The Realities of Military to Civilian Transition


Most military members make a successful transition to the civilian world.

Yet many underestimate how much change they are facing.

And the longer your service, the more difficulties you are likely to face with these changes.

You have been in an environment that places a high value on preparation. Training is extensive and frequent. Plans are made for a wide range of options. You can add a lot more to this list.

So why do so many military members expect a quick, easy transition to the civilian work world?

And when that does not happen, why do so many become quite negative and even vent publicly about the faults of civilian employers who “owe” them a good job.

5 Steps to Job Search Success

Start with a plan. Long before you get out, start thinking about what you need to do, when and how you will achieve what you need, and what all your options are. Build a financial cushion to cover job search time.

1. Think Self-Analysis.

What do you want to do next? Are you more interested in a job, a career, more education, or building your own company? What skills do you want to use? What values and environment are important to you? Where do you want to live? Look around Job-Hunt for lots of help in this process.

[Related: Do the Hard Work to Get the Right Work and Analyze What Makes You Unique.]

2. Do Research.

Discover which jobs match your needs and skills. Find the keywords for your field and specific jobs and companies. Figure out if you need more education or certifications. Learn how to research companies and people.

Start looking at the organizations which hire for the jobs which interest you, and learn which ones have values you seek. Explore the hiring process and job opportunities or obstacles. Check out pay and benefits for the specific jobs you seek.

Use the services which support veterans in job search for more help. Far too many people skip most of this stage and just react to job postings. That is the way to fail.

[Related: 20-Minute Guide to Company Research and Target and Plan for Career Change.]

3. Create Your Marketing Plan.

Write out all your achievements in detail and add all your job history to create a master resume. Then:

  • Create your basic resume.
  • Develop your “mini-bio” — the 2-3 sentences you will say to describe yourself to potential contacts, employers, and at events.
  • Get business cards if you are looking for a professional position – and put your desired career and a few relevant achievements on them.
  • Build your presence on social media so recruiters find you.
  • Make a master list of organizations you have researched and want to target.
  • Create a plan and then follow through.

Translate it all into civilian terms, unless you are only interested in DOD/contractor jobs doing the same work you did in the military.

[Related: How to Create a Personal Marketing Plan and Job Search as Personal Sales.]

4. Enhance Your Network.

Connect or reconnect with people you already know. Broaden your connections through personal referrals, professional groups, on LinkedIn, at community events, and so on. Build closer connections before you try to use them for job search. Learn how to do all this effectively. and do it well.

[Related: Social Media Success Strategies for Military Transition.]

5. Take Action!

Once you understand your needs and goals and have built a target list of employers, act. Work your network for contacts and information and ideas about your targets. Make connections into each target. Keep up the search for job postings and have search agents on job boards. But put most of your effort into personal connections and employee referrals into your target companies.

Bottom Line

Leverage the excellent skills you have for planning and analysis, for teamwork, and for flexibility in the face of changing conditions.

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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