7 Secrets for Successful Military Career Transitions

Service members attending a meeting.

Transitioning from military to civilian life can seem like a daunting task. Here are my top tips for a successful military transition:

1. Attend a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Workshop

TAP was created to give employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement. TAP offers a three-day workshop that all ex-military job seekers should use. The workshop covers the following topics:

  1. Career exploration
  2. Job-search strategies
  3. Resume, cover letter and interview preparation

You can find the participant manual from the TAP workshop here.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

2. Think About Transferable Skills

How can you describe your military experiences for a corporate role? Take, for example:

  1. If you trained more than 200 people on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, think how your training preparation, delivery and results could apply in a corporate classroom setting.
  2. If you helped the Navy save $3 million by administering 37 government travel accounts, think how this experience could apply to a financial controller position.
  3. If you were in charge of an aircraft repair department, think how the Six Sigma principles you learned could apply to a manufacturing or operations job.

3. Find Military-Friendly Employers

Several employers appreciate the qualities ex-military personnel bring to a civilian job. Furthermore, you're likely to find co-workers who formerly served in the military. They can mentor you as you ease into a new working environment.

For example, Procter & Gamble has a networking group called "Blue and Grey" where ex-military employees help one another. Home Depot, General Electric and P&G actively recruit former military officers.

Related: For more military-friendly employers who are currently hiring, visit Military.com's Veteran Jobs Center.

4. Adjust from Military to Corporate Speak

A key to getting the job is fitting in. Not only do you have to demonstrate the right skills, but you also need to adopt the right body language and speech.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Be wary of military jargon. Rather than say you were the "black swan" expert, explain that you developed contingency plans for rare events.
  2. Rather than use military time, use civilian time. That is, instead of confirming an interview for 15-hundred hours, use 3 p.m.
  3. No need to address your professional contacts as sir or ma'am. You can typically address them by their first name.

5. Connect with Recruiters and Headhunters Who Focus on Military to Civilian Transitions.

Two of the key leaders in the field include Lucas Group and Bradley Morris. Lucas Group has helped 25,000 officers and technicians to transition from military service into civilian careers, usually matching more junior personnel with technical and sales roles, and senior personnel with director of business development roles. Bradley Morris is another military-focused headhunter that boasts a 96% customer satisfaction rate.

Related: To create a personalized transition plan for yourself, and for transition guides and checklists, visit the Military.com Transition Center.

6. Play Up Your Strengths as an Ex-Military Candidate.

Military veterans are known for precise communication, individual accountability, impeccable execution and natural leadership. Don't forget to showcase this during the interview. All four skills are in high demand, regardless of position.

Give yourself credit for strengths that many non-military job candidates lack. Other key skills to play up:

  • Poise
  • Ingenuity
  • Handling stressful situations well

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

7. Network, Network, Network.

Applying for jobs online may seem like an efficient way to get jobs, but the reality is that it doesn't work well. For any given job opening, recruiters are bombarded with hundreds, possibly thousands, of openings. To rise above the noise, you'll have to network.

Start with veterans who are now in the corporate world. Don't rush to ask for a job. If there's no job available, the remaining time becomes one big letdown.

Instead, take time to know the person. Ask how they approached the transition from a military to civilian career. Only at the end of the conversation is it OK for you to ask whether they are aware of any job openings.

Lewis Lin is the CEO of Impact Interview. He has more than 10 years of experience in the career management industry.

Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides, advice and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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