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Home Blog Latest Entries 8 tips to help you transition to civilian job market

WednesdayMarch 29, 2017

8 tips to help you transition to civilian job market

8 tips to help you transition to civilian job marketVeterans transitioning to civilian job market usually find the experience downright exasperating. Recruiters are at a loss when confronted with military resumes, which – even if impressive – don't help veterans to find a niche for themselves on the market.

Hiring managers don't know how to categorize this kind of experience and as a result, prefer to go with those who boast skills they're sure will work in a given position.

But this doesn't mean that veterans should lose all hope. On the contrary – they should simply adjust their resumes and present their professional experience in a way that resonates with civil market recruiters.

Here's how to survive the struggle, re-evaluate your approach and land a job that makes up for all the distress of your transition.

1. Create a roadmap to help you visualize the transition process

Use your discipline to figure out what you'd like to do. Once you know which jobs align with your values, outline the steps required to achieve them. Having a clear plan will only help you to keep up your motivation. Make sure to research these professions to gain a clear understanding of what you're getting into. Take an active part in your transition – don't just passively stand by.

Veterans often fail to understand how many steps it takes to move up the ladder in a corporate setting. Since military hierarchies are completely different, veterans might not see how sometimes they need to move backward in order to move forward.

2. Be honest with yourself

Veterans usually don’t fully understand job descriptions and basic qualifications required for the job. The language is alien and skills assumed by recruiters might not be that clear. This is what makes the transition difficult. Moreover, veterans often find out that the jobs aren't really what they thought will be.

Once you learn how to read between the lines of job postings, you'll be able to assess whether you really meet all key requirements. At this point, many might tell you 'Why not just translate the experience you've already got into civilian terminology?'

It sounds way easier than it's in reality. You need to remove all acronyms and learn how to explain your role in plain language.

Don't assume that recruiters will instantly recognize the value of your military experience. Use your own language to properly explain the degree of your responsibility for other people, equipment and professional relationships.

This is a skill that will come in handy during job interviews, where recruiters might ask you further questions about skills you've listed in your resume.

3. Manage your transition

At the end of your service, you probably participated in the transition assistance program. But that doesn't mean your job is over. Some veterans admit they've found the program a little disappointing – in the sense that it doesn't really prepare you for the reality of the civilian job market.

Still, if you've never had any prior work experience, you need to take this class seriously – it will help you manage your transition. It's not that the program is inadequate – it's the fact that transition is very challenging.

When you make the decision to leave the army, you need to do as many things as you can to ensure that you're not caught off guard in the future.

4. Find a mentor

This is more important than people would give credit for. Talking things over with a mentor, you can brainstorm ideas and find a way out out of situations that seem just hopeless. Having someone there to guide you through the meanders of the civilian job market is of great value.

5. Prepare yourself for lots of questions

Yes, even those which are completely unrelated to the task at hand. Recruiters might ask you these because they're simply curious. Don't get frustrated and answer them politely.

Also, don't let yourself be surprised or thrown off the loop – even if you're applying for a career completely unrelated to any kind of physical security you still might get questions about guns and firearms.

Pay attention to these questions – they'll show you whether the place is a good fit for you. Some questions should never be asked – for instance, whether you suffer from PTSD. Make sure that recruiters realize that you're more than your resume – share your story and show them why you're worth their consideration.

6. Watch out for scammers

Both veterans and current service members should be careful about potential scams directed at them. Scammers might appeal to veterans’ sense of loyalty and patriotism through affinity marketing (for instance, using military-related paraphernalia).

Hiring former military as employees can sometimes turn into a sly marketing scheme, so watch out for that when choosing companies you'd like to work for.

7. Educate yourself with care

Sometimes you might need additional qualifications to pursue the career you want. Be careful when choosing your education path. Since college degrees are costly, you should be 100% sure that you need one to further your career. Avoid scams and makeshift colleges that take your money but offer nothing in exchange for it.

8. Just be patient

It takes patience and perseverance to make it through a transition like this. Remember that recruiters are also having a hard time when hiring someone with your qualifications. The military isn't fast to move forward either – sometimes you'd wait for exam results for weeks. The same goes for recruitment, so be patient and keep your head high.

Even if transitioning from military to civilian job market is a great challenge, there's a future for you out there. Grab every opportunity you can to get closer to your dream career and you'll make it.

About the author

Amelia Knott is a Human Resources Specialist who develops her passion for She is a HR Advisor and Volunteer Career Counsellor who helps people with their professional career paths.

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