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What would be some key aspects to focus on when transitioning from military to civilian sector


Erica Destinvil Tacoma, WA

I am interested in knowing some best practices from a different point of view that will enable me to succeed in the civilian sector. Any assistance or suggestions would be great!

28 October 2019 14 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Tim deCordova Palm Bay, FL

Phillip gave you some good tools to begin your transition. I would like to add a perspective about transitioning. As a veteran myself, and helping others who start their journey at my company I can appreciate the challenge. One of the hardest things I've found from new hire vets is the culture. I've mentioned this before in other posts and it is a recurring theme. One of the most difficult things veterans experience in civilian employment is the nuances and vagueness of the day to day. In military we had a clear chain of command, a clear scope of work (MOS) and a clear mission. We also know if we check x number of boxes for training and TIS we get promoted, its almost predictable.
In civilian life it can be a little more vague. It is a business, we have to make shareholders happy. Hard work is not always rewarded as we expect. This isn't to say this is a negative, it is just a fact. We as veterans need to adapt to corporate life because corporate life will not adjust to us. Finding your niche, finding someone who can mentor you and help you grow in whatever lane you choose is key. Veterans have so many traits and skills that can benefit a company, the key is to identify what it is that you bring to the table for the organization. Many times, corporations do not see a correlation of leadership skills and experience in military to corporate leadership. It is imperative to be able to translate your skills and experience to a position of need for the company. That can be a challenge. Regardless, having a clear understanding of expectations so you know exactly what you are walking into is important

29 October 2019 Helpful answer


Kevin Murphy, MSW Elgin, SC

Hello Erika,

This question is as personalized as you are meaning each transition is different for each person with that said there are some commonalities that you cannot overlook. Culture is huge with any change be it careers, location, position the list goes on. The responses on here are all fabulous answers to help you leverage how you engage in the next step. One area that I think many people fail in during this transition is focus and purpose. Many transitioning service members are looking at salary, responsibility, leadership, and location. Internal self-reflection and considering what your purposes is and the tools required that will lead you to the role you seek. If you would like to talk about this further please call me at 631.796.2247. I have also written some articles on this on Linkedin I hope this helps you find some balance. No one Walks alone, please let me know if I can be of any assistance.
All the Best


Chester Holland Trenton, NJ

There is no one size fits all answer to such a complex question. Depending on your level of knowing the differences of how you are surroundings in civilian setting. There are ways for you to take control of your abilities to adapt and create a life that you want. Look into an E business that can give you some financial freedom. You can look at different way to do so. Save money for your little business like your saving for a car. If you youtube different business model for free and there some businesses you can purchase software that will give you an edge on how to capitalize on the demand of certain merchandise. But the whole thing is to talk to people. Folks really don't understand what Vet have gone thru or going thru, but there are thoughs of us who take care of our own. Remember you are a part of a force bigger than the uniform and your contribute has paid the price for its wards.


Jo Prabhu Long Beach, CA

I have found that transition is not just difficult for veterans but its also civilian Corporations that do not have inclusionary or sustainable processes and programs for those who have served. It takes many years of adjustment for both sides and I suggest it would be easier to first sign up for various types of jobs through a temp agency and once you find a role in an industry you will enjoy, enroll in the training that will get you there.


Price Jason Weehawken, NJ

Hi everyone. There is a lot of good advise here. I'll add that you should start doing your research on industries you are interested in and preparing for the required skills needed (ie. technical training, college courses, etc.). Start this process 6 - 12 months prior. As a recruiter and head of our vets assoc programs, I'm impressed when a vet has done their homework and is knowledgeable of my firm and it's offerings. As mentioned by others Linked-In may be your most valuable tool for networking and finding opportunity. If you have a mentor ask them to make introductions on your behalf.


John Parker, MBA, MSIS Vacaville, CA

As soon as you leave the military you should make seeing your nearest Veteran Employment Service Office (VESO) a priority. They should be able to prepare you for civilian employment including advising you correctly on how to apply for federal and local city gov't jobs. They have inside information on openings in your area as well.


Ryan Brown Melbourne, FL

You have some really good advice. The things that helped me were: volunteering in the local community, reaching out to people on Linkdln and finding industry events to attend.

Please feel free to message me if you have anymore questions or need a little more guidance. Happy to help!



Doug Frohman Chicago, IL

First of all, thank you for your service. Veterans don’t hear that enough and the general US
public may appear like over-fed dream walkers compared to the adventure, danger, personal courage you and your fellow soldiers, sailors, Marines & Fliers have seen and
demonstrated on behalf of our country.

My professional background is in business & partner development, executive sales for online marketing and digital advertising firms, as well as being a professional artist & curator for the past 20+ years. If I can help you succeed in your transition to landing a great job in the private sector, I feel it is the least I can do given what you’ve done for our country.

Here are some suggestions -

- Decide what kind of work you want to do. What do you enjoy? What areas did you excel at
during your military career? Sit down in a comfortable setting and write a paragraph in
response to these questions.

