Getting a job can be one of the returning veteran’s hardest challenges. Translating military skills and experience into civilian terminology is hard, but it can be done.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Ideally, you would be able to prepare for civilian life while you’re still in the service. Make sure to enroll in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which gives armed forces members access to employment information and training within 180 days of separation. Ask about VA benefits, request letters of recommendation, and try to get all your paperwork taken care of ahead of time. Work on your resume and LinkedIn profile and keep in mind that military slang won’t track in civilian life. Update your resume to match the job requirements.
Do you have the skills for the kind of civilian career that you want? Does your competition have more education? Consider taking classes, getting a certificate, or getting a degree. Now is the time to figure out what would work best for you in the long term. Make sure that any college or certification you choose comes from a well-respected school that’s accredited. Consider taking CLEP or DANTES exams for skills you already have, but might not be able to prove on paper.
Don’t Be Afraid to Network
While the armed forces discourage socializing to complete a task, you need to recognize that civilian life often requires socializing. Extend your network through LinkedIn to attract new professional contacts, and make sure to add a professional profile picture to your page. Don’t focus only on people at the top, because other people can also influence your career. Engage with all types of people at all types of levels in the career path of your choice.
You could feel a sense of culture shock when you return, but it will get better with enough patience and effort. Don’t expect everything to come together at once. Think of this as the long term strategic plan to accomplish your mission, with many pieces in play.