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How to Find Your First Civilian Job After Active Duty

Feb 14, 2022

Veteran at desk reading

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Whether you’ve spent two years in the military or twenty, getting out can be intimidating. The military offers structure and a clear hierarchy. In the civilian workforce, job titles are vague and it’s harder to know where your strengths fit in.

Just like everything else, transitioning from active-duty military to a civilian career takes planning and preparedness. You can’t just step into the private sector expecting employers to understand military jargon and appreciate your accomplishments. You need to identify civilian career opportunities that match your skills and market yourself to show employers what they gain from hiring a military veteran.

How do military skills translate to the civilian sector?

In the private sector, military veterans are known for their:

  • Respect and discipline.
  • Ability to work as a team.
  • Leadership skills.
  • Resilience and adaptability.

Technical skills are harder to translate to the civilian market. Veterans can get help finding certifications and licenses related to their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) with the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program. With COOL you can identify the credentials you need to transition to a civilian career and get help paying for them with Credentialing Assistance. Each branch of the military has its own COOL website which you can find here.

What types of jobs are available for military veterans?

  • Government or public administration.
  • Defense contracting.
  • Healthcare
  • Information Technology.
  • Education
  • Financial Services
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation and warehousing.

Don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects. You have a range of talents that could translate to a private sector career. Are you a great manager who thrives under pressure? Managing high-end and trendy restaurants is a lucrative career in the right areas. Did you learn a foreign language while stationed overseas? Start a freelance business as a translator or language tutor. You may ask yourself, “How much do translators make?” Skilled translators can earn upwards of $25 to $35 an hour. Other unconventional and high-paying jobs for military veterans like becoming an air traffic controller, for example, and getting licensed in specific trade crafts.

How do you write a resume for your first job after active duty?

You’ve set your career trajectory, acquired credentials, and now you’re ready to land your first job after military service. But for veterans who have never had a civilian career, the next step is the hardest.

Applying for jobs requires more than blindly sending out resumes. You need to do your due diligence. Tailor your resume to each position, practice interview skills, and research prospective employers to identify places you’d like to work. The Patriots’ Initiative makes the last step easy with a vetted listof companies and training organizations for transitioning warriors and veterans.

When writing your resume, highlight military skills but avoid using military jargon that recruiters won’t understand. Instead, use stories and achievements to illustrate your interpersonal, leadership, and technical skills. To take it to the next level to stand out and/or better help share your unique story and attributes applicable to the role you are applying for, consider including a cover letter to accompany your resume. You have unique experiences – help showcase them!

What programs exist to support transitioning service members?

The Department of Labor’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is the primary program providing information and training to service members transitioning from active duty to the private sector. TAP helps veterans pursue higher education, find a job, or start a business after military service through individualized counseling and a readiness-focused curriculum. TAP starts no later than one year prior to separation and culminates no later than 90 days before separation.

Other career readiness resources for transitioning service members and veterans include:

You might not have experience in the civilian workforce, but you do know how to set a strategy, do the work, and execute a plan. At the end of the day, that’s what finding your first job after military service is all about. Use these tips to launch your career after active duty and when you need help identifying military-friendly opportunities, come to The Patriots Initiative for a list of employment and educational programs that passed our rigorous vetting process.


Guest blog piece authored by Kelli Brewer of http://deploycare.org/.Important Disclosure: This information has been provided for educational or informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be construed as consultative advice. The Patriots Initiative is not responsible for the accuracy of any third-party information, nor any sites or organizations that are referenced via trackbacks or html links. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. The Patriots Initiative has exercised all reasonable professional care in preparing this information. The information has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however, The Patriots Initiative has not independently verified, or attested to, the accuracy or authenticity of the information provided by third parties. The Patriots Initiative is not responsible for the accuracy of any third-party information on this Website, nor any sites that are referenced via trackbacks or html links.

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