Written by Sara Furlong
Maybe you’re ready to make the transition from military life to family. Maybe your separation is already scheduled. Maybe you’re worried about drawdown and how you would get by if it happened to your family.
Making the transition from military to civilian life can be daunting – and exciting! – for the whole family. Below are a few tips to help you get on the right foot for a successful transition.
- Start early!
Don’t wait until the week before separation to start planning your new life. According to a leading veteran employment firm, you should begin preparing one year before your transition to ensure you have time to discover the best options for your family, keep transition costs to a minimum, and use your military benefits to the fullest.
- Cultivate options.
As you embark on this new chapter, you’re going to want to explore as many options as possible to ensure your family finds its best possible situation. Luckily, there are lots of cost-free services available to help military families transitioning to civilian life.
Be sure to check out military job boards, placement firms, job fairs, and the military Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and Army Career and Alumni Program. It’s also important to reach out and make connections with veterans in the career world. Try your VFW and military associations and be sure to contact every former military person you know to let them know you’re looking for a new career.
Oh – and once you find yourself loaded with options, be sure to investigate them all thoroughly!
- Make the most of your military move.
So many families use their military move to head straight for their home town. While this is certainly understandable, it’s not always the best choice. There may be significantly better opportunities available to you in other places and not having to pay to move for your new job would be a great thing.
Plus, many companies pay for employees’ relocation. Having a military move that could save a company your moving expenses could give you an advantage over your competition and tip the scales in your favor. It could also be a nice bargaining chip when negotiating salary and benefits.
- Sign up for gap insurance.
If it takes some time after separation for you or your spouse to find a job, there could be a period of time when your family isn’t covered by insurance. Military health insurance coverage usually ends on the day the service member is discharged. By signing up for gap insurance, you can make sure your family is covered throughout your transition.
- Get your papers in order.
Now is the time to start getting your and/or your spouse’s resume in order.
Be sure to include any special awards, honors, training, leadership roles, and responsibilities you’ve earned during service or past employment. Haven’t been working for a while? (Or even a long while!) Don’t worry. Make a list of every organization you’ve been involved with, any volunteering you’ve done, and any experiences you’ve had that might add to your value as an employee but that might be unusual for civilians. (For example, you might be able to say foreign travel in the military has made you comfortable interacting with diverse groups of people.)
Brainstorm any skills that you might have displayed or acquired through the items on your list. Include them in a well-crafted cover letter when you apply to jobs, explaining whenever possible how those skills will help you perform that job well.
Helping your spouse to prepare their resume? Remember to remove as much military lingo as possible. Most civilian employers probably won’t understand it. Also, help your spouse to keep from being too modest. The military mentality stresses the team over the individual, so service members can sometimes be reluctant to talk up their accomplishments. Make sure they highlight their achievements, knowledge, and experience and explain how they make them an exceptional job candidate.
- Clean up your internet persona.
It’s a fact of life that job recruiters, hiring managers, and employers now check out their candidates on social media to weed out any candidates whose personal lives raise red flags.
Get ahead of the curve by logging into every one of your social media accounts and removing anything even slightly questionable. While you’re at it, share a few links to articles about recent developments in your industry of choice. This will show the person reviewing your profiles that you will be truly interested and engaged in the job. Applying to jobs in numerous industries? Make posts highlighting any volunteer work you’re involved with or share links to articles that demonstrate good character.
Once you’ve cleaned up your accounts, sit down with your spouse and help them to do the same.
- Take advantage of military education benefits.
College is a great way to ease the transition from military to civilian life and to prepare active duty service members and their spouses for new careers. And the best part? There are tons of military education benefits available to help make it super affordable.
The G.I. Bill offers significant tuition assistance, whether your spouse is still serving or already discharged. If your goal is to prepare your family for a future transition, you might want to take advantage of the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program which will afford you with funding for many great educational and job training opportunities.
The first step is to find out what benefits you qualify for and how many college credits your spouse has earned through their experience and training in the military. (Yes, military service often earns you college credits!)
Once you’ve requested this information, start searching for military scholarships and programs that may interest you at military-friendly colleges. What’s a military-friendly college? These schools will not only honor your education benefits – they’ll also provide important services that will ensure you get the most out of your experience. Even more important, many of them offer reduced tuition for military veterans, service members, and their families.
For instance, Pace University is widely ranked as one of the most military-friendly schools. They offer impressive military discounts, host special military admissions events that speed up the process, and you can even estimate your college costs with Pace’s handy online tool.
Trident University International is a military-friendly college that provides military education grants that decrease the cost of tuition up to 36% for veterans, service members, and their dependents. Trident also has a Military Assistance Center that is knowledgeable about all aspects of education during and after the military. They’ll help you identify and take advantage of all available opportunities and lower your costs as much as possible. (Sometimes as much as 100%!)
Below is a list of military-friendly colleges that may be helpful as you begin your research:
- Ask for help when you need it.
There are so many services available to help service members and their families with everything from finding jobs, getting into good schools, or coping with the complex emotions that can sometimes accompany switching over to civilian life. Seeking help and overcoming issues before they get too big is always the best approach. So don’t hesitate! Contact your Veterans Affairs office (VA) if you find yourself struggling.
- Look into joining the reserves.
This is a great option if your spouse is having a hard time wrapping their brain around not serving and wearing that uniform. And it’s simple. They can transfer to the reserves without making a commitment that will conflict with any job they may take in the future. However, the money they could make by committing for a certain number of years could also make your family more secure as you pursue employment options and get settled into your new life. Either way, joining the reserves can ease the mental shift required when one goes from military to civilian life.
- Stay positive!
Embarking on any new life situation can be daunting. Just remember that it is perfectly normal to be nervous, but that you and your family will be just fine. There are so many companies out there that are clamoring to hire veterans and loads of educational opportunities available for military families. So, while you may be apprehensive, you should get excited, too! Now is the time for your family to pursue your dreams, move any place you want, and spend lots of quality time together. Do your best to stay positive and focus on all of the ways this change will be great for your family.
Did you and your family make the transition from military to civilian life? Leave your tips and stories in the comments below!