Two Years Out – Military Transition Imperatives
As both a veteran and military spouse who has worked with transitioning service members for the past nine years, I’m frequently asked how to successfully plan a transition from the military. People worry about culture shock and finding their way in a civilian environment. The two most important things you can do starting two years before you’re due to separate or retire are PREPARE and TAKE ACTION.
Visualize how you want your post-military life to look. Think about where you want to live and what type of work interests you. Now is the time to dream. Write it all down: you’ll begin to see a life take shape, one that you have control over. Now start creating an outline for what steps you need to take to achieve that life.
Focus on your state of mind: what defines you is about to change, as will your relationships with others, and your routine. You may feel anxious, fearful, confused, sad, and excited. The more you can identify what’s causing these feelings, the more easily you can overcome them and feel more in control.
This starts with understanding where you are now and what you’ll need for the future. List your financial obligations and what you must earn in order to meet them. Ask yourself these questions:
• If retiring, how much will my retirement be?
• Will I file for any VA disability? What is the process and how long it will take?
• Do I have enough money to cover financial obligations if my income does not start immediately after my active service ends?
If you are not comfortable with your answers, start taking steps that yield comfortable answers. Take control of your finances NOW. Being in a strong financial position will give you better choices that may lead to greater job satisfaction, security, and growth.
Develop/Grow Your Network
Connect with recruiters and fellow veterans and join veteran employment groups. You never know which connection will be the one that helps you land that perfect job.
Register for SFL/TAP Transition Classes
If possible, try to attend twice before you separate. You are going to be slammed with a TON of valuable information, and it can be overwhelming. I can recall only a fraction of what I learned in my class. However, if you can attend twice, you may be able to retain more of it. Pick the brains of the class facilitators. Many of them are veterans with a wealth of knowledge and are more than willing to share it with people who are genuinely interested.
Register on Job Boards and for Alerts
Build a profile on the most well-known job boards and set up alerts for categories for which you’re well qualified. Discover what jobs align with your military experience. For example, RecruitMilitary’s job board has an MOS translator to show you the jobs you may be qualified for, based on your military occupation. I wish something like that was available when I transitioned!
Draft a Resume
Start by gathering all your military evaluations, training records, and award write-ups. Once you have those, register for weekly webinars and online resources that can aid you in the resume writing process. Keep it to two pages and use bullets, with each bullet stressing an accomplishment, not just a list of duties.
Get Some Practice
About six months out from your transition date, start attending career fairs where you also network with employers and other job seekers. These events will help you hone your elevator speech and see the types of civilian workforce opportunities that are out there.
Have a Team Meeting
Finally, but most importantly, if there are others who will be impacted by your transition, i.e. family, sit down and talk about the changes that are coming. Having everyone on the same page can greatly reduce the amount of stress you’ll experience in the transition process.
Planning and taking action are imperative for a successful transition. Good luck!
By Jennifer Hadac