Home Careers 3 Elements to a Successful Transition from Military to Civilian Career
3 Elements to a Successful Transition from Military to Civilian Career

3 Elements to a Successful Transition from Military to Civilian Career


ThinkstockPhotos-464973439By Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University

Given the planned reductions in active military personnel, there will be more soldiers transitioning to civilian life. For many, this will be a challenging transition. I have helped several military personnel transition to a civilian career and offer several successful strategies to make the process smoother.

There are three important elements that a solider needs to keep in mind. All three of these are important for a successful transition.

  • Determine the new career field
  • Build a transition team
  • Create a suitable civilian resume

Choosing a Career Field

For some, there will be a direct application of military experience to a civilian career. However, this is usually not the case.

Military duties and civilian careers can be so different that many times soldiers do not realize their true potential. It is important to look beyond their military occupational specialty or their specialty code to understand where a person’s experience will fit into a civilian career.

I remember in one case, a solider was a desert warfare specialist and he felt that his skill set might not translate into a civilian career. However, skills as a desert warfare specialist make for a good project manager, a state park peace officer (ranger), a search and rescue specialist, trainer for search and rescue, a role in homeland security, or working for an emergency organization.

[Related: College Degree Choice and Your Career]

Let Others Help You

Reach out and build a network of people that you can help and that can help you. Contact military buddies who have already transitioned and find out what they ended up doing. They might not have a job for you, but they can certainly tell you what they did, what worked, and what did not. Nothing is better than learning from someone who has already done it.

Reach out and network with at least one person a day, more if you can make the time. Don’t let yourself feel alone in this process. Think of networking as building a team for the mission of your transition; you need to have people that you can count on, just like any other military mission.

Write Your Resume

A conventional civilian job search requires that you have a resume that shows your experience. Your military title and roles might not make sense to a civilian recruiter, so make sure to spend some time to write out the details.

Your resume should illustrate how your experience makes you the best fit for the job that you are applying for. Avoid jargon and acronyms that civilians will not understand.

If you are affiliated with a college or university, there are likely resources available to assist with resume preparation. It is also a good idea to ask your transition team for resume tips as well as reviews.

[Related: Communicate Your Military Service and Skills to Employers]

Although all of these elements are important, the most important thing to remember is to never stop trying. Persistence always pays off. People that are persistent get more than those that give up too soon. It is not easy to do and means more work, but a successful transition only comes to those that are prepared and persistent.

About the Author: Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is the program director for the Reverse Logistics Management department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has more than 25 years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. Dr. Gordon earned his Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA.