Advice On How To Approach An Effective Military to Civilian Transition


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Transitions Can Be Difficult, But They Are Immensely Rewarding.  The transition from the military to a peacetime setting can be eased when the military experience is viewed as an opportunity for the military veteran to expand their skills and abilities in a new career.  Here are some points of advice to help military veterans make a successful transition.

  • The Value of Military Skills in The Workforce. To be successful in second career, you must be able to bring military training and experience to civilian employment.  A newly transitioned military veteran wants to make a bigger impact within the business organization and increase their value to the organization.  In the business world, the bigger the splash you make, the greater chances of promotion and additional opportunity.  A keystone of success in business is to fully leverage all military training and experience in the corporate business world to make a bigger difference.  Once you demonstrate skills fully, the hiring marketplace for skills will improve both inside and outside company, even in a down economy.  Employers of veterans often look to them to solve big challenges and take on additional responsibilities, thanks to their “can-do” attitudes and performance under-pressure skills.  All veterans inherently recognize that the military-to-civilian transition is difficult, especially in the workplace.  The key point of struggle is that recognizing the problem is not enough.  Veterans need skills, tools, understandings, and approaches today to accelerate their careers and their employers’ business results.
  • What Are Your Plans and Goals? The military provides a great deal of social and professional structure daily.  The fact that Army life is so structured (physical training, breakfast, training, work details and so on) helps reduce a great deal of stress because even after the return from military, there is a daily structure to help guide you through life.  Even for the most senior military veterans, there is a whirlwind of change and a complete lack of structure once you are released from active duty and return to the civilian world.  Freedom is a wonderful thing, but too much unstructured time can be a downfall that leads to excessive TV, video games, eating, solitude, and alcohol.  Military veterans need a plan to create structure and discipline in their daily life so they do not lose focus on their goals.  I advise veterans to create a list of what they want to do: exercise, see friends, sit in on classes at a college, work a part-time job, start a small business, or take on a constructive hobby such as photography or hiking.  Having a daily structure built around goals makes the military-to-civilian transition immensely easier, more productive, and much less likely to be derailed.


  • What Is Your Story? Recent military veterans, since the start of the First Gulf War, make up a small percentage of the U.S. population.  Veterans inevitably encounter the all too frequent and inane questions of: “How many people did you kill?”  “Why are people still at Guantanamo?”  “Where is Iraq?”  “Are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan?”  (The last is my personal favorite.)  It is best to have a set of practiced responses to these questions and others instead of becoming angry or despondent at people’s apparent lack of knowledge or concern.  The clear majority of civilians are exceptionally proud of the military and its performance in military in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The problem that no one else can solve is the growing gulf between most Americans without military experience and the U.S. military veteran.  A preset story that is simple and well described or some humorous anecdotes will greatly help veterans explain their time in military and make them more comfortable doing so.  This will not close the experience gap, but it will make a veteran more at ease explaining their time serving the country to an audience that knows very little about the military.
  • Take Some Time to Explore. The literal descent from the military to the civilian world can be exceptionally disorienting.  I advise veterans to structure their time, but to also take some time to explore the world that they have been away from.  Traveling, doing the Outward Bound program for veterans (, starting a small business, or taking a few college classes prior to full-time enrollment are excellent ways to try things out, explore and make sure that next path in life is one that you want.  Immediately going from military to the civilian world to a job or the college classroom can at times be too much.  A three- to six-month period to get comfortable, get sorted out and explore options before jumping in is an excellent way to help make the military-to-civilian transition a success.
  • Understand Daily Risks. With the newfound freedom of the civilian world, there are plenty of things that can derail the successful career plans of a veteran.  Alcohol, drug use, fast cars and motorcycles, men and women more interested in bank account than you, and personal financial mismanagement are just a few of the dangers to which recent military veterans have succumbed.  The transition from military to the civilian world will be difficult, and there will be residual effects from combat exposure such as combat stress and the potential for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  However, the use of counseling, veteran-to-veteran conversation, exercise, a good diet, and programs that teaches military veterans stress-mitigation techniques all help reduce risky behavior and make for a much more successful transition.
  • Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Help and To Help Others. There are hundreds of resources to help military veterans process Veterans Affairs claims, treat stress, and find employment, and there are college programs to help veterans make the transition from military to the classroom.  In addition, military veterans are fantastic leaders, so there is space to help with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, shelters for homeless veterans and existing veteran’s service organizations.  The ability to accept help and offer to help others is a skill that I have been amazed at in recent military veterans.


Every veteran when they return from military will have to chart their own course.  Others and I have offered the steps and advice that we wish we had known about when we came back from the military.  The experience of military veterans is universal in that military has changed us, but we are all seeking to use the experience of military and what it taught us to improve our daily lives and the lives of others.  Military veterans are changed by their military experience, but they can use it to better themselves and to ensure that they have a fulfilling, happy, and satisfying life, career, family, and financial transition.


Resources to Support an Effective Military to Civilian Transition:

  1. 5 Keys to a Smoother Military Transition – Great Advice to Succeed By @USAA –
  2. After Service: 3 Routes to a Civilian Career – Solid Military to Civilian Transition Advice By @USAA –
  3. Create a Military Transition Fund to Have a Successful Military to Civilian Transition –
  4. USAA Employment Tools to Help Translate Military Skills to Civilian Jobs – USAA Members Only (Free to Join) –
  5. USAA INSIGHT: 3 Ways to Ease Your Shift from Military Service to Civilian Life From @USAA –
  6. USAA Leaving the Military Guide – Advice & Support for a Smooth Transition – USAA Members Only (Free to Join) –
  7. USAA Military Separation Assessment Tool for Financial Planning – USAA Members Only (Free to Join) –
  8. USAA Military Separation Checklist Tool for Planning Your Military to Civilian Transition – USAA Members Only (Free to Join) –
  9. USAA News – Member’s Easy Military Transition? He Credits Education and Planning –


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