Combat Arms to Civilian… What Now?


So often I talk with transitioning military who are infantry or Marines or otherwise in some position for which they can imagine no civilian jobs.

Or they see only physical security and law enforcement options.

But there are many other opportunities!

Expanding Your Career Options

Take a look at what you did besides your primary role.

What talents did you use in all those additional duties, temporary assignments, and secondary roles you had?

  • Were you repairing equipment?
  • Training newbies?
  • Doing inventories?
  • Tasked to keep morale up?
  • Driving vehicles?
  • Responsible for document security?
  • Managing the supply account?
  • Planning actions?
  • Implementing projects?
  • Security NCO?
  • Safety lead?
  • Disaster preparedness NCO?
  • Health, wellness, fitness?
  • On any task forces or councils?
  • What else?

Were you trained in something else that greatly interested you, whether or not it was your primary role?

Take the time for serious career self-analysis. Don’t skip it! Lay the foundation for a successful career and a shorter job search!

Choosing Your Best Options

Ask yourself, among all the “other” things you were responsible for –

  • What did you enjoy doing?
  • What were you good at?

Think of your successes in every extra duty you ever did. Then, think of those you enjoyed.

Write them all down. These become leads to good jobs you can focus on.

Developing Your Plan

Once you have picked a couple of things you enjoyed and were good at, start looking at work which is built from these tasks.

Certainly if you are good with mechanical repairs, you might think of plumbing, HVAC, copier/printer repair, building maintenance, and on and on.

But perhaps you are not sure what your skills are most useful for. In that case,

  • Pick 1-2 specific skills you think you would like to work with.
  • Plug these skills into one of the big job aggregator boards, like
  • Take a look at the first 65-80 jobs you get back and see which ones look interesting.
  • Pick out 15-20 and read them very closely, making a list of the common requirements you find.
  • Look at the employers and industries they are in.

Evaluating Your Fit with the Requirements

When you have chosen your target jobs, compare your skills and knowledge to the common requirements and learn what, if anything else, you need.

Focus your resume on your successes in the specific roles which were related to the work you want. And don’t forget to document your responsibility, persistence, and teamwork as all these are valuable to employers.

Additional Training Possibilities

If you are still on active duty, look at potential certification and credential programs via the transition function of your service.

Be sure to have your military experience and training translated into civilian equivalents. That helps you demonstrate your skills and may identify some options you haven’t thought of.

Additionally, there are a wide range of outside training and transition programs available to help you. Take your interests and do a search online for it plus “training for veterans” or plus “veterans opportunities.”

Talk to the veteran’s representative at your local employment office for more information and assistance. They know of all sorts of training programs as well as jobs.

Almost every city has well known local companies which seek to hire veterans. And many big companies have such programs too. So start thinking about which ones might have work that interests you and learn more about their veterans programs.

Bottom Line

There is a great opportunity out there for you. But it takes all your effort to understand yourself and your goals first and then to do your ‘battle plan’ so you can succeed.

More Information About Military Transition

Patra FrameAbout the author…

Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial.  Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra’s job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.
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