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For some military veterans, making the transition back to civilian life and work is very challenging. Whether you are a reservist returning after one year or a career servicemember who is transitioning a good game plan is the key to success.  Though the skills learned through military service translate well into the workplace, civilians don’t always see that. Many of the larger businesses who are dedicated to hiring veterans actually train their HR staff in how to understand military orders, duty and responsibility.  You should do your part in making your service to your country understandable to hiring officials. To make the transition as seamless as possible, here are some recommendations.

Start preparing as soon as you can

Once you decide to end your time in the military, start preparing yourself for the career you want later on in life. Plan on being patient.  The higher the pay for the job the longer it will take to get the job so budget wisely. If you’d like to get an education, take the time to do so. All of the services offer great educational opportunities but only the dedicated will take advantage. Take advantage of the GI-Bill and seek an education specialization that is projected to be in demand. Make sure all of your medical VA information is in order. Keep everything up-to-date, like your resume and cover letter. The DoD offers a great transition class to help with writing resumes and cover letters, but you should not limit your experience to just this.  There are many great books and articles available online and at libraries. Additionally, several great organizations provide workshops. The transition will be overwhelming if you try to figure out everything all at once. Remember start early Doing it piece by piece over a longer period will help the transition go better.

Know what you want

To succeed in any capacity, you have to first know yourself, what you want and what you’re capable of. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and learn how those will benefit you in the workplace and what roles they make you a good fit for. One way to do this is to think about what aspects of military life are your favorite. If you prefer tasks, you’re likely someone who seeks stability in a workplace. If you prefer missions, then you’re a big picture person who wants to know what needs to be done.  Another method of finding your passion is to imagine some things you would enjoy doing even if you weren’t being paid.

Control your narrative

Many hiring managers are not veterans, and therefore have little understanding of the military. If you’re an Air Force veteran, they may think that your job was simply flying planes around all day and don’t see how that translates into business skills. Instead, take control of how you’re talking about your military experience. Demonstrate how the time taught you leadership, how to stay calm in times of stress, how to make tough decisions and how to work with a diverse group of people. Those are universal skills that will aid you in any workplace.   Take a look at your leaders and subordinates. What are the characteristics you liked or did not?

Be patient

As the transition isn’t easy, it’s important not to become discouraged when things are tough. The first job you land may not be your dream job that you stay at until retirement. Instead of feeling frustrated, view it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Take it as a chance to learn what you’re genuinely passionate about and shift your efforts accordingly. From each job that doesn’t work out, try to take away one thing you learned, no matter how small it may be.  

Your transition from the military should be an exciting time for you to open a second chapter in your life.  Thank you for your Service!