I wanted to share the ups and downs of my transition from Active Duty back into the civilian sector. I started as a reservist and then went active duty, specifically as an AGR Recruiter of which I served 6 years, before exiting Active Duty to return to the civilian sector in 2014. Although I remained in the reserves, I wanted to highlight some challenges and promote some tips to hopefully facilitate a successful transition for anyone else who may go through these same challenges. These observations aren’t all inclusive, but just observations from my point of view.

Transition is always viewed as the straight line between two identifiable points. I can attest that it is not as easy a process as the out-processing briefs that gear you to be received by the receptive pro-military company’s recruiting hands; quickly shuttled into your new office and properly trained on all new policies and procedures while being adequately paid equal to or above your gross salary rate that you received in uniform.

Unfortunately you soon to come realize a few realities within the transition process. You are either in over your head in a position and probably won’t receive the training you feel like you need and are used to, and probably should start looking for another job immediately. There is no “right seat – left seat ride” or at least not to the scale that you may have been used to in the Military. The feeling of being “fired” will be new and psychologically damaging, but it is an example of the “at will” reality of economics today. Or you are grossly underpaid and undervalued in your position, and should keep looking for another job. Working for $17.00 an hour when you were used to $70 thousand a year highlights a huge gap, but you are ultimately responsible to close that gap to a meaningful wage and remove yourself from the “underemployment” statistic that plagues many veterans today. There is no concrete slab of evidence or methodology that will guarantee you to reach that next step on the ladder to close that gap, nor a time limit to do so. Only evidence and methodologies to help you get there.

I encourage veterans to use all resources at your disposal.  Research, recruiting services, local colleges, and networking tools, continue to follow the money and find what your true value is. Looking for a job is a job in itself. Be prepared to burn out after attending numerous job fairs and interviews and memorizing your introduction like a repeating movie script. Constantly update and polish your resumes and tailor your interpersonal skills to match that of what you seek. This burnout may coincide as the pressure continues to build, coupled with a draining bank account or the inevitable countdown of ETS / Retirement leave days. Should you pursue a corporate or office setting, be especially mindful that some of the jargon and military friendly “comradery” is not tolerated, such as bad language or locker room humor. And know your competition, what is the next person offering, saying, presenting, that you may not be.

Focus on researching on the appropriate “titles” of what you were in the military and what is the equivalent civilian sector occupation. Once you find these titles you can better hone in your skills and expectations in your next role. Be specific, as veterans we develop multiple skill sets that complement our specific tasks. Take note of any systems that you currently use. Systems and administrative components are vital pieces in the workforce and required to perform day-to-day functions. Administration and reporting are elements of a job description that often are overlooked, can truly come back to haunt if you have mislead an employer by saying you can perform advanced level Microsoft functions when you cannot. Due to the fast moving pace of workforces and reliance on technology, understanding various systems is a must. Understand the systems you are trained on and its capabilities and be sure to be able to translate those capabilities towards any new system you may encounter. Be mindful of the costs associated with the incentives that were maybe taken for granted in the military; health care, retirement, gas and fuel costs, uniform allowances, food allowance, and vacation time. Look into those incentives when choosing a company. You are still and will be the company’s greatest asset.

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