4 Steps to Transition to a Civilian Career

It’s no secret that transitioning to civilian work can present a challenge for some veterans. Maybe it’s explaining how your military skills are transferable to a civilian career or not having a formal degree or certifications. Whatever challenges you face, a bit of strategy can go a long way in helping you achieve your career goals after ending your military career. 

Create a Career Development Plan 

In the military, the career trajectory available to you is very straightforward. The next promotion and what you must have to qualify are laid out for you. A civilian career couldn’t stray further from that model. Your next job, title, or promotion is completely at your discretion. Building a career development plan for your civilian career is a great first step. If you know what your goals are, you’ll know what you need to do to achieve them. 

Build Your New Network 

Unlike military careers, there is an invisible job market for civilian careers. Up to 70% of jobs aren’t publicly posted. That’s why it’s crucial to start building your new network of civilians. Joining multiple professional organizations and building your personal brand will allow you to build your new network. 

Building the right network will connect you to jobs, clients, opportunities, and resources to help you grow your career. If you’re new to networking, learning how to make the most out of your new connections and showcase yourself can take time, but putting in the effort is worth it!

Strengthen Your Current Network 

Just because you’re building a new network doesn’t mean you should abandon your old one–just the opposite. You should continue to strengthen your connections from your military career. The people you served and connected with, whether they stay in the military or transition to a civilian career, can make great advocates, sponsors, and mentors for your career. 

The best way to chart a new path is to talk to someone who has already done it. Learning from other service members in your network who’ve transitioned to civilian careers will serve you greatly. Learning from their mistakes and triumphs will help you get to where you want to go faster. 

Translate Your Skills

One challenge veterans often face when transitioning to civilian jobs is explaining how their work in the military translates to civilian careers. It may be hard for a civilian recruiter to understand what an army technical engineer or intelligence analyst does or how it translates to the job they’re hiring for. It’s your job to help make the connection both on your resume and during interviews. Explaining how your skills are transferable can help you make the leap to a civilian career. Using a matching tool can help you match your military job to a similar civilian career as well. 

Another resource for helping you translate your skills is to hire a resume writer. If writing isn’t your strongest skill, hire someone to do it for you. A resume writer specializes in helping you communicate your skills in the clearest and most compelling way. The IAW Career Center offers complimentary resume critiques when you create a free account.

While there may be challenges to transitioning to a civilian career, none of them are insurmountable. In fact, with a little strategy and community, you’ll likely find that these challenges pale in comparison to the other milestones you’ve achieved in your career. 

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