Are you considering leaving military service in the next year? Everyone has different reasons for staying or going. But as military commitments come to a close, it is always worth inspecting where you are currently and where you want to go in life. Then decide if the military is the best way to get there. Also, review your why for joining the military. Have those goals have been accomplished? It may also be a reason to consider leaving military service behind if you’ve done all that you wanted to do. And of course, family considerations are a key factor too. Military commitments are often years of time and your life situation could have changed with a spouse or added family members, making it the right time to separate from the military for you.

Four Areas to Focus for a Successful Military Transition

Once you decide it is the right time to leave the military, it is important to start preparing for all the changes that will happen in your life when you are free to make your own choices instead of relying on the military to tell you what is next. Having this freedom is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming – especially if you haven’t looked for a job before. But there are ways to help you be prepared and help you succeed in your transition.

1. Start saving now.

When you leave the military, it may take time before you are at your new job and have your new paycheck in your bank account. Having a nest egg to help you with this time in transition can make it easier to pick the career you actually want so you don’t feel forced to take the first job option available. It is recommended to have three to six months of income stored away. But when you know you are leaving the military and have uncertainty in your future, working to have six to nine months is even a better goal. There are a lot of programs out there, but it’s best to have savings there to catch you. The good news is that if you don’t need it, it’ll be a great aid in a home purchase, family vacation, or your kids’ college payments.

2. Think about what you want to do next.

Just because you are in one career field doesn’t mean you have to continue in that same career path. And some military careers do not have a civilian equivalent on the outside. So finding your next career may require reflection on what you want to do next. Both Veterati and American Corporate Partners offers free mentorship program that can help you discover what you want to do next in your career. There are also a number of transition programs outside of the government-run programs that help you discover your strengths and how to align them with your future career. The possibilities are endless.

3. Create a profile on career search networks

Once you figure out what you want to do next, create a profile. This is a simple step that will help you get your resume out in front of companies looking to hire. If you have a security clearance, ClearanceJobs is a great resource. ClearanceJobs is the largest career network dedicated to security-cleared professionals. Top defense and intelligence government contractors as well as federal agencies, regularly search the site for cleared candidates. So, make sure you’re in the right place to use your security clearance for your next job. LinkedIn and Indeed are other platforms to use if you are looking for a career field that does not require a security clearance.

4. Use your earned military benefits

When you leave the military you have earned benefits from your service. Don’t waste these benefits by not using them. Even if you do not have any injuries from service, make sure to register with Veteran Affairs and speak with a representative to see if you qualify to make a claim. Also use your Post 9/11 GI Bill and other great programs like the VA home loan. You also can stay connected with the military community by joining veteran organizations like the VFW, the American Legion, and other smaller focused veteran groups in your area. The key is to stay connected and don’t skip over the benefits you earned. You never know how helpful some of them may be.

A New Life Awaits

Leaving the military will require you to take time to adjust to your new life, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t start preparing for that change now. Start thinking about your future and where you want to be and then follow your dream to create your new life.

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Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.