5 tips for veterans returning to civilian jobs

June 2, 2022 Ken Schoonover

A smiling veteran in an army shirt in front of an american flag

First and foremost, we want to thank you for your service.

We also want you to know that we are committed to making your transition from active-duty service member to civilian worker a success.

That’s why we wanted to share a few tips that can make this process as seamless and as enjoyable as it can be.

1. Understand the absolute value of your why

Most people have a very good understanding of why they enter the service, but few have a very good understanding of what they want to do when they get out.

You may have a general idea of what you are interested in, but it’s very important to take time to understand the “why” behind it. Determine the lifestyle you want to live and the most important things for you. If you want to spend more time with your family after years of deployment, a Project Manager position with a lot of travel may not be the best option.

You are leaving a very structured environment where your choices are relatively limited and entering a world where you have the resources and ability to choose your destination. Take time to consider what you want out of your next career choice and how it fits into your goals. Consider your objectives, your family’s objectives and how it all fits into your career options. Once you have a good understanding of your why, it will help you determine your next steps on your career path.

2. Remember that you have quite a few skills that already make you highly employable

It’s important to remember that a lot of your skills acquired in the military make you perfect for civilian jobs such as light industrial work, maintenance, machine operations and logistics positions. You may also have invaluable leadership skills that make you perfect for supervisory or management roles. It may take a little out-of-the-box thinking when applying for jobs to see how you could fit into new roles.

Many times, you have the skill set but the language may be different between military and civilian. You may also have soft skills like staying calm in difficult situations, safety and emergency training, operating heavy equipment or larger vehicles and other skills they are looking for. Try to see your marketability in terms of larger skills vs. direct translation into a civilian job.  Also, make sure you emphasis how you applied your skills in the military. Sometimes it can feel like your skills and certifications don’t apply, but many times how you performed in situations, showed teamwork and exhibited leadership can help bridge the gap for civilian employers.

3. Take control of your career development

There are a few culture adjustments you’ll need to make when transiting into the civilian job market. One is that career advancement doesn’t happen quite the same. Advancement in the military is both linear and highly structured, with clear steps to reach the next level. Civilian career development is not as regimented and can be somewhat murky in comparison to what you are used to. Its best if you take control of your own career development. If you want to learn new skills, find courses or online training to bring to your supervisor.  Ask for mentorship about what skills to develop and how to broaden your career path. By taking control of this development, you can shape your career into something that makes you happy and fulfilled.

4. Take advantage of the resources offered to veterans

As a transitioning veteran, you have an abundance of resources at your fingertips to help you with your transition. Today, there are groups and resources to help you with every part of your transition. If you need mentorship, help with your resume or interviewing skills, or job training to gain experience, there is an organization out there willing to assist. LinkedIn offers a free year of premium service to veterans to help you search for jobs and connect with recruiters. Programs, such as Hire Our Heroes and American Corporate Partners, offer job search assistance, help with resumes and sharpening your interview skills. There is the DOD Skillbridge program who offer internships while still on active duty. Finally, programs like Onward to Opportunity can give you certifications to make you more competitive in corporate America. Utilizing these programs, and others like them, will help you bridge the gap and make you more competitive to land the job of your choice when you transition out of the military.

5. If you feel like you’re lost or struggling, ask for help

Transitioning back into the workforce is a major change. So, it’s not unreasonable to think that there may be a few challenges along the way. If you’re finding that this transition is difficult or that you’re struggling with some aspects of it, reach out for help.

Talk to your supervisors or colleagues about what you’re feeling. There are so many people who are ready and willing to help guide you through the process. Finding a mentor with a military background may also aid the transition. They can answer your questions, help you overcome obstacles, and create a more seamless and enjoyable experience.

At Staff Management | SMX and SIMOS Solutions, we pride ourselves on helping veterans transition to the civilian workforce and finding them meaningful jobs. Our RPS team is unique qualified to find a perfect fit for veterans. Get in touch with our team below.

About the Author

Ken Schoonover is the Senior Program Manager for Recruitment Placement Solutions (RPS). He served for 20 years in the United States Marine Corps and was deployed 5 times. He has 7 years of recruitment experience in the Marine Corps and another year of experience managing eCommerce operations. He joined the RPS team in 2021.

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