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Any tips for transitioning to civilian life?


Kyleigh Stennis Waipahu, HI

Looking to transition to civilian life within the next 9 months.

13 May 2020 18 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Saul Gomez Chesapeake, VA

Simply put:

Establish and grow your Linked In network. I can’t tell you more stress the importance of this; “thee job” will likely emerge from your network.

Refine, review, refine your resume; repeat-it’s a living, breathing thing.

Soak up everything you can from free content and webinars; use free resources like Onward To Opportunity for credentials (SHRM, IT, PMP, etc...).

Interview prep as often as you can; work on active listening skills and find out what your body language and facial quirks are.

I’m available to help! I started this journey 14 months ago, and am down to my last 3.5’s getting real and my problems are staying in the Navy longer vs taking the phenomenal job offer I got.

20 May 2020 Helpful answer


Deb Yeagle Tampa, FL

Hi Kyleigh!
Thanks for your service!
And congratulations on taking the initiative to prepare for your transition early!
Here are my recommended first steps:
(1) Get into a TAP class ASAP.
(2) Find an ACP Mentor to help guide you through the transition process.
(3) Develop a written transition plan with goals and timelines.
(4) Think about what IT specialties you’d like to focus on based on what you are most passionate about:
(a) Is it cybersecurity? – then check out Fortinet (
(b) Is it cloud? – then check out Amazon AWS ( and Splunk (
(c) Is it web development / software programming? – then check out Vets Who Code ( and Operation Code (
(5) Start self-development using the resources referenced above to obtain as many certifications as possible in IT and your desired specialization before you transition. Have you used Navy COOL? (
(6) Start researching potential companies you’d like to work for based on your IT specialization.
(7) Start building your network (virtually) by developing a profile on Linked In and connecting with people who work in these targeted companies, then began interacting with them through Linked In or virtual networking events to build relationships.
(8) Begin to storyboard a video about yourself that you can produce to serve as a companion to your resume (which you can build for free using Hire Heroes USA - - and then refine and tailor based on help from your mentor). This is a unique piece of advice given the current COVID-19 pandemic as a way to provide recruiters with insight into your “fit” with their company and culture, especially now when F2F interviews are not being held. Think about how you can make a great first “virtual” impression on recruiters through this video so that they will positively screen your resume and forward it on to HR / hiring authorities. Producing this video will help you be more comfortable and prepare you for participating in virtual job fairs, which have become the norm.

Good luck!

18 May 2020 Helpful answer


Jason Kugel Yulee, FL

First and foremost, start working the word "civilian" out of your vocabulary. Especially once you are out, use of the word can be seen as condescending, elitist, or disrespectful. Use words like "agency" "industry" "field" etc... to describe your interest in a company without adding civilian in any way.

Second, look into a program like Operation New Uniform

You've already gotten some fantastic advice. It's important you gather intel so you can explain exactly why and how you would benefit a company that hires you. Know as much as humanly possible what a place you want to work is all about. Climate, culture, focus, employee programs, operations, benefits- tell them why hiring you is smart. I've been told the resume is basically bait. Its there to make the hiring authority say to themselves "I've gotta meet this person." So while of course you highlight certain things in a resume, try to leave room for HR to develop questions they want to ask. Finally, send me an email and I will send you an amazing list of questions to have on hand when they ask you "Do you have any questions for us?"

19 May 2020 Helpful answer


John Faber Arlington, VA

Hi Kyleigh,

You are making the right step by asking this question. Have you already gotten a mentor with ACP? I would start there.

Aside from general advice, the only one who can help you is yourself. What do you want to do? Try to find employment that excites you not just one that provides for you. Though getting a job just to pay the bills may be necessary for the first position transitioning out of the military to get you to where you want to go.

Where do you want to live? Different locations provide more or better opportunities.

Who do you want to work with? This last question is difficult and often gets overlooked. This can be a great starting point as it helps you identify people that you enjoyed interacting with in the past to reach out to as you begin your transition. Who you work with and who you work for all play a bigger part in your job satisfaction and career success than the company you work at.

Also, read articles or books on transitioning from the military. I recommend Mission Transition. Best of luck with your transition and I wish you the best in your new career!


13 May 2020 Helpful answer


Christine Kuffel Westchester, IL


Thank you for your service.

Lot of great advice about career and work.
From a wellness standpoint - honor your feelings, talk to people about what you're feeling, try to journal or art journal (if you're not into writing), and take time to reflect.


