Each year approximately 200,000 service members transition out of the military. There are so many resources available. It’s easy to start tuning them out. One resource army soldiers should not be tuning out, however, is Soldier for Life. The organization has made some major overhauls over the past several years, including a new website and a new podcast that continues to pick up steam and great new guests month after month.
ClearanceJobs had the chance to chat with Lt. Col. Olivia Nunn, the Director of Communications with Soldier for Life. She discussed the program, and offered her tips for veterans transitioning from military service to the civilian workforce.
One of the biggest struggles for service members today isn’t a lack of resources, it’s channeling the right ones.
“We have over 40-some-thousand organizations that want to do good for our service members. But that is a lot of information to wade through. And how do you do that? If you are talking to those service members that are transitioning out of service, that’s already a daunting task, that’s already a stressful situation. And now you couple that with a lot of data to sift through – how do they go about doing it?” said Nunn. “And I would say that Soldier for Life and our sister program Soldier for Life TAP, which stands for the transition assistance program, are two great resources that service members should really be tapping into.”
Nunn advises service members to begin the process early – earlier than they think they need to. Service members don’t necessarily need to be applying to jobs, but they do need to begin researching the type of career they’re interested in.
“What are the things that you can achieve as an outgoing service member in the realm of education or the realm of employment, leaning in on a network of service members that are ready exited, those that have already gone through that?” notes Nunn.
Beginning preparation early allows service members to think about the transition in bite sized chunks, rather than facing major hurdles of changing employer, location, and status all at once, said Nunn.
“It’s not just about the service members, but about the family, because the family serves too,” said Nunn.
Soldier for Life is broken into regions, with leadership within each region to help assist service members in their area. There are also functional areas, such as employment, education, and health and wellness, where the Soldier for Life community works to leverage relationships and provide the right resources. Soldier for life acts as the bridge between all if the disparate pieces of information available to veterans.
“When you connect with us, both individually on our social media council reaching out to us or just simply following us on social media platforms, you’re gaining the same knowledge that we have,” said Nunn. “And each one of us has a Rolodex, I would say, of services and support organizations that we’ve worked well with. And by following us and knowing what we’re doing and keeping on tabs with us, we’re going to be able to share that information.”
Common Pitfalls for Transitioning Veterans
Hindsight is 20/20 – and that’s one of the reasons finding a mentor is a critical piece of a successful transition. Nunn also cautions service members to begin thinking about the process early – those who fail to prepare often encounter the most difficulties.
“Because life just kind of gets in the way and then don’t make it a priority,” said Nunn. “And I get it right, we’re all busy. Kids can take up a lot of that time. Your career could take up a lot of that time, but you have to sometimes kind of put those things to the side and put yourself first and realize that transition is a journey and you’ve got to be active in that part. You have to advocate for yourself. You’ve got to know what those resources are, and you’ve got to start planning it out. It’s just like buying a home or a car. It’s not something you just do on a whim. You’ve got to really work through it really, again, finding your tribe of people that you can lean in on that’s going to help you do that.”