Whether you have served four years or 24 years, the process of transitioning out of the military can be stressful. I am a believer that the more you prepare for potential problems, the more successfully you can overcome them if they arise. I have worked with thousands of veterans transition out of the military. During that time I have identified the following four common themes that seem to cause them the most trouble.
Lack of Focus
I hear many veterans describe themselves as a “Jack of all Trades, Master of None.” Veterans are often asked to wear many hats in the military. One of the biggest challenges they face is a lack of focus in their job search. You can’t define your marketable skills and research the job market if you don’t know what your target will be. Refer back to this blog post for additional assistance with focusing your search.
One of the biggest barriers to successful transition is failure to translate military skills and job titles. I learned recently that only 1% of the population has served in the military. When you factor in spouses and family members, that leaves more than 90% of the population that has no idea what it is like to serve in the military. No matter how qualified you may be, if the person reading your resume does not understand your skills and accomplishments, they will move on to the next candidate. Some resources to help you translate your skills are available in this earlier blog post.
Fear and Uncertainty
I have met veterans who have told me stories of being deployed in foreign countries where their lives were in danger on a regular basis. These same – very brave – veterans have been reduced to an unsure, nervous wreck at the prospect of leaving the military. Keep in mind, a transition is a learning process. Take advantage of all the resources, information and experts available to you. You will learn from doing and you will make mistakes along the way. Just make adjustments and get yourself back in the game.
The Reality of Civilian Life
Some military veterans face challenges with adjusting to life as a civilian worker. The work ethic of your new civilian co-workers is often not standardized, and may differ from the standards you are used to in the military. There is no clear-cut rank structure in the civilian world, everyone is simply a Mr. or Ms. I discussed these challenges in detail in this earlier blog.
Statistics show that many veterans do not stick with the first job they take right out of the military. I know a retired Air Force Chief who went through 4 jobs within the first three years before he finally landed with one he really liked. Once again, this is a learning process that you will have to learn to adjust and adapt to as you gain more information. Stay flexible and open-minded throughout the process.