Robert Lamaster Meridian, ID

One additional point. Many of us didn't join the perfect job straight out of the military. The transition time can be hectic, with a lot of other things going on. Often times, we have to relocate from an overseas post, move closer to family, and deal with other issues related to establishing our after-the-military lives.

For my transition, there wasn't enough time to find my long-term career. In fact, I didn't even know what that career will be. Don't be afraid to get a job in the interim doing something related to your interests, but not necessarily perfect. For me, I knew I wanted to work in the IT field. So, to put food on the table, I got a job doing IT for a local school district. The pay wasn't great, but the job was easier to get, and the experience I gained there gave me a better understanding of what part of IT I enjoyed the most. Once I had that answer, I devoted as much time as I could to learning and emphasizing that IT discipline. After a couple of years of gaining knowledge and experience, I then set out to find my current job in the location I wanted and doing what I was passionate about.

So, my overall advise here is to use one employer to give you time and experience and refine your focus. Be committed to continuous learning. You can repeat this process as many times as necessary (over your entire life) to learn, grow, and focus-in on what you want to do.


Matthew Anzalone Melbourne, FL

I would be happy to help what career industry or job are you looking at? Do you currently have a resume for me to review and what is your current knowledge of your benefits. I have used almost every VA benefit they offer and have a deep knowledge of how to take advantage of them so please just reach out to me.


Griselda Hall Olympia, WA


Chad Harris Leavenworth, KS

A few thoughts on Transition:

1. Use the resources of the Transition Assistance Office – take the mandatory week long class, and the LinkedIn class and then take any others that seem relevant to your situation.
2. Apply to the Corporate Fellowship Program or one of the training programs offered by the Transition Assistance Office. It will help you break from your duties and get focused on transitioning. It will also help with the job search / transition.
3. Use American Corporate Partners or Hire Heroes USA mentor programs to help with your resume and interview skills. They provide mentors you can talk to if you need/want it.
4. Civilianize your stock resume and make it look like you have a lot of experience doing the types of job (& job titles) you intend to search for later. In my case, everything focused on what a project or program manager might do. I changed job titles to civilian equivalents and used civilian terms as much as I could. One person still told me it was “too military” even then. Rewrite bullets to include language straight from the job posting to help beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS – the software that scans your resume – if you don’t get at least a 75% match to what it is designed to find, humans don’t see your resume). Jobscan & tagcrowd can help.
5. “Build your network” was a challenge for me even after I figured out that it doesn’t just mean LinkedIn and Facebook. More importantly, your network is the group of people who you talk to routinely. This can be via email, chat and phone calls. It is those you see face to face (prior to the COVID outbreak). Who do you see at lunch, have coffee with, drinks with – that is your network. I suggest getting involved in a local group (or multiple) and talk to folks. People that can put in a referral for you, can talk to the HR manager and recommend an interview regardless of the ATS and people that can just hire you out right, they are the people who need to know you, and think you’re competent in the field you’re exploring. For me, the break was in Scouting, someone I know through a Troop put in a referral for me and told me how my profile on the company Talent Management Site (most companies have one) needed a change – I put in “willing to travel 20%” when I meant 80% because of a difference of opinion about what that means. Best if you know these people before you start looking. Be prepared to pay it back to someone else.
6. Know what employers want – one company wanted a PE for most positions, even when the posting didn’t explicitly state it as a requirement. If you don’t have the certification, get it or know someone who can waive it. For some, you can address a lack of a certification in your cover letter and that will get you a phone interview (I got one that way – even if it didn’t go much further).
7. Apply broadly. Don’t limit yourself to a small set of job titles, companies or industries. Our skills are in demand and apply to a variety of fields. You will need to explain how.

Good Luck!


Chris McFarland Toms River, NJ

Education is something that no one on the face of this planet can take away from you. As you pursue your education, do your own work, don't depend on mid term and final prep gouge which frats and sororities offer, but do socially engage with people wherever you get your education.
As you get your education, beware of what field you're going into, beware of your college or university's standing in that field, and what professional societies are in control of certification in the field you're looking at. For example, lawyers have the American Bar Association 'ABA' , doctors have the American Medical Association 'AMA', engineers have the Society of Auto and Aerospace Engineers, 'SAE', and business specialists have the American Society for Quality Control 'ASQC', the Project Management Institute, PMI, and offer business certifications you may need to even get considered, even with the degree, for work in those areas.
Education will open lots of surprising doors, and as you go thru the process, be ready for and study for, and get whatever certifications required for the work you're going into. You're going to find your past work in the military has prepared you amazingly well to excel in your college or university of choice.
Good luck, and you'll be sitting in class and studying someday getting great insight into a profession and the world you want to move into.


