Please upgrade your web browser

These pages are built with modern web browsers in mind, and are not optimized for Internet Explorer 8 or below. Please try using another web browser, such as Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.

What is the best advice that you received when leaving the military?


Richard Lowery Clarksville, TN

The two pieces of advice that have carried me for the last 12 years are:

1. When drafting your resume, gather all of your awards, reviews, certificates, etc. and use those to your advantage. Even with Veterans preference, you MUST prove that you are qualified and have the abilities to do whatever it is you are looking at.

2. Create 2 resumes; one with almost every accomplishment you ever achieved (federal resume) and one with the military 'jargon' completely deleted. Remember that these 2 resumes are simply working documents that need to be edited prior to each and every job application you submit. Side note here: you want to limit, reduce, minimize the military terms, acronyms, etc. because the first look by a human resources professional may or may not have a military background; federal or definitely civilian.

Try to remember, you are now a civilian and are not in a hostile environment (even though you may feel like it is). Talk to absolutely everyone you meet and have fun!

23 May 2018 15 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Jose Roman Norfolk, VA


Very important to NOT put everything you did (qualifications, deployments, awards etc.) in the service into a resume. I see this way too often. Also I've seen the other extreme where some folks will scrub their resume of everything they did in the military, leaving it so vague I don't know what they did in the military. So keep your entire service record out of your resume, well not a resume you're going to submit for a job application. DO put everything that would qualify you for the position into the resume you submit for a job. DO put everything you did in the service into your LinkedIn profile.

Remember this, an HR professional is going to spend about 4-7 seconds reviewing your resume. They are looking for key words and information to see if you align with the position you are applying for. I've been working specifically with the student veteran population at two different universities now for the last 5 years and have gotten a lot of lessons learned and a lot of bad information is being passed around in TAP-GPS or whatever they want to call it now. Do let the employer know you are a veteran because along with that there are the soft skills a veteran brings to a company, but also keep your resume concise. If you have other questions please hit me up on here or better yet on LinkedIn. Happy HUNTING!

4 June 2018 Helpful answer


James Song Alameda, CA

Best advice I received in the military was to network. Ask your network to help assist with your military resume. And, to be honest, most of the military positions are irrelevant to the civilian positions, and I say this from experience as I work in the HR field in the private sector for five years. It is not to say you cannot do the job. You just need to format your resumes (Yes resumes, have more than one.) to those that you are applying.

For example, Adjutant General (AG) is Human Resources (HR) in the US Army. The US Army's AG systems and programs are not equivalent to the civilian's HR programs and operations. The same goes to federal and state programs and systems are not similar to military's programs and operations. I had a tough time finding a job when I transition out of the military, after 19 years of services. That was due to the fact that military positions are irrelevant to civilian positions. I needed to format my resumes to fit the civilian positions. In which, I did and got multiple offers.

Hope that helps.

26 June 2018 Helpful answer


Mike Grayson Mckinney, TX

Oddly enough, nobody gave me any advice when I left the military 47 years ago. Not even my Dad who was a Marine lifer and fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. But to answer your question...

Have fun and enjoy life, you've earned it. You are free to pursue your dreams, so dream big.

If you want to become a doctor or lawyer - go for it. If you want to earn some immediate cash, get a job - there are plenty out there right now. If you want to become an entrepreneur, there's nothing standing in your way except you.

BUT... don't get so wrapped up in pursuing the goal that you burn yourself out and take the fun out of life. Enjoy the process. Be a student and be eager to learn something new every day - I do and I'm almost 70 - life is always offering something new and exciting.

Best of luck and God bless.

2 June 2018 Helpful answer


Archana Panchal New York, NY

Hi Rich -

I'm not ex-military, but I'm hoping I might be able to offer some insight.

I met someone at an event that was looking to generate ideas for better processes and policies around hiring vets, recognizing exactly the same challenges I've read about on this site. He told me the story of a vet, whom he met in Vegas. This guy was really struggling to keep a job and having a really tough time adjusting to his new normal. As my friend and this vet spoke, my friend offered him this amazing insight.

