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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your First Civilian Job

Hanging up the uniform that you proudly wore during the term of your service for this great country is going to be hard. What is even more challenging is returning back to civilian life after living and fighting outside of American soil. Whether you will be transitioning back to daily life or are currently having trouble dealing with the changes, here are 5 ways to get the most out of your first civilian job.

It’s a whole new learning experience. But you’re a veteran. You got this.

1. Acknowledge your skill set

Coming out the military means you have a mastered multiple trades and skills that benefit you greatly when returning to the civilian workforce. Think about everything you have done and write it down. This might include where you served technical knowledge, and missions you had served in. Then, once you have everything down, look at how it is written.

Full of military jargon and acronyms, right? An interviewer might not know what it means to be an Eagle Keeper or to be included in Joint Operation Planning. So translate these terms to be more understandable. For example: “Worked on military aircraft while stationed in the Middle East,” or “collaborated with several military forces to form defensive plans.”

2. Look for work that utilizes these skills

Although it might be hard to reword everything you experienced or decide exactly where you fit in best as a military officer, that is exactly what you need to do. A future employer needs to know what you enjoy doing, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how well you can put these traits and learned experience into play. Once you decide what roles and duties had suited you best, find work that matches. This is crucial for your mental health and happiness.

Certain tools like ONet, the Army’s COOL, or Startup Institute were developed to help you figure out the career that fits into your lifestyle and skills.

3. Accept the differences between military and civilian life

The military model for life revolves around command and control. There is a hierarchy and rules of conduct that everyone abides by. The clearly defined roles and consistency you had when serving are now going to replaced by a much more ambiguous organization. Because life in these two spheres are very different, an abrupt switch from one to the others is challenging. Any lifestyle change is. But there are also similarities between the two that can be used to mitigate the stress of separation. Even in civilian work culture, tasks require you to employ some kind of technical understanding for completion. Scheduling and time management is still important, although you no longer have a strict timetable.

So look for common denominators like manpower, materials, and problem-solving. In other words, stick with what feels most like the role first, get comfortable with the new routine, and then begin to adopt more civilian behaviors.

4. Be a leader

One strength you have above civilian applicants is your ability to lead, motivate team members, commit to a strategy, and develop plans with maximum efficacy. More than ever, employers are looking for people who are not afraid to take responsibility and take control in certain situations. Use your experiences serving to your advantage, especially after being hired. It is perfectly acceptable to take pride in where and how you served. Use your experiences to show the power of teamwork and show your employer just how awesome it is to have veterans on board.

5. Communicate

Being able to communicate effectively with coworkers and management will drastically improve your new work environment. Many transitioning veterans feel that their skills are not being fully engaged by their first civilian job. Now that you are out of the military, you have permission to speak freely. Veterans often believe that speaking up is disrespectful; on the contrary, in the civilian world you have to actively advocate for yourself. If you feel your skills and experiences can be more effective, discuss your thoughts. Promote your accomplishments, and do not hesitate to vocalize your knowledge. Break the unpleasant stereotypes by making a point to communicate better.

Separation from the military environment to transition back into a civilian is a true gauntlet. But you are not alone in this. You have the skills, the mindset, and the drive to build yourself up by utilizing the experiences and education that has shaped your life. Remember this, and you will get the most out of your first civilian job.

I’ll be more than happy to help you along the way — so don’t hesitate to reach out by dropping a line.