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The Fear and Excitement of the Transition

Job fair gathering.

When you lay awake at night and anticipate the day you’ll take off the uniform, do you wonder if you are the only one afraid of certain aspects of becoming a civilian, and excited about the changes? Well, you’re not.

I teach in the Transition GPS program and every month we ask military members – who are anywhere from 18 months to 30 days out from separating or retiring – what they fear and what they look forward to most about leaving military service. Every month, these lists are almost identical!

On the list of things most transitioning military members fear:

  • Healthcare
  • Second Career
  • Wardrobe
  • Stability
  • Lack of Structure
  • Salary
  • Family
  • The Unknown
  • Money

What are they most excited about?

  • Freedom of choice
  • New career
  • More sleep
  • Dress how I want
  • Stability
  • On my own terms
  • New options
  • Doing work I'm passionate about
  • Less structure
  • Less stress

Would your responses look similar?

There is no guidebook that universally could advise every service member transitioning to the civilian workforce. Each person’s transition will be unique. Some of you will start your own business or work for a government contractor in the defense industry. Still others of you may pursue a corporate job, join a start up venture, go back to school, or try your hand at retail. Regardless of what you pursue, know that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed at the choices, intimidated by the differences in culture and process, and confused by the lack of consistent norms in the civilian sector.

To navigate the transition, understand that this is a process, a journey. You will learn a lot, ask questions, lean on others for information and support, and make decisions. If you can keep calm, focus on your long-term objectives and your reputation goals, you will assess opportunities more clearly and make better choices.

Talk to your spouse and family, lean on those who’ve transitioned before you, and don’t forget those of us civilians who are committed to helping you. There is a lot of support out there for you!

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.