- Next, reverse roles and look at yourself from the point of view of the hiring authority who
will assess and potentially decide on whether you get hired. Think about what they value?
What's important to them? to their role as gate-keeper for selecting new members of the
team to hire. Think about how they are compensated. These insights should inform how
you present yourself, both in person and on any written applications or assessments they
ask for.

- Next, put together your resume. You put your contact info at the top. You follow with a
paragraph such as I suggested above where you present your strengths, abilities and
accomplishments as they are relevant to the position you want.

- Next, scour the major Employment sites online,,, others for the
kind of position you're interested in. Even better, go to some of the company's online
websites. They all have Career tabs. Check them out to see what kind of positions they're

- In addition, get familiar with to research the companies you're interested in.

- Check and see if there are any of your former colleagues, friends, people you knew in the
military, in school you can tap into as potential allies, references, boosters.

- When you've identified the position(s) you're interested in and set up an appointment for
an interview, role-play, practice with a friend or family member. It will help you relax when
you go for the actual interview.

- Last, if you would like me to review your resume I would be happy to help in that way.
You needn't put any personally identifying information on it as you normally would. Just
your name & email. Mine is Doug Frohman - e.

Best of luck and let me know,



John Faber Arlington, VA

Hi Erica,

I recommend picking up a copy of the book "Mission Transition" by Matthew Louis. It will help provide a lot of useful information and advice to find post military career success. Please feel free to reach out if I can be of assistance.



Deanna Corbett Winter Garden, FL

Try to narrow your focus down to the career you're aiming to have and a particular industry. Find people who work in those roles and ask them to do an informational interview so you can learn about the job responsibilities, the training, education, or certifications required, and understand what the day-to-day is like.

Think about where your aspirations lie and the career trajectory you want to have - and make a rough plan for how you will get there based on your informational interviews.

So many companies have veterans programs that include training, certifications, and onboarding specifically designed to make the transition easier and ensure your success.

Surround yourself with people who support you, encourage you, guide you, and root for your success.

Best of luck!


Lowell Sandoval Seattle, WA

Erica, Good morning,

Your service is much appreciated.

You are probably familiar with the STAR Method for breaking down a few of your key accomplishments. This is a common tool for project managers. Please do the following exercise and it will enable me to know how to help you better.

S – Situation: When the effort was handed over to you to resolve or manage, what were its challenges, resources applied, dollars impacted, declines in progress
T – Tasks: Based on its status at that time, what were you asked by its stakeholders to accomplish? What was the finish line?
A – Action: Based on what needed to get done, what action did you take to drive it to the finish line. What did you have to overcome on the way?
R – Results Due to your actions, what results were realized from your efforts and by you mobilizing your team to execute upon your directives

In the civilian corporate world it is important for you to clearly state your individual successes and accomplishments outside of the team effort. The STAR method needs to be stated in the first person of… I did this and it resulted in xyz. The employer must be able to clearly see your individual contributions separated from the team effort. This enables the company to see how you personally as an individual can impact the task at hand that they want you to attack. Hope this makes sense.

Please break out your top four most prized and different situations that you personally took on and drove across the finish line, and then apply the STAR method to them. This will enable you to address questions in your interviews clearly.


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

Erica I could not find your profile on LinkedIn? With 90% of recruiters using LinkedIn, you may wish to consider this professional social networking tool. Connect with Michael Quinn, from E & Y, and read his posts. There are a lot of on line tools to set up a good profile, along with a number of group forums. I am enclosing an article about the do's and what not to do on profiles. Thanks for your service and God Bless.


Erica Destinvil Tacoma, WA

Thank you very much for the recommendations.


Phillip Gold Ogden, UT

The transition from military to civilian life may be difficult, but it is temporary. It’s important to understand that the transition is also rewarding. It’s a chance to start a new life, through a different lens – a military to civilian lens. This lens makes you one of a kind because there will be days where you will look upon your military experiences and be thankful for what you’ve accomplished. And, you’ll think about how the military makes you appreciate the smallest aspects of life that even civilians take for granted.

When a veteran seeks help from the proper sources, he or she will discover support in re-integrating into civilian life again. Some military to civilian transition support programs and resources include:


USAA’s Leaving the Military site ( provides tools and checklists to help with military separation.

**Empire Resume**

Provides military to civilian resume writing ( and support blog to help translate military skills to the civilian workforce.


A digital military community( of veterans, servicemembers and their families that offers tools for the entire military lifecycle.

**Robert Half**

Robert Half’s Veterans Initiative( connects veterans and separated servicemembers with career options.

**Troops to Teachers**

The Troops to Teachers program ( veterans and transitioning service members begin careers in schools.

Some best practices include:

- Establishing a support group of veterans
- Confronting and expressing your feelings
- Taking care of your health and setting a routine
- Being proud of your military service

I hope this gives you some guidance on your transition.

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