One thing you are VERY Lucky to have in the military, a 2-for-1 deal is a job that gives you both a career and a purpose. You get to go to work, knowing you have things to do, as in any job, and you get to know, daily, even when it may not seem obvious, that you're making a difference. You have a purpose.

What the struggling vet was really struggling with was - he was trying to find both in his job - and unfortunately, that may not always happen. My friend's advice to him was - separate the two. he asked the vet what his passions were, or something that he would want to be involved in and contribute to. The vet mentioned a few wildlife and environmental organizations that he was very passionate about. My friend advised him to then do the following:
1. Apply for and treat any and all jobs as something that would give him a roof and food money, plain and simple.
2. Sign up for these organizations to volunteer for them - from fund raising for them, to standing in the streets to request sign ups, to going out for beach and such cleaning events.

My friend went inside a convention center for his event - and he said when he came out, you would not have recognized this "struggling" vet. Man had shaven, signed up for 3 of his fave orgs, applied for 4 jobs. All this in a span of a couple of hours or so.

I'm very lucky. I get to have a career in something that truly excites me. I get to get paid for it. And yet - it's being on this forum and being able to help, in however small a measure, for someone like you, who's done so much for me, that excites me just as much.

Separate your job and your purpose, if you must.

29 May 2018 Helpful answer


Joshuah Chrisman New York, NY

Hi Rich,

Thanks for your service and this really is a great question. The best advice that I ever got was that we have to stop thinking we already know everything. As Veterans, our expertise exists in a very different environment and, while the skills that we learned will stay with us for a lifetime, the day-to-day of the civilian world is very different. If you ever find yourself in any situation where you don't have all the answers - ask anyone and everyone. Give civilians credit for having expertise in this environment and don't be embarrassed to lean on them to help you navigate the chapter in your life. Good Luck!

24 May 2018 Helpful answer


Chris Barrett New York, NY

Hi Rich,

This is a great question.

The best advice I received when I transitioned out came from my Sergeant Major when he called me into his office. I had about 3 months before I would leave the Marine Corps, and he asked me what my plan was. I gave him a rough outline and a few jobs I wanted to pursue, but in reality I didn't have anything solid. I'd heard every staff NCO say at every duty station, "HAVE. A. PLAN." and yes, they spoke in all caps, but I still and didn't have anything set. I didn't know how to make a plan because I had never transition from the military before. After a few more minutes he said something that I wasn't prepared for, "you're not going to get the job you want...right away." What he meant was I wasn't going to get a job where I'd have the same responsibilities I had while serving in his unit. He then said that I needed to be willing to take a job with a little less responsibility, work my tail off, and then I'd get the leadership positions and more responsibility.

This was a somewhat new concept for me. It wasn't that I thought I deserved or was entitled to a job with as much responsibility as I had in the Marine Corps, it was that I was ready for it, or at least I thought I was. At the time I was in charge of the maintenance section of about 15 Marines as well as the Barracks Manager which was another 40-50 Marines. I thought I could take on the world. My Sergeant Major made me realize that I wasn't going to walk into the workforce and, well, own the place. I needed to earn my way there like I had in the military, and that it wouldn't take long for my future employer to notice. Once I accepted this approach, the job search became easier and I begin to formulate a better plan.

Certainly this goes hand-in-hand with making your resume, working on your interview skill, and doing the research for jobs in the industry you want. I would argue that making a resume is much easier as you can follow a template or use a format from a friend or colleague who has a similar position. Being able to change how you view the civilian world can be more challenging. Corporate America can be humbling place especially after you have been the "go-to" guy for the past 2, 3, 4, or more years in your military career. This view changed my whole mentality when transitioning out and was by far the best piece of advice I received.


24 May 2018 Helpful answer


Erik Schlacter New York, NY


Thank you for your service. This is a great discussion topic. My advice: it's all about the networking. The more people you know the better. In my honest opinion, it's not WHAT you know these days but WHO you know.


