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Tips for Transitioning From the Military to the Civilian Workforce
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Tips for Transitioning From the Military to the Civilian Workforce

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions, policies, or positions of StreetShares or any of its affiliates.

Here is the reality: at some point or another, we all get off of the military train. While a bit harsh, I believe in speaking the truth, even if it stings a little. Despite this fact, the chief complaint I received while working with transitioning veterans was that they do not feel prepared for the road to civilian life. Sure, you will go through transition classes, meet with transition counselors, and practice going on job interviews, but what if you could do more? What if I were to tell you there are things that YOU can do right now that would help ease the transition and help you get ahead of the curve. Things you could do where you aren't waiting on anyone else. Interested? I thought so...

1) Know your timeline and plan for the worst case scenario

I am not naive to the fact that in military life, things change at the drop of a hat. Your EAS date is no exception. Sit with yourself and see when you should be ending your time in the military. Then think of any speed bumps that may pop up for you. Speed bumps could be anything from a deployment to a high tempo duty station to life happening. Once you know how long you have to work with, the real fun begins. Sit and look at your timeline and work backwards. Be sure to take into account your financial situation and anything you may need to have before entering the workforce as a civilian- don’t worry, we’ll get to this soon.

2) Do your research and know what matters

"Doing your research" is a bit of a broad term so let’s break it down for a moment. I once worked with a Retiring Naval Officer who wanted to have a civilian career in something he was passionate about; sleep apnea. Suffering from this himself, he wanted to help those who suffered from it directly. After spending almost a year familiarizing himself with the role, he was fully committed; until we researched salaries for this position where he and his family would live. It came in about $50k too low. He was back to the drawing board. You don't have to give up on your dreams, but you need to be realistic. Research the job that you want to do in the area you want to do it in. Will this number work? Aside from salary, take the time to ask yourself fundamental questions about work schedule, paid time off, and commute time. Having your line in the sand will help you as you begin the process of applying for jobs and receiving job offers.

Read next: Why Military Veterans Should Become Entrepreneurs

3) Get comfy with LinkedIn

If you have a LinkedIn profile, do you use it? Do you share and post engaging content? Did you know LinkedIn offers their premium service at no charge to Veterans? LinkedIn is very much about quality over quantity. Sure, it is great to have hundreds of connections, but will any of them bring you value? Value, in this sense, is a window into the civilian world. LinkedIn Learning allows you to take online courses in an area or skill you would like to learn further. You can request informational interviews with people who work for a company you are interested in or is in a field you would like to break into. Request a few minutes of their time to ask them some questions. All you college grads out there- don't forget to harness the power of your alumni networks! Before you go reaching out to folks though, make sure your profile is polished. Stay away from profile photos of you in your uniform. Remember, you are talking to people about being a civilian. Work on your summary and let the world know your goals! Lastly, update your geographic region to where you will live once you transition out; this will be an excellent way for you to start meeting people before you arrive.

4) Know your options

For those of you who are more of the "I'll know it when I see it" types, keep up to date with what is going on in the job market. Luckily for you, there are sources out there who monitor this very issue. Every year G.I. Jobs collaborates with Military Friendly Employers to see what the top professions are for Vets that year. The list for 2018 has 25 career options on it with data on projected job growth, salary and more. Making the top 5 for 2018 were:

  • Operations Manager
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Computer Information Systems Manager
  • Accountant/Auditor
  • First-Line Supervisors: Mechanics, Installers & Repairers

If time is on your side, explore a Corporate Fellowship Program offered through Hiring Our Heroes. There's no better way to explore a profession then exposure!

See also: Why The Military Is The Best Entrepreneurship Training Program In America

5) Up the ante

You have talked to people on LinkedIn. You have seen what the top careers are in areas that interest you. You know what your negotiable items are- now it's time to up the ante. Blow the competition out of the water by going after that advanced degree (Bachelors or Masters). Look into Professional Certifications for your field- this could be anything from IT certs, to Project Management, to Human Resources, to Six Sigma. While some of these preparatory classes and exam fees are not cheap, Syracuse University Institute for Military and Veteran Families offers professional certifications at no charge to you.

6) Entrepreneur? Awesome

In post-military life, you may find yourself wanting to work- but just not for anyone other than yourself. The life of an entrepreneur can be extraordinarily fulfilling and also overwhelming. Luckily, there’s no need to panic. If you haven't already, enroll in a Boots to Business Class offered at no charge through the SBA. If you aren't near a military installation, register for the Boots to Business Reboot provided remotely. Either course is designed for those who have already begun their journey or those who want to know more about the road ahead. Follow up classes are offered in areas such as market research and revenue building. Those of you who are already fully committed to the idea should ensure details like a solid business plan are in place. The SBA offers a planning tool for that as well. The fact that you are reading this blog means you know we are here to help with funding veteran business owners! Gather as many resource options as possible- an entrepreneur should never stop learning.


If you're considering entrepreneurship as part of your post-military career, we've put together a resource just for you. Download our free ebook, The Ultimate Guide For Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, to learn more about getting your business off the ground, the basics of business financing, and more. Get your copy today!

Introducing... The Ultimate Guide for Veteran-owned Small Businesses

This communication is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an advertisement, a solicitation, or constitute professional advice, including legal, financial,  or tax advice, nor is StreetShares providing advice on any particular situation.

Topics: Veteran Small Business

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