Military Transition Assistance Programs: Advice from the Trenches

Who better to pick the brain of than Pete Johnson of Northeast Florida’s “WorkSource” for advice on veterans’ employment matters and insight into the Navy’s Transition Assistance Program (aka “TAP”). Regarding military transitions, Johnson says, “I’m living them daily!” His average day consists of a barrage of calls and emails from transitioning service members and veterans seeking either transition or employment assistance. Counseling these clients one-on-one is his true passion.

Johnson served more than 22 years in the Navy, retiring as a telecommunications Senior Chief Petty Officer. He’s been the lead U.S. Department of Labor TAP facilitator for six years at the naval station in Mayport, Florida and possesses 15 years of experience as a northeast Florida workforce professional.

He’s one of the team of veterans’ representatives that work for WorkSource, the regional workforce organization. The veterans’ reps, all former military themselves, help veterans with career advice and referrals to services in the eight careers centers WorkSource operates in the six NE Florida counties. Leveraging his military background and extensive human resources experience in representing and supporting local businesses in meeting their employment goals, Johnson counsels many TAP and Executive TAP participants each week. He’s been known to answer the commonly asked question, “Can you help me find a job?” with a question, “I’ll assist you, surely, but are you willing to help yourself find a job?”

Hiring Trends

While Johnson’s geographic area of employment expertise is Northeast Florida, his advice on market trends is as ubiquitous as it is indispensable. He warns that all veterans should be aware of significant differences in job market, salaries, and hiring trends depending on location (region, state, regions within the state, counties and metropolitan areas, and individual cities). Labor Market Information (aka “LMI”) is a topic addressed at TAP but often, according to Johnson, undervalued by veterans. It includes unemployment rates, business growth and loss, prevailing industries, occupational growth projections, and an estimated pay range for those occupations. “I highly encourage vets to research LMI before deciding on relocation and post-military careers,” says Johnson.

Common Military Transition Mistakes

When asked to pinpoint the most common mistake military job seekers make, Johnson is quick to rattle off an entire list of blunders and oversights, pointing out that he could go on. “The transition from military to civilian life will not be easy,” he states. “It requires serious effort.” Failure to focus, network, exploit resources, research, and translate skills and experience make the list of his biggest pet peeves.

Fortunately, Johnson has some tips to avoid committing the most common military transition missteps:

  • Pay attention during TAP and commit to utilizing the tools and resources presented.
  • Research and balance military experience, skills, and education with employers’ needs. Translate military experience into relatable civilian terminology.
  • Establish a network within the local business community.
  • Don’t expect an employer to pay significantly more than your military pay or assume you can easily slide into a position commensurate with most recent military rank/title.
  • Focus on your values when considering your post-military career.

The #1 Military Transition Assistance Program Take-away

Johnson and his fellow military transition assistance program facilitators everywhere gladly provide a wealth of employment information to veterans. But the one thing they can’t do is instill vets with the determination and enthusiasm required to land a fulfilling post-military career. According to Johnson, “ individual commitment to attain results and realistic expectations (sans excuses) is the #1 key to success…. DO NOT pack your TAP ‘tools’ in some box in your garage.”