Moving from the military to civilian life is a big transition. Everything changes — especially your career. As your time as a military member comes to an end, a bit of planning can help you find a job that makes the most of your unique skills.
Understand Your Strengths
The military teaches you a variety of valuable skills, including leadership and discipline. In fact, the things you take for granted as a military member — such as working efficiently in intense situations — can be rare commodities to an employer. The trick? Helping employers understand how your experience as a military member translates to the working world. Before you start applying for jobs, take time to evaluate your strengths. If you're a platoon leader or an officer, you're probably experienced in directing people. If you're a lower-ranking troop, you know how to cooperate with team members to achieve a larger goal. Other common military strengths include discipline, attention to detail and the ability to follow orders to the letter.
Fill Skill Gaps
By necessity, military service is highly targeted and mission-driven. This singular focus doesn't leave room for general education and training. That means that when you transition to professional life, you might find unexpected skill gaps. Before you leave the military, it's a good idea to identify and fill those gaps. To help, use your future goals as a guide. If you want to open your own company, consider taking a few business or finance classes online. Do you want to go into web development? Teach yourself to code in your free time. If your dream career requires a degree, start taking prerequisite classes online while you're still a military member. When you leave the service, these skills can help you find a job in less time.
Prepare to Start from the Bottom
When you've spent years as a military member, it's easy to assume that you can enter the professional world at the same level. Unless your military experience directly relates to your new career, however, you may need to start from the bottom. This could mean going back to school, starting in an entry-level job or taking a position that pays less than your service work. It's important to prepare for this mentally — especially when it means you're reporting to younger people with less life experience. Assuming that your work ethic and discipline are strong, you can build practical skills and move up quickly.
Use Available Resources
As a military member, you have access to a variety of resources that are designed to ease the transition to civilian life. One option is the Transition Assistance Program. This Department of Defense program includes classroom education and materials about everything from budgeting and ongoing benefits to career readiness. If you need additional support, look to organizations such as The Honor Foundation, American Dream U and Veterans Gold Card. These programs can help you find training, connections and job opportunities. Most importantly, they provide a network of people who understand what you're going through.
As a military member, the transition to a civilian job can be jarring. By preparing mentally and practically, you can make the jump smoothly and get your new career on track.