Transitioning from Military Service and How to Leverage Your Resources
For many military personnel, transitioning from service to a civilian career is a challenging and sometimes overwhelming experience. There are numerous factors to consider, from adjusting to a new lifestyle and work environment to finding the right career path that aligns with your skills and interests. Often the most valuable tools and resources are already provided for you and you only need to know how to leverage them properly. In this article, we’ll explore how you can make the most of the connections your military career has provided you, to help ease your transition from military service to a rewarding civilian career.
Start with a Self—Assessment
Before diving into networking and exploring resources, it’s important to assess your skills, interests, and goals. Take the time to reflect on what you want out of a civilian career and how your current skills apply. Identify your transferable skills, such as leadership, problem—solving, and teamwork, and consider how these can be applied to a new career path. This will serve as the basis for any career counseling or resume building that you do in the future.
Utilize Military Community Resources
The military community offers a wealth of resources to support your transition to civilian life. Many military bases and installations have transition assistance programs (TAP) that provide comprehensive guidance and support for service members transitioning to civilian careers. These programs typically offer workshops, seminars, and one—on—one counseling to help you develop a transition plan, explore career options, and identify available resources.
The most widely used programs include:
- Veterans Affairs (VA) offices: Offer various support services and resources for veterans, including benefits, healthcare, and education assistance.
- Department of Defense’s SkillBridge Program: Provides service members with civilian job training and work experience during their last 180 days of service, enhancing their employability in the civilian workforce.
- Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS): Assists veterans and transitioning service members in finding meaningful civilian careers through job training and employment services.
- S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative: Connects veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses with employers through job fairs, networking events, and mentorship programs.
Leverage Your Military Network
As a service member, you’ve built lasting connections with the men and women you’ve served with. These connections are invaluable when transitioning to a civilian career. The relationships you’ve forged have the potential to grow into business opportunities and professional references. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your battle buddies, commanding officers, or mentors for advice and support.
Additionally, consider connecting with veterans who have successfully made the transition to civilian careers. They have already paved the way and have valuable advice and firsthand experience to help guide you through the process. Many veteran—specific professional organizations, such as the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, offer networking events and opportunities to connect with other veterans in your chosen career field.
Utilize Social Media and Online Networking Platforms
Social media and online networking platforms like LinkedIn are powerful tools for building a professional network and finding job opportunities. Create a professional online profile that highlights your military experience, skills, and accomplishments. And as of 2019 LinkedIn offers service men and women a free premium account for the first year after they separate from the service.
Join online groups and forums dedicated to veterans and military personnel transitioning to civilian careers. These groups provide valuable information, job leads, and networking opportunities. Additionally, follow companies and organizations in your chosen industry to stay informed about job openings and industry trends.
Attend Networking Events and Job Fairs
Job fairs and networking events are excellent opportunities to meet potential employers and expand your professional network. Many events are specifically tailored for veterans and military personnel transitioning to civilian careers, providing a supportive environment to explore opportunities. Your TAP contacts and local event centers can direct you towards events in your area.
When attending these events, come prepared with a polished resume and elevator pitch that succinctly conveys your experience, skills, and career goals. Go in ready to engage with employers, ask questions, and showcase why people should hire you.
Volunteer and Join Professional Organizations
Volunteering and joining professional organizations is a great way to get your foot in the door of your chosen field. These avenues help you build connections, gain industry—specific knowledge, and acquire new skills that will be crucial in your job search.
Many professional organizations also offer veteran—specific resources and networking opportunities. Consider joining organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Project Management Institute (PMI), or other associations that align with your career interests.
Continue Your Education and Training
Continuing your education and acquiring new skills will significantly increase your chances in the civilian job market. All veterans are eligible for education benefits through the GI Bill or other programs, which will help cover the costs of college, vocational training, or certification programs.
Research the educational and training requirements for your desired career and pursue certifications, degrees, and training programs for your chosen field. This additional education will help bridge the gap between your military experience and the qualifications required for civilian jobs in your chosen industry.
Transitioning from military service to a civilian career is a daunting experience, but by leveraging your military community, networking, and resources, you can ease the process and find success in your new career path. Start with a self—assessment, utilize military community resources, and build a strong network to support you throughout your journey. Make sure to grow your network, continue your education to make you more desirable as an employee. Your dedication, skills, and experience make you an asset in the civilian workforce, and with the right approach, you will find a rewarding career.