement. The intent is, once you’ve begun terminal leave you won’t need to come back to work. So it makes sense to keep a few weeks saved up to use during your transition back into civilian life.
Time to Take Your Dream Vacation?
Of course it’s tempting to use terminal leave for pure vacation. And that could be the right call, if:
- you already have a civilian job waiting for you, or you have your continuing educational endeavor lined up, and;
- you have your housing situation squared away (i.e. you have a home or, if you’re moving, you know where you intend to live and have housing ready to move in).
If the above are taken care of, you’re ahead of the curve! During terminal leave, you’ll be drawing your full pay so this could be a chance to live it up and take the dream vacation you’ve always wanted.
Unlike normal leave, on terminal you’ll no longer have to worry about “what’s going on back at the shop” during your absence. Why? Because you aren’t going back and they know that. You can truly let your hair down and rest assured that they have things under control (and even if they don’t, there’s not much you can do about it). As long as you do your best to turn things over and provide continuity, you can rest easy. The mission will go on without you no matter what.
However—if you don’t know where you’ll be working, going to school and/or living, then using terminal leave to prepare makes a lot of sense.
Need to Look for Your New Job?
Time and again, research has shown that service members come out of the military unprepared for the challenges of finding civilian employment. For starters, they may not realize how long it can take from the time an application is sent in until it is actually reviewed by a hiring manager, and then how long it can take for them to start calling people in for interviews. In fact, many employers put candidates through both an initial short interview followed by a fuller one for second-round finalists. The total process can take several weeks, depending on the size and efficiency of the organization.
Meanwhile, dozens if not hundreds of applicants compete for most job openings, meaning it can take numerous applications (and numerous arduous interviews) before a Veteran receives an offer of employment. Looking for a job literally can become a full-time job itself! Do not discount the effort you’ll need to put into this process, from tailoring your résumé to practicing your interview skills and selecting the right attire. The same applies to your spouse, too, if you have one and if they need to find new employment.
Need to Look for Your New Home?
You may be eligible for additional permissive leave specifically for “house hunting,” but sometimes that just isn’t enough time… especially if you intend to move to another city or state… or even abroad. Using your terminal leave to supplement house hunting days could be necessary to find the right spot, whether you’re staying local or needing to drive or fly to a new destination to shop around.
Don’t expect it to be easy. Housing prices are going up, which means less offers being made, but also means you could find yourself priced out of the area you’re interested in. New construction is steady but supply is not always able to keep up with demand. The main point here is that finding a place to live could take much longer than you think, especially in a high-demand area.
Meanwhile, if you happen to own a home where you’re currently stationed and you intend to move out, the sooner you do so, the sooner you can put it on the market or find tenants.
Separating from the military is exhausting on many levels. You’ve worked hard and you definitely deserve—and probably need—some down time as you wrap things up. Especially if you are planning to begin a new career, it’ll be nice to have a break in-between tying up loose ends at your current job, crossing off those out-processing checklist items and starting that new civilian role.
But the more organized you are during this period, the better your transition is going to be. And the more time you allow yourself, the less stressful it’s going to be on you and any dependents you may have. Leaving the military means leaving behind a lot of stability which you’ve gotten used to… and perhaps taken for granted. That steady paycheck you’ve gotten for years is about to end. Your medical coverage is about to change. If you live on base, you’re going to be out of your house soon.
So set yourself up for success by taking the transition seriously and treating it with the same high level of attention to detail as you would give to your work. Trust us, you’re going to want to use as much preplanning time as you can get, because you’re about to deploy into the civilian world and you’re not coming back!