How to Make a Smooth Transition from Military to Civilian Life

052512_Military_Group_24Due to budget cuts, the U.S. Defense Department has been forced to restructure and reduce its numbers. This recent drawback is the largest since 9/11, and it has many men and women making the transition from military service to the working world. The shift is not always easy, and it’s important to understand how to successfully transfer military experience and skills into a civilian career.


As veterans begin their job search, they need to understand what employers are looking for and what military experience and education will transfer into the working world. If going back to school to expand on or learn a new trade makes sense, there are many benefits former servicemembers should look into.

“Our servicemembers should take advantage of their veterans’ benefits, one of which is the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” says Mike Hughes, director of military services for Globe University and Minnesota School of Business. “For those who served on active duty for more than three years or have a service-connected disability, they will have all their tuition and fees paid for with the GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program, plus receive up to $1,000 for books per fiscal year and a monthly housing allowance.”

Hughes also points out that some states also offer their own GI Bill or grant assistance for veterans but says the most important thing to do is research and understand your options, including attending an institution that gives credit for military experience.

“Servicemembers should always check in with their local county veterans’ service office to make sure they are receiving all the benefits they might be entitled to,” he says. “When going to college, they need to make sure the school is on the VA GI Bill approved list and should also make sure there is a school military/veteran staff member who understands who they are, where they come from and are accessible.”

Career Readiness

Veterans should update their career search materials when it comes time to apply for jobs, but make sure they are customized to fit the civilian world. Military experience should definitely be highlighted on a resume and in a cover letter, but it’s important to know how to tailor those skills to fit a job description. Do this by using transferable skills and leave out the heavy military jargon. Work with a career coach, possibly at the college you attend or in the transitional services department, to help tie your military experience to the civilian world.

If you’re unsure which jobs you are qualified for as a military veteran, O*NET Online is a great resource. The site offers a place to enter your current job title and see which jobs match in the civilian workforce. Check it out here:

References and Connections

The key to finding a job is not always about what you know, but who you know, and this also applies to servicemembers. Past commanders or leading officers can be great references to speak who can speak to your experience and skills. In addition to leveraging old relationships to land a job, it’s also essential to form new ones. Social media can be a helpful platform when reaching out to potential colleagues or employers. Start a LinkedIn profile and begin networking to get your name out there.

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging, but with the right information, resources and connections, veterans can apply their experience and skills to begin a successful career. To learn more about Globe University military support services visit