5 Ways to Ease the Transition from Military to Civilian Career

This guest post is brought to you by Aaron Walker. (If you’re interested in contributing a guest post, please see our guest posting guidelines.)

I’ll be honest: When I began the job search as I moved from the military to civilian life, I often felt like I was speaking a different language than the people who interviewed me. I’d detail my experience with military terminology and often drew blank looks from interviewers who had no idea what I was talking about, or how I could fit in at their company.

It left me feeling frustrated and, I’ll admit, and a little defeated. Add in a terrible economy, and I wasn’t sure I would ever find work in any field, whether it be food service or human resources translations.

Luckily, that turned out to be wrong. Eventually, I found a great position. These five tips can help you, too, make the often rocky transition from a military to civilian career.

Speak the Same Language

There are a lot of terms that we throw around in the military that are second nature to us, but civilians don’t understand them. Do a practice interview with a civilian friend and have them help you hone in on what words you’re using that might be confusing. Remember this during your real interview, and try to explain yourself in a different way. The less confused the interviewer is, the better chance you have of getting the job.

Be Your Own Cheerleader

In the military, we’re not used to putting ourselves first. We do things for the good of our unit. But in civilian life, it’s the opposite. If you don’t tell an interviewer how great you are at making donuts or crunching numbers, they’re not going to want to hire you. Don’t be afraid to brag about all the things you do well.

Get Help

Many of us in the military tend to think that reaching out for help shows weakness. It’s not true. Sometimes a helping hand is just what you need to get on the right track, and it could be the difference between finding a job and heading back to the unemployment office. There are lots of great government-sponsored programs that help veterans find jobs. There are also local and regional programs that can help you get your foot through the door.

Have a Realistic Outlook

A study by Prudential Financial and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 80 percent of military job seekers are looking for “the right job” rather than just any job. That may be setting your up for a failure. If you have your sights set too high, you won’t see what’s right in front of you, which could be the perfect job if only you’d lower your standards a bit.

Revamp Your Resume

Military resumes tend to be too long for civilian employers’ tastes. It’s a great idea to give your military resume a pruning. Make sure to define any acronyms that are included in it, even something as basic as D.O.D. Though you assume everyone knows that’s “Department of Defense,” not everyone does, and rather than take the time to figure it out, they’ll just toss your résumé in the slush pile.

Aaron Walker is a former serviceman who now works in translation and freelance writing.

Related articles:
Should you start a civil service bridge career after the military?
Military experience to civilian careers
Starting your bridge career after the military
The transition to a bridge career

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
This entry was posted in Career, Money Management & Personal Finance. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 5 Ways to Ease the Transition from Military to Civilian Career

  1. Mike says:

    Nice post Aaron! Funny though, on number four, my neighbor recently retired as an O-5 and the lesson he learned was to walk away from job interviews if they offered him less than $100K, too many days in a month traveling, etc. He actually had one potential employer try to leverage his DOD retirement pay in their salary offer! Anyhow, when he’d walk away, he found that they would call him constantly with offers that were much better– as if he demonstrated to them that he was worth the extra effort just because he wasn’t going to take their lowball nonsense.

    Of course, this is exactly opposite what I’ve read time and again, which suggests that we overvalue ourselves on the civilian job market…

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks, Mike, those are great options to have.

      I think people are so frustrated by the job search (and its never-ending suspense) that they’re strongly tempted to take the first offer they get and stop their pain (or trade it for a new type of pain).

      Financial independence is a very useful tool to ease the pressure and avoid selling ourselves short… no need to suffer from a “military inferiority complex”.

      I’ve been retired for 11 years now (and financially independent for a few years longer than that). I’ve never written a résumé or done interviews, and I haven’t golfed since the 1980s. Yet the unsolicited job offers still roll in every few years.

Please leave a comment here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s