You know the day will eventually come when you must leave the military. To make the process of getting out easier, each of the military branches have their own version of a transition program:

  • Army – Soldier For Life
  • Navy – Transition GPS
  • Marines – Transition Readiness
  • Air Force – Air Force Transition Program
  • Coast Guard – Transition Assistance Program

Regardless of which branch or transition program you’re a part of, these five tips can help you successfully navigate your way to a civilian career.

1. Department of Labor Employment Workshop (DOLEW)

Within 180 days of separating, each military member must at least go through this 3-day workshop. In it are covered three main areas:

  • Career exploration
  • Job search strategies
  • Resume, cover letter and interview preparation

While some servicemembers are hesitant to go through the program, it will help them get a jump on the job search process. Most find the process used today has changed quite a bit since they last applied for a job. Some military members that went into the military right out of high school may have ever formally applied for a job.

2. Transferable skills

The military teaches its members many different skills, both hard – pertaining to their individual job and soft – applicable across the civilian job spectrum. However, many departing members do not capitalize on these skills. For example, if you are a certified Train-the-Trainer, think how you could apply that skill in a civilian training environment. Or if you were a supervisor in an aircraft repair facility and trained in Six Sigma, how could you apply those principles in a civilian manufacturing or operations job?

And those are just two examples of hard skills. With a little thought, you should be able to come up with quite a list of how you could use soft transferable skills, like:

  • Team-building/leading
  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Accountability
  • Management
  • Attention-to-detail
  • Mission orientation

These are all desirable skills that most employers in the civilian workplace like to find in potential employees. These skills typically are not found in new college graduates and take time to develop, so when an employer finds someone already having these skills, they know it will save the company time and money to hire this person.

And if that person still has a valid security clearance, so much the better. Depending on when the person’s last reinvestigation was done, a security clearance can be valid for up to two years after getting out.

3. Forgo Military Jargon

Avoid using military terminology and acronyms in resumes, cover letters and during interviews. If the person on the receiving end does not have a military background, the military lingo will mean nothing to them and may very well work against the interviewee getting the job. Most military terms can be converted to something civilians can understand. To take that one-step further, also avoid using the 24-hour time clock and address people by either their first name or Mr., Mrs., Ms. [Last name] instead of Sir or Ma’am.

4. Network to Stay Informed

Stay in contact with your military buddies that separated before you. Find out what they did to secure the job they wanted after leaving the military. Many times, they can have an inside track on jobs that may not be advertised or have not yet made the job boards. And being they are your friends, they can put in a good word for you should you decide to apply.

5. Seek out military-friendly companies

Usually, these companies have a deeper appreciation for former military members and what they bring to the table. Plus, many such companies also have veteran support systems in place where veterans in the company can get together and discuss various issues specific to them and provide support for each other. Having someone watching your six is very comforting … especially when first entering into a foreign work environment, such as the civilian workplace.

The transition process is always stressful. However, you can make the boots to suits conversion easier by using these five tried-and-true tips.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.