Think about what your real passion and desire is. Remember the times when you were really interested and excited by something you were doing. Think about why you enjoyed it so much. What is it about the activity that you love? Or is where you did it?

It probably makes you feel good to remember. Choosing to do what you like is good for your self-esteem and is the key to your happiness. Therefore, figuring out where you want to go and why is so important.

This was my approach when I left the service. I wanted to be a baker, so I enrolled in Johnson & Whales culinary arts school want to fulfill my dream of owning a bakery. I was leaving the service with a wife (who ran a business we owned) a son in high school, another son in middle school and a daughter with special needs in elementary school.

We lived in a great area and all was good. I even had the GI bill for school life. However, reality set it real soon. I had failed to discuss relocation with my wife thinking she wanted to stay where we were (only to find out she wanted to go back home after travel with me for the past 20 years.).

Having decided to change my home of record to where we lived now meant no moving expenses for a future move either. Then a drastic drop in income came (going to school is not as profitable as one might think) first, followed by a lack of jobs in the area I wanted to pursue (assistant Baker) led me to re-evaluate my hasty decisions within the first year.

I had to leave college to find work and it took us a few years to get back on our feet and make the move I should have made originally. So, I offer the following information to help you avoid the trap I fell into when I left the service.

A lot of what makes a move a good fit lies in the details of the move. Do you have friends or family in the area? Knowing just one person, even an acquaintance or distant relative, can help you get settled in and feel less lonely in your new town. How portable is your career or your significant others career?

Reasons to find a job first! While the “leap before you look” approach ultimately worked for some, there are still good arguments to be made in favor of looking for a job first. You may be able to land a relocation stipend if you get a job offer in another city.

I was able to get one on my move back to Maine. The stipend didn’t cover every cent of our move, but it certainly reduced the cost by a lot. Housing is another reason to secure employment first, as landlords may be reluctant to rent to someone who is new to town and doesn’t have a job yet.

Finding a job first is certainly the safer route, and it can still enable you to relocate to the area of your choice. However, it can be difficult to job hunt from afar and some companies will be reluctant to contact a person who isn’t living in the area yet. You can begin your job search remotely by reaching out to people on LinkedIn and trying to build a professional network before you move. 

Choose a location where you can find employment but also one that matches your cultural and aesthetic interests. Will you buy or rent? Once you’ve decided on your new location, research, research, and research. It’s time to stretch those googling fingers. Get as much info on your new location as you can.

There are businesses you’ll like to work for as well as business you will need for yourself and family, bank, medical office, and insurance provider that you will need to start over? Nearest VA facility should you be eligible or need it? Types of schools for you to continue your education or your family’s educational needs. But also, there’s the stuff that makes life worth living. Local food spots, meetups, social events, and museums.

Look into your new states tax policies as well as laws that may be different and pertinent to your lifestyle. Remember all moves are expensive to some degree but moving to a new state or city without a job lined up can be especially hard on your bank account.

Take stock of your resources in advance and figure out how you will pay for the move itself as well as living expenses for the month or two it takes to find something permanent.

Things to consider: are there items you can sell? Do you own a house with equity? A car you won’t need or don’t want to take to your new home? From these big-ticket items to smaller possessions such as clothes, books, and furniture, sell anything you can in advance to build a stockpile of cash for your move.

The upside of selling things is that you won’t have to pay to move them, although you may still need to spend money furnishing your new place.

Remember the military has a weight limit based on paygrade on your finial move. Also, many are eligible for 6 months free storage of household goods when they make the move as well. Most important create a moving budget and stick to it from the information you find. Some other things to consider are listed below to help you with this new adventure you are about to embark on.

Start planning at least 180 days before separation.

  1. Transitioning Training-TAP Classes or Transitioning Classes offered by your base are great first step in preparing to leave the service. Utilize them as a go to get answers before you get out.
  2. Documents-Keep your important documents inside acid-free page protectors. These are files that can help you fill in your DD-214, the single most important document you’ll get when you leave the military, as well as your cover letter and resume. You should have performance reviews in this binder, as well as a list of your duty stations and addresses. Keep letters of recommendations, training certificates, and your awards here, too. Make sure your DD-214 is correct as this document is used for GI bill and benefits when you leave the service.
  3. Records-If you are unexpectedly released from service due to the recent drawdown, or for medical or legal reasons, a record of your projects, skill sets, and major tasks throughout your career is useful for resume building. Copies of important documents that you’ll need after the military should be kept safe and scanned, if possible. You never know when papers will get lost, records will get wiped out of a database, or your awards don’t make it into your service record. Getting a copy of your service record and medical record is the best option.
  4. Employment– You’ve made the decision to leave the military, now it’s time to make the most of it. Returning to civilian life can be a big change but like most things, a little planning can go a long way. You should make sure that there is employment in the area you are returning to. Many veterans have left the service thinking they would go to work in their home town only to find out there were no good paying jobs or jobs they were qualified for. Use WEB sites like INDEED or the local State unemployment sites to determine where the jobs are in the area you plan on moving to.
  5. Additional Training-If there’s an industry that you want to work in after the military, look at the skills you’ve already mastered. If you’re lacking in an area, see if you can get more training within the military or in a local college by using tuition assistance. You should start this as soon as possible.
  6. Managing Social Media-Have you checked your privacy settings? If you’re looking for a top-secret or high-profile job that requires above all else, good judgment and character, you may want to delete controversial photos and statements. Everyone checks social media these days before the conduct interviews.
  7. Make Good Choices-This goes without saying, but by the time you’re in your last couple of years in uniform, your record should be spotless. What if it isn’t spotless and you have a couple of questionable performance reviews that you can’t change? Sometimes you end up in a job where you and your supervisor never saw eye to eye, or you were the victim of the classic ranking boards where not everyone can be in the top 5%. Ask your current and past supervisor and mentors for their contact information and letters of recommendation attesting to your professional skills. Keep a list of peers and supervisors who can give you a character or professional reference if needed. Once you leave your last assignment it is very difficult to get references. Also get references from community organizations you were involved with.
  8. Be Prepared-Remember earlier I told you about the plan I had when I got off active duty. I was going to be a baker, that didn’t work out so well. Really, that was my plan and it fell apart big time after about a year in my civilian life. Veteran friends of mine whose transitions went more smoothly used the last six months of their service to search for real jobs, places to live or to apply to college long before they left the service.

Looking back, I realize the changes I would make if I could do this over again.  One of the biggest ones would have been discussing things with my wife to ensure that we were both on the same page.  The other would be reaching out to others for help.  I wonder what my journey would have been like if I had worked with a recruiter prior to retiring.  My guess is that I would have been much more educated on the opportunities in the area I was looking to move.  Perhaps nothing much would have changed, but my guess is that the stress of not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from would have been mitigated, if not eliminated.

Wishing you all the best on your transition.  If I can be of any assistance to you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  Tim@militarytalentsource.com and see the other blogs by my fellow team members.


About the author

Tim Gallant is an integral part of Military Talent Source’s talent management team; responsible for managing the intersection of our talent acquisition and talent management business teams as well as overseeing the management of candidates. Tim is a retired United States Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer with 20 years of service as well as a past congressional staff assistant.

Read more about Tim

Military Talent Source matches veteran talent with career opportunity. We are a specialized recruitment process outsourcing firm that conducts military recruiting and veteran employment consulting as a full focus. Whether we are working with businesses or organizations to build veteran-friendly hiring solutions or out on the road meeting with separating veterans at transition sites around the country, we are constantly striving to help businesses recruit and retain veteran talent.

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