G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Your Military Transition Guide: 4 Insider Tips

A veteran collaborating with coworkers in his civilian career after his military transition.

Life After The Military for soon to be or newly transitioned veterans.

As I chat with other veterans who are retiring or transitioning, they primarily ask me where to begin the job search, how to prepare for an interview, and help with writing a resume. They are concerned with the job acquisition part of the transition. However, finding a job is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to the military transition.

I separated from the Air Force after eight years of service in 2016. It’s hard to believe it was over five years ago. In my home office, I have several framed pictures of my aircraft, with patches and coins adorning the matting. My coin collection is sitting on a bookshelf, and my “career” binder—filled with performance reports, 1206’s, hard copy decorations, and TDY/deployment orders—gathering dust in my closet. 

In my civilian job, my military history is a unique tidbit on my resume, brought up occasionally when a coworker smirks at my “roger that” comment or when my company hosts Veteran’s Day events.  And yet, it’s so much more to me than just my “previous experience” on my resume. The military shaped me as a person. It was a way of life, a camaraderie, and there are aspects of it I miss.

The military isn’t just part of your past. You’ve learned skills beyond just the technical skills that you can take with you in your day-to-day life and jobs after the military.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind as you transition to the civilian sector:

1. Use Your Military Experience to Add Value to Your Company.

Once the honeymoon phase of your new job has passed, your employer will expect you to perform and produce results. Use your experience from the military to offer fresh perspectives, to motivate your team, or to organize your project in a way only you can. Trying to skate by on your military merits alone, without thoroughly learning the job or networking with your colleagues is not going to propel you forward in your new career or your mindset.

Speaking of mindset…

2. Improve Your Company Culture with a Growth Mindset.

Your mindset likely needs to change to adapt to your company culture. Yes, you will make friends at work and yes, you will probably have some fun. But don’t be fooled, your company exists to make a profit. The military does not. I don’t say this to be negative at all, it’s just a fact. Your company operates very differently from the military, from their strategy, to their processes, to their decision-making. This will require a mindset shift on your part. Enhance your business acumen by understanding your company’s financials and your role in improving the bottom line. 

3. Go Easy On Yourself: The Military Transition Is More than A Physical Transition To A New Job or Location. 

Transitioning from the military to civilian life is more than just finding a job after the military or where to live. It’s a mental transition too.

Whether you spent four years in the military or 30, be kind and patient with yourself. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into your MOS or AFSC. You trained hard to be an expert in your field. You made life-long connections and friendships. You fought for our freedom. You likely went downrange. Maybe you’re still struggling physically or mentally from that experience (you’re not alone–please seek help for your mental health at your local VA). 

Regardless of the circumstances under which you left service, you will probably miss it. You may question whether you made the right choice. Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Maybe you consider joining the reserves or the National Guard. Maybe you don’t.

Which leads me to…

4. You don’t have to get it right the first time.

I think veterans put too much pressure on themselves to find their dream job right away. Definitely shoot for it, but don’t be disappointed if you take a detour. That’s the beauty of being a civilian. If you don’t like the very first job you find yourself in, or it’s not what you want it to be, change it. You can do that! And there’s not even a five-page out-processing checklist to get through first.

Key Advice To Help Your Military Transition

The key is: It all takes time. Trust yourself. Have faith in yourself. You didn’t know what you were in for on the first day of basic training either!

Once you receive your offer letter, understand it’s your first step. Next comes the challenge of learning a new role (maybe in a new industry), learning a new culture, and learning who you are without your military rank and title. 

Your life continues. Be present for it. Amidst the craziness, this is an exciting time. Take a breath, relax and enjoy the ride. You have the freedom to do whatever you want to do, be whoever you want to be, and maybe live in a place you want to live.

After you’ve mentally prepared for your military transition, get back into your job search. Create a free profile to access jobs for veterans with the G.I. Jobs Career Portal – a veteran-first job board. For more tips to help you through your military transition, watch the video below for tips from a panel of recruiters and veterans.

Panel recruiter secrets: Resumes, Interviewing, and Networking. Our panelists include Roy Lopez of USAA*, Curtis Lloyd of Cruise, Michelle McKowski of 84 Lumber*, and Scott Haas of BGIS*. This session was moderated by our own Ryan Brandt.

*Companies are paid clients.