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Part 1: Life After the Military

Military to Civilian Transition

Part 1: Before the Job Search

Letting go of the security and routine of the military can be difficult to imagine. It is especially hard to enter the workforce if the military has been your only “job” or if you have been in for 20+ years.

I want to show you how I did it. In a series of four articles, I am going to give you the steps I took to put me on the path of my post-military career.

There are four things you need (in my opinion) before you start your job search. They are very simple, but they will make finding a job much easier if you don’t wait until you need them to get them.

A Business Card

It may seem unusual to have a business card without a company listed, but you need something you can leave with people you meet so they know how to contact you. Your business card should be professionally printed; do not use perforated cards you can get at the office supply store. Include your name, professional e-mail (nothing childish or x-rated, please), and phone number. If you went to school between your discharge and your new career, you may include your degree in place of a job title. Or, if you are sure of the career field you are entering, you can put it as a title (ex. John Doe, Web Designer).

A Suit

Men need a suit and tie. Women need a suit with matching skirt and jacket. The suit should be in a conservative color—black, gray, or navy. You don’t have to spend a lot. One man I know retired from the Air Force after 20 years. He had not owned a suit in all those years, but the job he interviewed for specified professional attire. He went to Jos. A Banks and bought a suit off the rack, which they altered for free.


Naturally, you need to remember certain etiquette rules, like a firm handshake while making eye contact, holding the door for others, and so on. Brush up on your table etiquette, too. Taking potential hires to dinner is increasingly common. Knowing simple rules such using the correct fork or waiting until everyone at the table is served leaves a lasting impression on the interviewer.

A Resume

Get your resume in order before you start your job search. You may see outdated advice such as tailoring your resume to each job you apply for. Honestly, though, if you qualify for the job you shouldn’t have to change your resume, and if you don’t qualify you shouldn’t be applying. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to make your resume sound like you meet every requirement of a position. You won’t, and you don’t need to. You do need to showcase your strengths and qualifications, including those you want to utilize and develop more. Look up resume examples and follow them. Have someone else look over it for errors. If you want, you can hire a professional resume service. Whether or not such an expense is necessary depends on what jobs you held while in the military and what kind of job you are looking for when you get out. Certain contracting firms will tailor your resume themselves before sending them to a hiring company. For them, the resume needs to list everything that you have ever done. However, more traditional corporations prefer your resume be neat, one to two pages, and only have necessary job skills on it.

These are the four most important things (in my opinion) you need to transition from the military to a civilian career. In the coming articles, I will discuss how to make connections and what to do once you have them. Today’s job and business market is truly more about making connections, building relationships, learning from them, and then finding a job/business idea. You can apply to an ad on or, but there are more effective ways to get your foot in the door.

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