Military transition is a stressful time, even when service members aren’t attempting it in the middle of a pandemic. Leaving a career and a culture you know to explore a new chapter isn’t a simple undertaking. However, half the battle is adopting the right mindset when it comes to your transition.

Mindset Matters and How to Shift Yours

Many transitioning service members view civilian life as a foreign place where they don’t understand the language or the culture and much of what they did or learned in the military does not apply. This mindset often leaves veterans filled with self-doubt, overwhelmed by options, and without a plan for how to move forward.

However, viewing the transition and the inevitable post-military job hunt as merely a new problem where you can apply the skills the military taught you can shift your mindset and help you have a more successful transition. One skill you can apply is the military decisionmaking methodology.

The Five Components of The Military Decisionmaking Methodology

While each branch has a slightly different style and terminology, I’ll use the Army’s Military Decisionmaking Process, or MDMP, to illustrate. MDMP is based on a 5-component methodology that sets the conditions for developing a specific plan of action. Applying this methodology to your military transition can help service members, veterans, and their families get a clearer picture of what you want from your post-military life and prepare a plan to achieve that goal.

Component 1 – Current State.

This component examines where you are now and requires you to account for all of the factors that form your current environment. These include factors such as:

  • Where you are currently stationed
  • Access to military health insurance
  • 30-days of paid vacation a year
  • Your pay rate
  • How many years you have spent in your career field

This is also the time to write down things you might love about your current state and what you dislike. Once you have a full picture of your current environment, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Component 2 – Desired End State.

This component involves visualizing your desired environment. That word “desired” is critical. This isn’t about assuming you have to accept an entry-level job or simply saying you want to “help” people in your post-military life. This step requires getting clarity on the specifics of what you want from your post-military life (notice I said life, not just career). Consider factors such as:

  • Where you want to live
  • Whether you want to travel for work or pleasure and, if so, how frequently
  • What kind of school district you want for your kids
  • If you want to work outdoors or in an office
  • Whether you are willing to go back to school or earn a certificate

In this stage, there should be no filtering. Don’t think about what’s practical; just think about what you want and write it down.

Component 3 – Frame the Problem.

This step is where you shift your mindset from what you want to what it takes to get there. I recommend approaching this from two directions.

  • First, identify what do you have going for you, such as:
    • Skills and experiences
    • People in your network who can help you
    • A veteran transition training program you’ve signed up for
  • Second, identify what obstacles you are aware of and what information gaps you have. These could be:
    • Missing a specific certification required for the industry you want to get into
    • Not knowing how to assemble a competitive resume (or any resume at all!)
    • Lacking data on what a reasonable salary is for your preferred career field

Component 4 – Develop an Operational Approach.

Now that you have the problem clearly outlined, it’s time to switch into solution-mode. In this step, you want to categorize your solutions into broad lines of effort. Examples might be:

  • Industry research
  • Networking
  • Certification and training
  • Job application preparation

Component 5 – Develop the plan.

This is where you get into the nitty-gritty details of how to tackle each challenge necessary to get from your current state to your desired end state—you might better know this part as developing Courses of Action or COAs. Using the previously identified lines of effort, this step might look something like this:

  • Industry research
    • Look at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to find the outlook for the occupation you are interested in
    • Read the business journal for the city you want to move to see which companies are growing or hiring in that area
  • Networking
    • Sign up for a veteran, industry, or location-specific virtual networking event
    • Search for and connect with hiring managers on social media
  • Certification and training
    • Explore how you can use your GI Bill to obtain a degree or certificate in your desired field
    • Seek out an internship or fellowship in the company you want to work for
  • Job application preparation
    • Attend a resume writing workshop
    • Find a mentor or coach who can help you with interview preparation

Use the Skills You perfected in the Military

Transitioning out of the military can be a daunting task. It is likely to be even more overwhelming if you view the civilian and corporate environment as a foreign space you know nothing about and are entirely unequipped to tackle. However, by considering the post-military world as merely a new challenge that can be solved by utilizing the skills you’ve spent years perfecting in the military, you can calm your nerves, shift your focus, and start working the problem.

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Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer turned freelance writer, editor, and coach. She writes regularly on After the DD-214, a resource blog she founded to help her fellow veterans navigate civilian life. You can find out more about Sarah at on her blog at