Military to Civilian Transition: How to Find Success
Transitioning From Military To Civilian Workforce? Looking To Start A Business? Hoping To Take Time Off?
Change is scary for most people.
While service members do have to deal with change constantly as they PCS around the world, they are used to being told where to go, what job they will be doing and how much they will be paid to do it.
Now it is your turn. You get to decide where you want to go, what you want to do, and how much you are willing to take for it.
Separating from the military is unlike the changes that you became comfortable with during your time in service.
You are now in the driver’s seat but that means different things to different people.
1. What Does Success Mean To YOU? You must define it.
The first step is a personal one. In order to find success, you need to decide what success means to you.
This is when you need to sit down and make a list for yourself and if you are married, have your spouse do the same. Answer these questions:
1. What will make you feel successful?
Will you only feel successful if you have a job coming right out of the military?
Or will you only feel successful if you find a career in a certain salary range?
Or will you only feel successful if you can save enough money to take a year off?
2. What do I want to do for work when I get out?
Do you want a whole new career?
Do you want to retire?
Do you want to find a similar position to the one you were working at while in the military?
3. Where do I want to live?
Do you want to move to a certain place?
Will you follow a job to a location?
Do you have children in school or other requirements for a location?
4. What will our needs be at a family when I get out?
Do you have enough money saved?
Do you need more education to get your desired job?
Do you need to take some time off before launching into a new career?
Will you need things like healthcare?
5. What does your perfect post-military life look like?
Make sure to be real with yourself! Don’t answer how you think you should answer but dig deep and think about what you REALLY want.
Once you answer these questions for yourself, sit down with your spouse and talk about your differences to set an expectation. When you are on the same page, I would even recommend bringing your children into the conversation, particularly older ones.
Success is going to mean something different to every person and every family.
You can’t work to achieve that success unless you first decide what it is to you. Once you have a goal, then you can break down the steps between where you are now and the path to take to achieve it.
2. Military Transition Program
Many veterans struggle with the transition out of the military.
Before you get out, look into the programs and resources that are available to you.
One program that you will complete will be the Military Transition Assistance Program or TAP. While they are held at just about every base or post, some programs are better than others and each branch has its own version.
You can (and should) start this program over a year out from your separation to allow ample time to set yourself up for success on the other side.
The program includes a number of briefings to set up your goals and plans and they have counselors available (called your pre-separation briefing) to help you find a path that works for your family.
In addition, look into their “Specialized Tracks” that are offered in the form of a workshop. Depending on what your goals are when you separate, you can pick the workshop that makes sense for you.
There are three main workshops: Work options, school options or the option to attend the Entrepreneur Course if you are looking into the self-employment route.
3. Transitioning from the Military to Civilian Workforce
If you are planning on entering the civilian workforce, start drafting your resume.
Translating military-speak into words that would show your value to a civilian employer can be difficult. Many of the workshops and even job fairs will have a resume review that you can take advantage of.
Once you have a solid resume, make sure to post it digitally on networking websites like LinkedIn. You can also do company research on there to try and network with people in your desired new profession.
If you are lucky enough to land an interview, make sure to do research on the company and the position. Service members just entering the workforce are known for grossly underestimating what your previous experience is worth. Don’t be that person!
There are websites like Glassdoor where you can see company reviews and research what salary people generally make in the position that you are interviewing for. Make sure that you don’t get undercut by going in educated.
In addition, if you are thinking about going this route, make sure to set money aside in your budget for a new wardrobe.
This is one thing that people forget about, but it is expensive to start a work wardrobe from scratch and unless you are going into another job with a uniform, start saving up.
4. Becoming An Entrepreneur
More than ever before, more veterans are looking into starting their own business post-military. After years of answering to Uncle Sam and all his friends, the idea of being your own boss may be very appealing.
This is a great time to make that jump.
There are so many resources online to help people just starting out to educate themselves, make a website, and network with others to help them succeed.
In fact, there are full up programs and workshops that you can attend in advance to make sure that you are ready to go right when you take off that uniform for the last time.
Decide what aspect of life your proposed company will help with and research a program that can guide you when wading through the finer aspects of being a new business owner.
5. Getting Educated For Your New Career
While you can absolutely get a job after the military with no degree, education really goes hand in hand with whichever path you are trying to take (the corporate or entrepreneurial route) and can help improve your chances of landing the perfect position.
Make sure that you are aware of how your GI Bill benefit works and if this is the right time to use it. It can provide funding for school and money to live on while you complete your education.
There are different plans though and it is important to make sure that you are familiar with yours to get the most out of the benefit.
In addition to formal education, there are other programs that can help you earn certifications and teach you the skills to land your next big job. One great one to look into is Onward to Opportunity. This program will help train you to get a free certification in many areas from Project Management to IT.
This is just one option though, so do some research and see if there are options in the career that you are looking to break into.
6. Living Your Best Life
This can seem like the scariest point in your career. The point where you get to decide the when, where and how much.
Try to embrace the change that is coming. While you may have loved your career in the military, now life can be about you and your family.
No matter what your personal path to success looks like for your post-transition life, make sure to go into it with the knowledge, planning, and attitude that will help you into your next venture.