Being in the military, all service members get used to two things: 1) the suck and 2) having a basic set of orders that guide them throughout their time in the military. The problem with being a civilian is that there are so many unwritten rules and mores that we are expected to follow. Therefore, below are the 6 guiding principles that I tell those transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce.
1) Don’t believe the hype
We’ve all heard it. Somehow everyone who transitions out of the military is going to make much more money than they currently are in the military. Let’s just burst that myth right here: the likelihood that a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant is going to get out and find a job with a better compensation package than the military is improbable… not impossible… but it doesn’t happen often.
2) Drop the rank
Regardless if you retire or get out after your first enlistment term is up, you are no longer in the military. Unless you plan on opening up a fried chicken joint, or being a talking head on the news, don’t’ call yourself by your rank, you will get further with Mr. or Mrs. rather than Colonel or Gunny. (of course there are different rules for flag officers).
3) Hang up the uniform
We all have our walls or closets that contain medals and items that we earned during our time in the military. It’s healthy to remember and value our life in the military. These are the places where your uniform and medals should go- they shouldn’t be coming with you to your interviews, nor should they be how you represent yourself to civilian employers. Remember you are always dressing for the position that you want, not the position that you have. If you’re getting out, that probably means you wont be wearing a military uniform again.
4) Drop the acronyms
Let me let you in on a little secret, just because I was in the Army, that doesn’t mean I understand Navy acronyms. Not only does your resume need to be easily understood by a diverse set of people, but how you describe what you did in the military to people in discussion needs to be easily understood and remembered.
5) Leverage your community
Being a veteran, regardless of branch, allows you access to one of the largest alumni associations in America. Many of us who have served are willing to take a chance on an individual who is a veteran, even if they don’t have as many boxes checked off as a civilian counterpart. Be involved in the veteran community, whether that means joining a veteran service organization, having veteran drinking buddies, or joining a flag football team composed of veterans. The best time to make connections and network within our community is before you need anything.
6) Be humble
Here’s the truth, many of us who are getting out of the military do not have all of the experience or credentials that the civilian sector is looking for. That doesn’t mean we can’t compete. It doesn’t mean we can’t surpass those who were never in the military. It simply means that we all need to swallow or pride, take a job that we feel is a step or two down the rung from our position in the military, and realize that it’s more important to get our foot in the door, because with time, hard work, and obtaining the credentials required by the civilian sector, we will achieve our career aspirations.