24 May 2018 Helpful answer


Alva Roberts Ridgeland, MS

Keep your records in files in order them like your were going to fill out an fs-86 (medical, education, work experience, financial(Billing histories), and awards) and review the files on a yearly basis then make an achieve for records over ten years old.

When looking into redoing your resume have a person detailed in the civilian human resources section review what you think might look good to an employer and let the critique you and have that specialist ask you questions based on the job you really want. (NOTE: Many universities offer these services free for veterans now.)


DaShawne Browne Tomball, TX

1. Always be professional no matter how the other person acts.
2. Remember that you should never assume always ask to get better clarity
3. There isn't a bell that rings when a veteran applies to a job
4. Unfortunately some companies do care about whither you were an officer of enlisted in my experiences.
5. Don't forget to take care of your health
6. Be proud of your service and draw from the positive experiences.


Lee Woodruff Tucson, AZ

The biggest issue to face is the change that comes with the transition and knowing that you either adapt or be one of the folks who look for "the perfect fit" job. Without hesitation, you should be willing to embrace the change and accept the opportunities that come with it. Whether you choose to relocate or remain in the area of your last duty station, your opportunities expand exponentially with a wide angle approach. Case in point...I spent ten years working in avionics and thought that when I left the service, that since that was what I knew best, then that was the direction to best approach the transition. What I discovered was that during that period, avionics jobs were almost strictly contract based, without any benefits and an uncertain future. The change I spoke of earlier came with attendance to a job fair, (this was before the online virtual versions). I made my rounds with the hiring folks, asked questions and must have handed 15-20 resumes out as was the practice at the time and hoped to hear back. I did hear back, but from a completely different sector, the semiconductor industry. They were interested in my background, demeanor and teamwork with ethics as a potential employee. I took a couple of written tests designed to weed out the over-embellished resumes and had an offer letter within two weeks of attending that job fair.'s going to be the big unavoidable elephant in the room...what it really is though is opportunity for new challenges to master and new skills to learn.


Barbara Schweihs Carol Stream, IL

Join your local chamber of commerce to enhance your networking skills and also learn what the civilian business sector has transpired to since I had been deployed. I have met contacts through my chamber that are still friends and colleagues of mine to this day.


Adam Perrotta Las Vegas, NV

HOW does one network successfully? Many serving in the military often do not have the opportunities to associate with the civilian world until after transitioning. It is also challenging to network if you are not actively employed.


Rob Bortz Erie, PA

To start, meet as many people as possible during your TAP classes and everywhere you go. Build a civilian network that you can rely on. Build a social network on linked in with people. Many job recruiters are there looking for quality men and women.

Then build a strong resume that fits the jobs you are applying for. Remember, not all of your military experience transfers or fits the civilian world. be sure to align the job specification with your experience.


Richard Lowery Clarksville, TN

I want to thank absolutely EVERYONE for all of your awesome suggestions and responses. I just wanted to see what others were told because when I left the Army I was quite shocked and lost and did not receive too much advice. The advice that I got was "put everything you have done into your resume," which, at the time, did not make much sense. I have honed that single statement into something I have learned throughout 12 years. Thank you all!


Richard Lowery Clarksville, TN


Great points and thank you for the recommendation (Michael Quinn). Leaving the military equates to giving up your security and is overwhelming. It is easy to feel unsettled and very uneasy but the future is what you make it. Absolutely NO ONE is going to help you but yourself and people on this site, other veterans and veteran-friendly businesses. There are so many helpful sites, programs and links, etc. that if you do not put in the effort then you will not succeed.

Take this for what it is, you are not getting shot at or mortared and people do not want to hurt you. Smile, talk to everyone and know that you ROCK!


Your Answer

Please log in to answer this question.

Sign Up

You can join as either a Veteran or an Advisor.

An Advisor already has a career, with or without military experience, and is willing to engage with and help veterans.
Sign Up as an Advisor.

A Veteran has military experience and is seeking a new career, or assistance with life after service.
Sign Up as a Veteran.