What Factors Make the Military-to-Civilian Transition Difficult?

Liz McLean
G.I. Jobs
line of soldiers in gear walking towards helicopters on a dessert airbase

One question that is frequently asked on social media channels and networks by veterans planning on getting out is: “What factors are the most difficult to navigate in the military-to-civilian transition? How can I make it easier for me?”

Leaving the camaraderie, adjusting to new medical benefits, dealing with relocation, questioning financial worth and overall adjustment issues are commonplace worries. Trying to make this new civilian journey without guidance can seem nearly impossible.

While there are not really black-and-white answers to these types of questions and I rarely give public service announcements, there are a few options that have been on my radar lately. One is the self-service one-stop shop that G.I. Jobs provides through all of its transition resources, including the military transition readiness quiz and military-to-civilian pay calculator.

Another program that has generated encouraging feedback from veterans encountering these intimidating factors is American Corporate Partners (ACP). ACP is a non-profit program dedicated to assisting veterans in their transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce. With the help of business professionals nationwide, ACP offers veterans tools for long-term career development through mentoring, career counseling and networking opportunities.

For all intents and purposes, with ACP’s Advisory Council being an all-star cast, I feel that program truly helps provide a streamlined level of guidance, different from a placement firm or typical non-profit service. Atypical from some of the other 40,000 veteran organizations in existence, ACP provides a solid level of non-profit mentorship that is backed by some of the nation’s finest leaders.

Transition resources help veterans overcome various issues that tend to make their transition difficult to navigate, such as the following:

  • Relying on one’s MOS/military job code to define a career path
  • Relying on an outsider’s perspective on what fields he/she should be interested in
  • Generalizing what civilian career fields look like, and making assumptions on where he/she belongs

 

Personalized guidance is also likely to help you avoid some common pitfalls associated with transitioning out of the military:

Directly translating your skills: An MOS shouldn’t define a veteran’s civilian career. For many transitioning veterans, one of the starting points on the road to the corporate workplace is translating the skills they obtained in the military into their civilian equivalents. However, most civilian jobs require an assortment of various soft skills in order to succeed in the industry.

Gaining insight into a career field: Many veterans going through transition only have an outsider’s perspective on specific career fields they find interesting. Civilians have the ability to finish their studies in their early twenties and take time to explore various career opportunities while they are still young adults. Enlisted personnel and junior officers can feel more pressure to start a career as they’re often in their late twenties or early thirties come transition time. Mentors can offer more in-depth perspective of particular fields to help veterans narrow their options and plan their next steps.

Setting proper expectations for a civilian career: Rather than having learned about various career paths through first-hand experience, veterans may only have a general understanding of specific jobs that can lead to incorrect expectations. In the media, some careers may be known for their generous paychecks, but not for their lack of work and life balance or long hours. A mentor’s firsthand experience, passed on to a veteran, can help set the correct expectations. To get an inside look at Military Friendly® Employers, check out our job posting for veterans board.

Identifying challenges ahead of time makes the military-to-civilian transition an easier course to traverse and increase the likelihood of success. Realizing that asking for help is a sign of strength, rather than weakness, is the veteran’s first step to conquering the challenges.

Step two is accepting the help to navigate the troubled waters. Chances are, tapping into professionals with experience will help avoid delays in creating a successful future in the civilian world.