Leaving something that you may have done for most of your adult life is hard to say the least. Serving in the military may have been the only job you had since graduating from high school. But leaving military service is inevitable and must be something to prepare for sooner rather than later. To that end, here are three tips to help make your transition to the civilian job market a little easier:

1. Make a GO/NO GO List

In the military, servicemembers learn the term “GO/NO GO” early as far as something that either meets the standard or not. Remember the headspace and timing gauge on a .50 cal. Ma Deuce?

You can use that same strategy when thinking about your post-military career. Write down your “must haves” that you want in your career – the things that are non-negotiable. Also look at things that you are willing to negotiate – like the amount of vacation time, salary, etc. Finally, look at things you can’t accept – like maybe working weekends or traveling either in whole or no more than a certain number of days per month.  Having a list like this takes some of the emotion out of your post-military career job search.

2. Pace Yourself

The difference between your military and civilian life will be like the difference between running a sprint and a marathon. While in the military, you are going hard and fast for most of the time you are in – much like running a sprint. But once on the outside, your civilian career should be at a slower tempo and more like running a marathon – going at a slower pace, but for a longer amount of time. Even after putting in 20 years in the service to your country, you most likely have at least another 25 years until retirement, so you want to work those years at a tempo that can successfully bring you to the end of your second career and into a retirement that you can enjoy.

This is where networking can come in. By contacting some of your old military buddies that transitioned out before you and are now in the civilian workforce, they can tell you much about how a company is to work for and the tempo of the job and the company you are considering.

3. Job verses Company Culture

When transitioning out of the military, one of the main focuses is finding a job. But doing a job you like for a company that you don’t rarely works out for the good. Instead, when searching for a job, not only research the job, but the company too. Most likely the job you want can be found in many different companies; the key is to find your job with a company that looks like they will support your end goal. By doing so, it is a win/win for both you and the company. During an interview is the time to initiate that conversation and confirm your goals and if they can (or will) support them.

Some veterans prefer to work for an organization that has an employee structure similar to the military such as in many of the federal government agencies. Others may have had their fill of that type of structure and prefer one that is more fluid in nature. Doing due diligence in your research can help you find the right kind of company that you want.

Change is never easy, but it can be made less stressful. By using these three tips, it takes some of the emotion out and adds structure to the job search process.

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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.