Leaving the military can be both exhilarating and frightening. The rigid, disciplined military culture can be stifling to some, but unlike the civilian world, it is secure. Some veterans easily transition into civilian life while others have more difficulty. With this new found freedom comes the often overwhelming task of adjusting to a completely new life without the structure and support of the military system. If you or your family member is transitioning into civilian life, there are several steps that can be taken to assure success in the civilian world.
Motivation is not hard to find in the military. If service members do not show up for work, they will get chewed out by theirsuperiors and spend the next week on extra duty trimming hedges or answering phones all night at the staff desk. The military environment is not often conducive to self discovery. The service member is assigned and trained for a career specialty and typically expected to perform that job throughout their career.
Motivation in the civilian world comes from finding one's passion. Love debating issues with people? Then consider law. A great cook? Then culinary school might be the route to take. There are many popular books, such as "What Color is your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles, or "The Pathfinder" by Nicholas Lore, that can help veterans discover their talents and interests. There are also many career websites that that offer in-depth information about various career paths.
An advanced education prepares veterans for the job market. Veterans should take advantage of their GI Bill benefits and enroll in an education or job training program. The new Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a significant increase in education benefits. Veterans with at least 90 days of service on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible for 36 months of maximum in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, a monthly housing allowance, and an annual book stipend of $1,000. Once accepted into a Veterans Affairs (VA) approved program, they can apply for benefits at the VA website. Once the veteran contacts the VA certifying official at their school they can begin receiving their well-deserved checks.
Transfer Job Skills
Veterans often underestimate the valuable experience they have gained in the military. Since civilian employers will probably not know what a military job involved, it is important to translate military experience into terms they understand. Was the veteran a squad leader? Then they have training and supervisory skills. Did they plan and organize a mission? This could be described as project management and team building. Did they prepare and conduct briefs for higher command? This is research, analysis, and communications experience. Many employers, however, already recognize and value military experience. A list of civilian employers seeking to hire veterans is available at the Army Transition website.
Veterans trained hard, worked even harder, and risked their lives for their country. They should to take pride in their accomplishments and use their veteran status to their advantage. Many government agencies give 5-10 preference points to veteran job applicants and the VA home loan guaranty program assists with obtaining home loans. On Veteran's Day many hotels, family attractions, and restaurants offer deals for veterans. Other businesses such as Lowe's, Home Depot, and most hotels and amusement parks offer military discounts year round.
Veterans deserve to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices they and their families have made to keep this country safe!