Military Veterans Looking For Civilian Work
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How to Transition to the Civilian Workforce After Serving in The Military

S3 understands the difficulties of successfully translating your military service experience to job qualities needed in the private sector. That’s why our Central Sourcing Team members, most of whom are veterans themselves, have become experts in helping veterans translate their skill sets and obtain additional training as needed – with the end goal of finding you a rewarding job in the private sector. Here’s a simple tool kit to get you started on preparing for your next career.  

Step 1: Plan your budget & hone your skillset. 

  • Build a financial checklist based on your date of separation and terminal leave. 
  • Save money and connect with your Family Readiness Center at least six months in advance of your date of separation.
  • Understand that it may take time to make the same kind of money you were making in the military. It took years to get where you were in the service when you separated, so be prepared to “start over” and prove yourself again.
  • Look at job openings in the arena you want to work and see if you can start developing skills and experience that match.
  • Learn about and practice using social media and online tools as a way to connect with employers, aid in your job search, and better prepare you for the workforce. At a minimum, create a LinkedIn profile six months to a year before your separation.
  • Explore state veteran benefits for college or job training based on your “home of record.”

Step 2: Prepare emotionally. 

  • Be proud of your time served, but plan to reinvent yourself for the private sector. S3 can help you translate your skills to match sought-after qualities for today’s business environment. Connect with us here. 
  • Take inventory of your soft skills (adaptability, punctuality, loyalty, etc.). Keep and use performance reports to trigger your memory and remind you of your personal assets.
  • Leave your pride at the door—there’s no room for a power complex.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Use all transition assistance programs that are offered: employment, relocation, separation counseling , TAP, military job fairs, etc.
  • Keep in contact with friends made while you served; you never know when you’ll need a helping hand.
  • Plan together as a family and make sure you have all bases covered. Relocation decisions, school choices, moving expenses, and gap insurance should be resolved before your separation.

Step 3: Network in advance.

  • Research potential employers and read up on the company you want to work for so that you can share that knowledge in cover letters and interviews.
  • Study company websites and materials and incorporate their language into your resume and cover letter, but don’t copy statements verbatim from job postings or websites. 
  • Let family, friends and acquaintances know you are retiring and ask them to pass along possible opportunities and leads.
  • Reconnect with military friends who have already retired and ask for job advice and encouragement.
  • Show your personality when networking; share what you know and what you can add to the job you’re investigating.
  • Veterans offer a trainable mind; sell it. Create a one-minute elevator speech to sell yourself in planned or impromptu situations that may arise.

Step 4: Update your resume. 

  • Think about how your military skills will translate into civilian jobs.
  • Adapt military jargon so that those who didn’t serve can still understand your skills. A translation tool made specifically for this purpose will help.
  • Make one long master resume with everything on it; then pull from that to customize each resume to suite a specific job. Remember: don’t let your resume become bloated with data that is irrelevant to the position to which you’re applying. 
  • Always review and address the required knowledge, skills, and abilities listed in a job posting.
  • Include awards and volunteer experiences. Rather than listing all of your medals and ribbons, focus on and include the achievements that led to the awards. Be selective about the awards that you include; start with combat-related medals or leadership awards. 

Step 5: Take the below advice from retired vets.

  • You may not be able to make the same amount of money or have the same level of leadership or responsibility you achieved in the military—at least initially. Be patient. The average veteran goes through two to three jobs after separation before he or she finds a good match.
  • Get your health in order. It’s important to report and take care of everything that ails you due to your military service at least six months before you get out.
  • Remember that the multi-tasking, people skills, and attention to detail that you used every day in the military will be used in your civilian job. 
  • Interview as much as you can. If you come away with a bad feeling, it’s okay—it’s practice for the job that is out there waiting for you. 
  • Remember that transitioning to civilian life can be stressful. You may have trouble finding a job that uses the skills you learned in the service. Expect to be excited and nervous at the same time; there are many unknowns. 
  • The military came with a fixed pay for designated ranks and duties. In the private sector, there is often room for negotiating your salary, so be prepared to ask for the compensation you desire. 

Aside from the above tips, S3 veteran specialists also recommend reading the following articles: