Many veterans fail to anticipate the dramatic change that will occur in their personal finances when they transition from military service. On average, most service members will take a pay cut of 25% to prove themselves. For most, it takes months longer than originally anticipated for their job search to prove fruitful. Across the board, most service members face a steep learning curve when it comes to new realities like taxable income, cost of living, medical insurance, or navigating veteran benefits.
Here’s a harsh reality. Transitioning service members will emerge from active duty far ahead of their civilian peers. But the truth is, just because a person didn’t serve in the military didn’t mean s/he wasn’t out building a career. While you were in the service, they were working their way through entry level jobs, developing skills and networking within their fields. That doesn’t mean that you’re behind your peers – just that your skillsets are different from theirs. So you’re going to need to play a bit of catch up with your civilian peers.
Don’t underestimate the competitive nature of the job market. There’s going to be a gap between your experience and the skills that hiring managers want. But, it’s possible to close that gap utilizing the skills that you’ve just spent a career developing.
How? By being humble and keeping an open mind. You might have to start lower in the civilian sector than you would like. But by working harder than the rest of your peers, you’re going to begin to set yourself apart.
Remember that when you enter the civilian sector, you’re going to have to start selling yourself. It’s the anthesis of what you’ve been training to do in service, but it’s a skill that your civilian counterparts are very comfortable doing. The good news here is that you actually have a lot of experience doing the same thing, you just might not realize it. Any time you advocated for a subordinate, or working with your team to create a plan of action, you were exercising your selling tactics. You can translate this to your interviews by telling your story. Just make sure you practice it – over and over again, so that it’s something comfortable, effortless, and familiar.
Over the course of your career, you’ve probably been thrown into countless situations where you had to learn on your feet. It’s something that many service members are rightfully proud of, and by all means, should be. A “Jack of all trades” mindset is essential in both garrison and combat situations but it can be a detriment in the civilian sector. By not putting your experience into terms that apply to the position you’re looking for, you might be closing doors without realizing it. The best course of action is to have a ready-made statement for every single person you meet. Just like practicing your story for hiring managers, it’s a great idea to have your personal statement at the ready so that you can quickly and easily pitch to anyone you happen to interact with who might know of companies who are hiring.
Make sure you’ve given significant thought to what you want to do with the next few years of your life. Your MOS doesn’t have to become your civilian industry if you’re not passionate about it. Whether or not you realize it, your time in service has become an enormous part of your identity, and this is something that you might need to redefine and expand as you transition out of military service. Your ability to be challenging and honest with yourself is going to make all the different in narrowing your job search and finding a career that will fulfill you in the same capacity as your time in service.