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There are several paths to success if you're getting out or thinking about getting out of the military after just one tour. A great place to start is the Military.com Transition App, which provides custom checklists for the tasks you need to complete as you leave the military.
Making the right decisions at the right time is critical. The biggest decision? Choosing what comes next. And that comes down to three main options: get a job, go to school, or stay in the military after all.
Step 1: To get a job, align your expectations with your skill set and experience level. Are you getting a job to pay the bills while you decide what the long-term future holds? Or do you expect to build a career right away?
Either way, give some thought to what that first job means for your future. Then, use the Military Skills Translator to find out how your skills match up with current job openings. Keep in mind: If you have an active security clearance, you may be qualified for higher paying jobs.
Step 2: Build your resume. Building a resume can be challenging, and translating military skills to civilian equivalents isn't always easy, But doing a little research and asking fellow veterans to share their resumes with you can help. Because you're a veteran, you can also have your resume reviewed by Monster for free.
Going back to school is a popular option for many who have served one tour. If you didn't get your degree while in the service, your GI Bill benefits mean you can earn one with little or no cost to yourself. However, don't get a degree just to have one. Research what fields you may want to work in and find out what types of degrees support those career goals.
Step 2: Find out how much of your education benefits will apply to your degree. Start by calculating your time in service to determine what your benefits will be. Know the difference between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as they have different benefits. Have you transferred a portion of your education benefits to your family? Be sure to factor that in, as you will have less of a percentage of your benefits available to use. Finally, once you've got a short list of school you'd like to attend, contact their offices and find out what you need to do to use your benefits at their institution. While the GI Bill is applicable everywhere, each school has its own administrative process. Researching common questions and answers about how to use your GI Bill benefits can streamline the process.
Step 3: Make a financial plan. Going to school is usually done to increase your earning potential. But being in school can mean a huge shift in your finances. Whether or not you are using your GI Bill benefits, it's important to make a financial plan and understand where you may need to make up a difference with a part-time job or possibly a work-study job with your college or university. You may have to cut back on spending or living expenses if you aren't working full time. And if you are still working full time, take into account any school-related expenses you may not have had before in your budget.
Staying in the service may seem contrary to your transition mindset, but if you haven't yet signed off on getting out, it's something to weigh against your other two choices.
Step 1: If you are still unsure of what you want to do when you get it out, it's a good idea to find out what re-enlistment bonuses or incentives may be available to you.
Step 2: If you are considering getting out because you are unhappy in your current field, find out if a military occupational specialty (MOS) change or advanced schooling options are a possibility. If you stay in and further build your skill set, you may have an even better chance of landing a job that leads to a career when you do get out.
Step 3: If you've made your choice to leave active duty, you can still serve by entering the National Guard or Reserve components. This option allows you to continue your military service but still work in the civilian sector or go to school. The added income is a positive, and the continuing skills development will add to your resume.
Additionally, many companies and organizations have Reserve- and National Guard-friendly employment policies. Research will help you identify employers that may be a good fit if you are still serving as a Guard member or reservist.
Download the Vet Employment Manual PDF.