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On this page: How to plan your career exit, month-by-month.

Exit Strategy for Career Military

By Diane Hudson Burns

As a service member you are most likely very busy and engaged in your job.

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You are dedicated and disciplined. You are serving your country. 

However, it is important to plan an exit strategy from the military to corporate America.

Make Your Exit Plan.

Even if you are deployed or living in a foreign country, it is important to plan for your next career. And you should start that strategy some 12-24 months in advance of your retirement.

If you take charge of your career search campaign in advance, you will effectively remove some of the stress and challenges of making the transition.

My military clients (from enlisted to senior officer) have described leaving the military with great trepidation and diverse comments of uncertainty:

These comments further validate the importance of creating a detailed exit strategy and workable schedule to prepare to leave the military and seek new employment.

[Related: Job Hunting While Deployed.]

Sample Schedule

12-24 months:

Draft a plan and list initial goals for retirement and after retirement. Consider the following:

As you prepare your goals list, conduct research online and look at job titles (use major or niche job boards to get started), or work with a career coach to help you identify potential jobs and industries of interest, and create a list of desired careers.

Get prepared to design a resume and collateral career search documents:

5-12 Months:

Start Plans into Motion

1-5 Months:


Just as you plan in the military for any operation or deployment, you must plan diligently to seek and land a new career. As this article is written, unemployment is up, the economy is turbulent, and it is an employer’s market—so competition is fierce. The better prepared you are to make the transition to your encore career outside the military, the smoother the move.

Bottom Line

Your military training, skill development, and overall experience is a tremendous asset to potential employers—but you must learn to package those experiences, set and map a course to seek new employment, which includes focusing your career search and mapping a strategy, and planning in advance of your retirement date.

[Related: Increase Your Job Search Options, Value of Your Military Experience, and Military Networking Letter.]

For More Information on Possible Career Direction

About the author...

Diane Hudson Burns is a military transition job-search strategist and career coach. She designs and composes military conversion resumes and helps position service members for employment in corporate or Federal America. Diane holds eight industry credentials including Certified Leadership & Talent Management Coach and Federal Job Search Trainer & Counselor and owns Career Marketing Techniques.