Tom Adam El Segundo, CA

One thing I absolutely recommend is that you (a) follow Michael Quinn on Linked In, and (b) use what he talks about to enhance your Linked In profile. Michael is a veteran, and is hands-down the master of Linked In for veterans and transitioning military. Hell, I've been a corporate recruiter for 24 years and even I listen to what he says.


Mark Lipscomb San Jose, CA

Hi Kyleigh,

Congrats on your upcoming transition! Good for you to start thinking about this now with 9 months to go. Obvious statement here but the world of work has changed dramatically in the past few months. Job losses are rippling through multiple industries and occupations. While it's nice to give advice to say "do what you love" I will offer a bit different perspective. If you can increase your education once you transition, do it! Take advantage of the military's GI bill when it comes to higher education. Harsh statement but a fact that workers without bachelor’s degrees are nearly twice as likely to hold vulnerable jobs- the pandemic has put the educational divide in our country in stark relief. If higher education isn't an option at this time, finding a good company where you can leverage your strengths and experiences is key. The great news is that your IT experience is in demand. Great advice above on interviewing tips, translating your military experience so that civilian recruiters can understand, make connections on LinkedIn, take all interviews so you can practice, practice, practice, be confident, and know that your Navy experience will serve you well for the rest of your life! Thank you, Go Navy, and good luck with your next chapter.


Jodie Prieto-Rodriguez Pittsburgh, PA

Aloha from Pittsburgh, PA! I'm From Ewa Beach originally, left in 98, been back a few times every 5-7 years or so. Getting out, do the following:

O get a mentor
O make a career plan
O make a budget (have 6 months of savings ready)
O translate your resume into "civilian-ese"
O get the highest degree you can or desire while it (few are as generous as the military)
O practice your elevator pitch
O practice virtual and face-to-face interviews
O get an interview outfit
O get business casual outfits for the work week
O get a business outfit for special events at work
O research your insurance options and compare
O ditch military jargon, abbreviations, etc...
O practice promoting yourself without using military slang or identifications
O use SFLTAP to the max, goto other service SFL TAPs if you can it helps
O use the LinkedIn Premium bonus for a year (it helps)
O try, try, try... to enjoy it... it will be a great and emotional occasion.

There is a lot to process when getting out, this is just a short list of things that may help professionally. I would also recommend doing you VA appointment and disability paperwork 6 months before discharge as it may take a while. Have fun with it and DM me if you have any specific questions.


Randy Leonard Evergreen, CO

If you find working in IT at all interesting, I would suggest looking into the many job functions available. I learned how to earn over $100k without a degree in a field that is often just Monday through Friday with great benefits and vacation. See it as one of the best opportunities for women. You can get in at entry level by studying and getting certifications. There are many resources and programs available online. Microsoft certifications in programming, networking, Office products, server systems, database, analytics, quality testing, desktop support can open the doors. Another benefit, especially now, is that in most IT jobs, you can work from home. There is so much opportunity - once you get in the door with a certification and a positive attitude, you will see that the sky is the limit. Your employer will pay for you to earn more certifications. Before long 'head hunters' will be begging you to come take another opportunity at higher pay.


Rob Gasperetti Locust Valley, NY

Hi Kyleigh,
Easy answer. Do what you love. Let your profession pick you instead of the other way around. You've had 9 years of good times/bad times! Now its your time to shine.


Joy Montgomery Pleasanton, CA

Join LinkedIn groups in your field of interest and engage in discussions where you can add value or learn. Pay attention to the size and activity of the group. Be careful about connections.

Check out IT courses here


June Webb Washington, DC

Hi Kyleigh,

I am a Transformation Coach. If you like you can join my network on and also check out my website to see what I do in helping people yo move from one stage on life to the next. Once you join my network there I can mentor you. I am based in District of Columbus and more active on that platform and have a greater network from all over the world.
Go to my website and click “CONNECt” and it will lead you to my profile on Linkedin.

Visionary Successful Guidance
June A. Webb


Tim Feemster Dallas, TX

John makes some good points, especially the mentor aspect of ACP. If there is a particular geography you would like to live in then that would be a first decision. Second is what job type you have the skills for from your Navy experience and schooling. Check with your base as they might have an office that works on this element of outreach beyond the military. Get involved with LinkedIn. Make a good profile and use a professional picture. Check out other people in your industry of choice in your geography of choice to see if you can network with them. Watch what you post on social media as recruiters now search that element of your life without even needing permission. Good luck.

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