Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce
Moving from military to civilian life comes with its own unique set of hurdles; prepare for the journey with tips from someone who’s been there before.
Your journey in the civilian workforce will be different from the military lifestyle you’ve grown accustomed to. At U.S. Bank, we recognize that military members and veterans have different working styles, skills and priorities than other civilians might, and we celebrate those differences as strengths. Adam Naryka, Marine Corps veteran and Military and Segment Strategy Lead at U.S. Bank shares his tips and insights for a smoother, more successful transition from military to civilian life.
The skills you acquired while in the military are valuable to the civilian workforce, but it will take some translating to make sense of your strengths in this new environment.
Think about what you did while on active duty, and how those skills are transferable. What you learned while on active duty can be categorized as either hard or soft skills, both of which are valuable in the civilian workplace.
Hard skills include technical expertise, program knowledge and physical abilities, while soft skills could mean good customer service, attention to detail or leadership qualities. If you’re having difficulty determining what your soft and hard skills are, consider taking a self-assessment test to uncover your strengths and interests.
Knowing what you’re good at is one thing but understanding how your skills translate is another. While your soft and hard skills can be applied to a wide number of jobs, there are some industries that non-active military tend to gravitate to.
Fields like healthcare and education are good places for those who enjoy mission-based work, while natural leaders might feel more at home in government or public administration. Learn about career options available to you by looking online or connect with other veterans who have made the transition themselves.
When asked about his own transition from military to civilian life, Naryka said that the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to stay connected to your people. “Get in touch with the community again,” Naryka said. “Don’t leave the service completely behind. Get in touch with those who have been there, done that. They’ve walked the same walk.”
This next part of your life will involve a lot of learning: about your desired field and yourself. When applying for higher education like college or trade school, be sure to take advantage of all the resources available to you. Depending on the length of your service, the G.I. Bill may be able to fund your schooling. Ask your VA office about medical care. “You may get healthcare assistance,” explained Naryka. “That may come in handy if you are unemployed. Don’t skip on these resources, they’re there for you.”
While it may be a new practice for you, networking is also an important part of nurturing your career path. Making a LinkedIn profile can help you connect with your acquaintances and peers and stay abreast of job openings and movement in your desired field. Most importantly, Naryka expressed, is that you “talk to the community to learn about companies that are veteran friendly. You’ll have a better chance of getting to do the things you liked doing in the service.”
Connect with your local VA to see if they offer separation classes or workshops. Naryka noted that while these are helpful resources, you’ll have to look outside of the VA for the full picture of what life in the civilian workforce is like. Consider talking to people on the outside for more details on the reality of the current workforce. Your VA will be able to connect you to a Transition Assistance Program which can provide you with resources and training to prepare you for this next chapter.
When asked what recent veterans should know about transitioning from military to civilian life, Naryka pressed using your resources and leaning on the camaraderie of your community. “That is the thing that, universally, military members miss—that brotherhood, sisterhood, fellowship. It’s an automatic level of trust.” Naryka goes on to encourage staying connected, as your military community will be able to relate in a way that others won’t. “Those relationships are going to be great for settling into civilian life. That’s going to make it easier for you to transition.”
While this time in your life might evoke feelings of displacement or loneliness, finding a place to work where your peers and management understand your history and working style will help ease this transition. When job hunting, look for companies that actively support veterans; this kind of information is usually mentioned on the “About” page of the company website.
Your work culture will be an important part of your overall well-being. the importance of culture. Said Naryka, “It’s amplified when you come from the military because some things don’t translate. In the military, it’s not hard to find someone to give you feedback or tell you you’re screwing up, but it can be difficult to get that from civilian life. Companies should understand that military people need direct contact, and you can ask for that.”
The cadence and structure of civilian life is different from your previous life in active duty. As Naryka explained, one of the major differences deals with your sense of self-importance. “In military culture, from day one it’s not about you anymore. There’s no “I” in military. Companies struggle when hiring veterans because they don’t often talk about themselves, because of the culture they came from. It’s an admirable quality, but vets must learn that’s it’s okay to ‘eat first’ when they are in career transition. It’s okay to talk about yourself when you’re looking for a job.”
Finding your place in an unstructured world will be an adjustment, but patience with and trust in yourself will go a long way.