Military veterans face many challenges when leaving active duty. From reassimilating into society and learning new skills to dealing with the cacophony of civilian life, along with connecting with people from different backgrounds and trying to find work, the experience can be challenging for military veterans looking to hit the ground running once they leave active service.
When you first join the military, you are inundated with terms and ideologies that you may be unfamiliar with. “There is no ‘I’ in team” becomes the mantra, and everything is about your combat group, unit or battalion. You are taught to follow orders, never break rank and never question authority. You are told what time to eat, sleep and (to a great extent) how to think. It can be difficult to break habits formed during this time, and the longer you stay in the military, the harder it can become.
This is why life in civilian society is so different from military life. Civilians are typically taught to own their individual contributions and achievements or even to flaunt them. What else is a resumé if not a list of your qualifications and abilities? Job seekers and workers are taught to think outside the box, be innovative and ask meaningful questions.
Working creatively and independently to achieve individual success after you have been indoctrinated to do the opposite in active service holds back many people with military backgrounds. This is especially true when it comes to starting a new career or mastering new skills.
If you recently left or will soon leave the military, here is a quick checklist that can help make your transition to life in society easier. These tried and tested strategies from University of Phoenix can help you overcome the anxiety of trying new things and can help you pay for training where you might need to. They can also help you overcome failure and extract the maximum benefit from your military skills and training.
- Plan ahead
Plan your job hunt or your next career move the same way you would devise a plan of attack before heading into battle. What challenges will you face? What strengths, skills, resources or abilities can you leverage to overcome those challenges? Consider what makes one option different from another and what you are basing your decisions on. Do you attach more importance to income or time with family? How do work commutes figure in the equation? Are there civilian jobs similar to what you did in the military that you can look into?
Resources such as careeronestop.org, vault.com and phoenix.edu can help you research careers that may be a fit for you. If you are not sure about what you might want to do, these services can help you find options that match your skills and interests with your goals and work preferences.
- Leverage education benefits
The GI Bill provides eligible veterans with up to 36 months of paid education and training while attending an approved school. Covered programs can be found at va.gov. On-the-job training, classroom settings, remote training and reimbursement for upskilling and training expenses are just a few of the ways you can pursue your education. Maximize the benefit of these opportunities and leave no stone unturned when it comes to receiving the assistance that you are entitled to for education and learning.
- Know yourself
Everything must start with an understanding of yourself. What are you good at? What are you great at? What do you want to improve on? While in the military, you likely developed many hard and soft skills that can be applied in the civilian job marketplace. People management, project management, conflict resolution and problem mitigation are all key skills in an organization. Many jobs also value critical thinking skills and the ability to work under pressure. Your military background can help you excel in many demanding civilian careers. Start your search by matching your goals, skills, interests and abilities with available opportunities. This will also help you address and overcome failure since goal alignment is a critical component of success for any project or initiative.
- Convert military language into civilian language
Part of the art of landing a job is conveying what you know and can do. Translating your skills and abilities into easy-to-understand examples that a hiring manager can relate to can help you successfully get a job. Write down your skills and describe them. Next, think about how those skills would apply to a job you are interested in. Finally, using the language of the market or industry you are interested in, tell a story about how you can excel and drive results based on your military experiences. A compelling story is about getting the right message across with the right words, and after a few iterations, you can perfect your personal sales pitch.
- Redo your resumé
Remember that your resumé is your first impression to most hiring managers, so it is worth taking the time to maximize this content. You must market yourself in a way that is easy for the hiring manager to see how you can benefit the organization and the open position. This involves both converting military language into civilian language and customizing your resumé to the opening you are interested in. Use civilian job titles that match what you did in the military, explain any military awards with comparable civilian awards and connect what you have done to what you can do for the organization.
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