Veterans offer a unique set of skills, experiences and leadership abilities developed and honed during their years in the military. Finally, employers are now realizing the benefits of hiring a veteran.  Regardless, there is prep work that you need to do prior to your last day of active duty.

Individuals who are undergoing separation from the military have been known to experience a variety of feelings, including: anxiety, frustration, fear, and loss. At times individuals can also question the meaning and purpose of their lives.


  • Need to figure out what to do with their life outside of the military
  • They need time to decompress
  • They need more tools/support for their job search
  • They need to determine their next steps.
  • They wonder how to translate their military skills to a business environment
  • They wonder “Now What?”

To improve the transition process from active duty to civilian employment, there are several recommendations that military personnel should consider. The first one is DON’T WAIT.

You shouldn’t wait until 30 days from separation or retirement before starting your military to civilian transition process. Ideally you should begin preparing for separation at least 180 days, and I would recommend you start the process 2 years prior to your retirement.

  1. Attend the military transition classes that are offered in each military installation.  If you can attend it twice, that is ideal.  Theses transition programs provide separating/retiring veterans and their families with the skills, tools and self-confidence necessary to successfully re-enter into the civilian work force, pursue higher education or technical training or retire.
  2. Prior to separation research key certifications and go after them while you are still in the service.
  3. Get assistance from a sponsor, mentor, or a job coach on how to translate your military skills into civilian language and terminology.
  4. Attend career fairs for military veterans and seek out recruiting firms that specialize in placing military veterans. Additionally, explore all employment options, such as federal, state, and civilian opportunities; this includes not settling for the first job that comes along that may not be a good fit.  I recommend you attend job fairs to get an idea of what they are like and you can reach out to recruiters to get on their radar.  Most companies will not begin working on your behalf until you are closer to your last day, but there is still a lot of work that you can do to be ready when the time is right. Networking is vital to a transitioning veteran.
  5. Seek out the services of agencies such as the VA, state and county-operated veteran services, and traditional veterans’ service organizations can be extremely helpful to those veterans who are seeking to transition from the military also.

Improving Your Success by Setting Clear Attainable Goals

As you prepare to separate from the military start thinking about and creating your goals.  What job do you want to get, where do you want to live, do you want to go to school, if yes, why and for what degree?  The very act of setting big, challenging goals for yourself and making written plans of action to achieve them actually raises your success rate, thereby causing you to feel much better about yourself.

It’s really important to have clear goals for each part of your life and to continually work toward achieving those goals. Each progressive step causes your success rate to go up and makes you feel more positive and effective in everything else you do.

You want your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. goals.  That means your goals are:

  1. Specific –   The goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.
  2. Measurable – The goals and its benefits should be quantifiable.
  3. Achievable – The goal should be attainable given available resources.
  4. Realistic – The goal should require you to stretch some, but allow the likelihood of success.
  5.  Timely – The goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished.
  • Develop your goals.  A list of five to seven items gives you several things to work on over a period of time.  To start, maybe your first goal is figuring out what sort of job you are interested in, then it will be completing your resume, building your LinkedIn network, etc.
  • State goals as declarations of intentions, not items on a wish list.  “I want to apply for three job openings” lacks power.  “I will apply to three job openings,” is intentional and powerful.
  • Attach a date to each goal.  State what you intend to accomplish and by when.  A good list should include some short-term and some long-term goals.  You may want a few goals for the year, and some for two- or three-month intervals.  It is often best to have your end date in mind, and then build your goals around that.  This allows you to ensure you accomplish your goals and are successful.
  • Be specific.  “To find a job” is too general; “to find and research five job openings before the end of the week” is better.  Sometimes a more general goal can become the long-term aim, and you can identify some more specific goals to take you there.
  • Share your goals with someone who cares if you reach them.  Sharing your intentions with your spouse/partner, your best friend, or your accountability partner will help ensure success.
  • Write down your goals and put them where you will see them and share them with family members.  The more often you read your list, the more results you get.
  • Review and revise your list.  Experiment with different ways of stating your goals.  Goal setting improves with practice, so play around with it.


Some estimate that upwards of 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking. If you’re looking for work, it might be better to put your time into building your professional network rather than pouring through all those listings online.

Give yourself six months to two years to build your network.  Another thing networking affords you is access to hidden jobs that only employees know about at their company. Networking with employees where you want to work is very valuable especially as veterans we like to work with fellow veterans. Some estimate that as much as 80 percent of new jobs are never listed but are instead filled internally or via networking.

Networking is your number one tool to finding a job.  Make it easy for people to help you.  Have an easy email like firstname.lastname.some easy number (Abraham.linchon78@gmail.com) at a reputable source is also important; i.e.. gmail, yahoo etc. When someone gets your email, they shouldn’t have to guess who it’s from.

Give them the information they need to be able to help you.  You need to know what you want to do, where you want to do it and when you are available to start.  You never know who somebody might now, and how they might be able to help you connect.  It can be that easy.

Remember to use recruiters to build your network.  They have done all the heavy lifting for you.  The have the relationships with the employer and they know exactly what skillset the employer is looking for.  It is the recruiter’s job to go out and find qualified candidates.

If you are going to use a recruiter, make sure they are offering you a fee free service and that they will not make you sign a contract or tell you that you must work with them exclusively.  This may limit your ability to find a job on your own through networking.

Other than using a recruiter there are many types of networking….in person, family, and friends say at a backyard barbeque, or maybe a networking event…these are in person networking events, and you can also use social media to help you with networking.

LinkedIn for Networking

Everyone looking for a job should have a LinkedIn account.  You want to make sure that you have a professional picture and a complete profile in your account.  There are lots of great articles out there that can help you get your profile completed.  Check them out and get started if you haven’t already done so.

As you adjust to your transition from the military, you may:

  • Feel uncomfortable with the lack of structure and goals compared to military life
  • Miss the adrenaline of physical and life-challenging situations
  • Worry about your finances
  • Push yourself to be perfect in work and other areas of your life
  • Become annoyed with others who seem more easy-going or less detail-oriented than you
  • Feel isolated and alone, as if no one understands you

Studies have shown that two-thirds of veterans experienced a difficult transition from military to civilian life. Close to half did not feel ready to transition.  Difficulties are largely attributed to poor preparation/planning, unemployment and health challenges, as well as the need for time to “figure out what’s next” or decompress after their service.

Doing all the prep work prior to your last day of active duty will help you alleviate these.  Please don’t wait till the last minute to figure out what you want to do and remember to reach out for help if you should need it.

About the author

Fiona Bain is one of the key members of talent acquisition for Military Talent Source.  Prior to working at MTS, she worked in corporate america for 14 years, is a retired United States Navy Commander, and a certified life coach working specifically with individuals in career transition.

Read more about Fiona

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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