Separating from the military after a career of service and returning to civilian life brings about unique mental, financial and physical challenges for military personnel. You may be asking yourself where you will live, what you will do and how you will afford life after service.
If you are at this point, these worries may make the dangers and demands of military service seem preferable to the daunting reality of readjusting to civilian life—but it doesn’t have to be that way! While it might feel overwhelming at first, there are various tips and tricks you can utilize to make the transition as successful and pain-free as possible.
Don’t underestimate the cost.
One of the biggest shock factors many veterans fail to anticipate when reacclimating to civilian life is the change to their personal finances.
Necessities like food, clothing, and housing never have to be considered while you are in service, as these things are determined and provided either for a young soldier living in the barracks or for the cost of living and housing allowances of those living off base. While the cost of these living expenses can be a shock to veterans, the huge selection and variety of choices in the civilian world can also be overwhelming for individuals who are used to a dress code and predetermined meals.
On top of the cost of basic necessities, many vets fail to anticipate things like taxable income if they were frequently deployed, and the cost of medical insurance if they are separating from the military before securing these benefits.
This makes it extremely important to plan ahead and learn how to utilize veterans’ benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Though navigating the paperwork may seem overwhelming, obtaining these benefits can help to alleviate the financial pressures of your post-military life.
Take advantage of resources such as the Military Wallet and the Military Guide to help you anticipate this financial change and successfully navigate your transition.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back.
Have you bought-in to the myth that you will leave the military light years ahead of your civilian counterparts?
Think again. While it’s true that military service will enable you with rare skills and a unique mindset, the truth is that while you were working, so were they. They were out in the real world developing sought-after skills in today’s job market that, quite frankly, you might be lacking.
Yet your experience gap does not have to be a major hindrance. Recognize your limitations when it comes to job market navigation and pinpoint the crucial skills that hiring managers are looking for and which you can improve upon.
It is important to enter the job market with the expectation of starting at a lower position than you may have anticipated, but there’s nothing like a game of catch-up to make you motivated and driven. You’ll likely have to work harder and smarter than your civilian peers to get to their level of competence, but your military training has certainly equipped you with the capacity to do so.
Find an outlet.
Getting into the service, living the regimented life of military personnel probably seemed intimidating. Now, it’s most likely second nature.
Leaving the structure and stability of a military battalion can be one of the biggest adjustments to civilian life, where you have the freedom and time to do—well, whatever you want.
Many servicemen and women find that picking up hobbies and pastimes related to the military is a great way to transition and maintain their skills. This can include kickboxing, weightlifting, guns and tactical hobbies, and camping.
If you have a lasting interest in guns and tactical skills, consider investigating these hobbies. Because ex-military personnel are expert gunmen who retain an interest in the topic, many local concealed carry organizations and clubs are run by vets. Don’t forget to properly outfit your firearm with a concealed carry holster from a reputable manufacturer that takes pride in their American-made products.
Of course, the strengths you gained in the military speak for themselves. Vets are sought-after in the workplace for their communication skills, accountability, and inherent leadership qualities.
However, hands-on skills matter. One of the best things that you can do for yourself and your career as an ex-military job-seeker is to learn to translate your military experience to the corporate world.
Were you involved in training and preparing other personnel for specific missions? That is valuable preparatory, management, and organizational experience in a corporate setting. Did you help administer travel accounts for the military? That know-how is invaluable for helping you find a position in the financial field.
Additionally, many companies actively recruit ex-military personnel for civilian jobs, such as Home Depot, General Electric, and P&G, among others. Not only will you find other ex-military employees among these military-friendly companies, but they also often offer transition support services for vets.
Seek out face-to-face interactions with potential employers when possible. While applying for jobs online is convenient, approaching employers in-person sets you apart from the hundreds of online applications they receive.
This also gives you the opportunity to play up your military-endowed strengths, such as ingenuity, a composed nature, and impeccable execution and to make good on the reputation of military personnel for upstanding accountability and poise.
Keep on your guard.
For many servicemen and women, the mental transition can be just as taxing as the financial and lifestyle shifts. After years of extensive self-defense and tactical training, civilian life may leave you feeling unguarded and underprepared.
Keep up-to-date on your self-defense skills, pick up a self-defense course at your local gym, or consider trying out a new form of martial arts, such as Krav Maga or Tai Chi.
Additionally, investing in a concealed carry is an excellent way to maintain your shooting skills. Head to the range with your firearm; you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to network and develop a community among other gun enthusiasts.
Many states waive the fee for veterans to obtain a concealed carry permit, allowing you to invest in outfitting your firearm with IWB holsters, OWB holsters, and top-of-the-line Kydex holsters from top-of-the-line manufacturers here in the U.S.
Attend transition assistance program workshops.
TAP, or the Transition Assistance Program, was developed to offer employment and training services to separating military members within 180 days of retirement. The three-day workshops they offer cover topics such as career exploration, resume and cover letter prep, and practice interviews.
Not becoming overwhelmed at the idea of being in this short-lived limbo is the most critical aspect of acclimation. Take each problem one step at a time, do your research, and make a plan for handling each challenge the transition throws your way.
Mark Hedman serves as the CEO for LA Police Gear. Mark oversees a little bit of everything, from product development to walking the dogs from our Valencia, CA headquarters. Before joining LA Police Gear, Mark was just a kid that was very interested in programming and e-commerce. Starting from the bottom, he worked his way up through all stages of the company. Mark loves animals and the outdoors. He tries to spend as much time at the range as possible or hanging out with the pups.