For many uniformed members, transitioning from military service and morphing into a so-called “regular Joe/Jill” civilian career comes with a mix of emotions. Hope, excitement, and perhaps a healthy dose of fear are felt with a general sense of uncertainty when contemplating this or any other major life change. Testy nerves, anxiety and stress are likely to kick-in as well, while matriculating through job interviews and the waits that follow while prospective job offers do or don’t come in. Slowly we learn to relinquish a world of military doctrine, SOPs, and command protocols, as a civilian outlook begins to take hold in our lives. With this new change we learn that many elements of our military order and discipline are very well suited for integration into a new civilian career.
THE SERVICE CONNECT conducted an informal survey of veterans to glean helpful tips from their experiences on making the military to civilian transition. Here are some of the best ideas we received from other veterans and human capital experts on the best strategies for veterans and transitioning military members to boost confidence and achieve optimal results while in the process of transition from military life to civilian employment.
BUDDY CHECK. Now is the time to leverage the immense personal & professional contacts you’ve developed during your military career. While in uniform you no doubt built a a rich organic support system of contacts. Some of the friends and colleagues from your time in uniform have now very likely already transitioned and are decisively engaged in the civilian workforce. Reach out! Connect! Being forthright and candid about your experiences in and out of the uniform engenders sharing of stories from other service members who similarly made the move. Remember to hold your head up mentally and extrapolate your military confidence — that you are an accomplished achiever, and that you are not alone in making this transition. Be coachable and humble in spirit to have the capacity to learn strategies and tactics from others. Let your friends know your mission. Make them aware of what parameters you are building in your job-search and let them assist you with networking, and help them make valuable connections on your behalf.
MILITARY HEALTH & WELLNESS / FITNESS DISCIPLINE SHOULD NOT WAIVER. Research studies attest to the value of staying in shape. Fitness even provides valuable endorphins to increase human productivity. This is one of the many superlative benefits of military discipline and training. As you transition into the civilian work world, it is imperative that you maintain/sustain an ambitious physical activity regiment, as it is great for our health. Accordingly, it is almost even MORE important to ensure that you take care of both your physical and mental health as well.
Experiment with changing your fitness routine from time to time by trying out a new sport or fitness class. Need to join a gym? Many local libraries and public pools now have free exercise facilities. Military bases are amazing amenities as well for DoD card holders. Also, check out your local YMCA, which may partner with the area VA facility to offer special services and rates for Veterans. Who knows who you might meet while doing reps with or running laps with? Networking can happen anywhere!
AVAIL YOURSELF OF ANY/ALL MILITARY TRANSITION RELATED CLASSES & PROGRAMMING AND OTHER RESOURCES THAT EXIST FOR TRANSITIONING MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. When I was transitioning out of the military into civilian life I was overwhelmed. However, I was lucky to have at my disposal a wealth of options to help me in my attempt to make a way after combat service. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) was one very valuable resource that I was fortunate enough to leverage. TAP offers military transition classes at every military installation, online and at other locations such as VA offices. TAP classes begin during the last year of a military member’s service — however it is incumbent upon the individual member to have an identified separation plan in mind. TAP is a comprehensive plan that includes group classes particular to each service branch. TAP also provides key informational briefings from representatives at the VA, Veteran programs reps from other federal and local agencies, as well as experienced and veteran-friendly job and transition counselors who can work with transitioning service members individually.
FIND AND DEVELOP ONGOING MENTOR RELATIONSHIPS. The mentor-mentoree relationship is an invaluable lesson that is endemic to all walks of life and at every level of human interaction. We all benefit learning from and being professionally cultivated & socialized by those who have paved the way ahead of us. A mentor is knowledgeable, trustworthy and a great resource in any job search and even after attaining a job. This is especially the case for service members and veterans transitioning into civilian careers. If possible, try to secure a relationship with a person who shares your values and possesses a clear idea of your expectations about the mentor-mentoree relationship. If an ideal candidate is not readily accessible from your immediate network, then do not hesitate to reach outside of your circle and search online for reputable Veteran mentor matching programs.
USE ANY/ALL SERVICES YOUR LOCAL VA MAY OFFER. Many veterans unfortunately underestimate the incredible amount of resources the VA has to offer them. Today’s VA system is not just about hospital treatments and disability claims. In fact, the Department of Veteran Affairs has a tremendous amount of amazing resources to facilitate the personal and professional growth of veterans. Perhaps more than any other organization or agency the VA knows the intrinsic and civic value of hiring veterans. The VA is also very well equipped in aiding in the hiring of Veterans and replete with many staffers and programs available to transitioning military service members. Additionally, the VA has ample experience in working closely with the various agencies within the Department of Defense to create and offer a wide range of TAP classes and career service briefings. One program— VA for Vets — aids transitioning members who are specifically seeking post-service jobs. VA Careers on the other hand, provides a way for Veterans to identify themselves in the application process and secure key support from VA throughout the hiring process.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AVAILABLE ONLINE RESOURCES. There are myriad online resources available to transitioning service members. You can find training’s, job boards, employers who specialize in hiring Veterans, mentoring resources and online chat help. VA Careers’ Transitioning Military Personnel page and TAP are good places to start.
CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING. In addition to being medicine for the soul, giving back by donating your time and expertise to an organization or a cause is an excellent way to establish valuable new connections. Volunteering also facilitates your positive insertion within key social and professional networking circles within the community. It is usually best for prospective volunteers to contribute their talents in areas that are similar to their chosen career paths. This will facilitate attainment of needed experience and allow for continued progression of your resume activity. Many volunteer organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project, have programs for Veterans that serve Veterans and their families. Additionally, local VA facilities often have volunteer outreach coordinators, and may also have volunteer opportunities as well.