At VA, we understand the unique circumstances transitioning military personnel face, and want to help you successfully move to a civilian career – especially one on our team!

As you turn the page from the military chapter of your life and focus on the civilian stories ahead, consider some of these steps to help dodge the proverbial paper cuts.

Plan ahead

Even if you’re just thinking about bringing your military career to a close, start planning for what comes next. There will be a hectic transition period between submitting your retirement papers and your official separation date, so any steps you take now will give you room to breathe later.

“I gave myself about 6 to 8 months to make the transition,” said Kelly “Murph” Murphy, Veteran and winner of Season One of CBS’s “Tough as Nails” show. “So that time was really busy, way busier than I thought it would be, because not only are you trying to wrap up your military career and still do your job, but now you’re looking for a job yourself.”

Start by accessing the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and using those resources to help build your transition plan.

Build your network

Those who have served in the military themselves or have worked with other Veterans know that a Veteran applicant is well-trained. You bring to the table good work ethic, comfort with adapting to difficult circumstances, and a predisposition towards success.

“When you’re in the military you learn to work with everybody,” explained Lia Mort, Veteran and Season 3 “Tough as Nails” winner. “And when you get out, you just have a comfort in meeting people you haven’t met before and connecting right away.”

Those connections can carry over from your military career to your new civilian job, so it pays to build your network early. Connect with your cohorts and seek out potential employers on social media. Our VA communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Glassdoor are great places to connect with others who have made the jump to a civilian career.

Update your resume (then do it again)

You’re going to need a new resume for the civilian world, and it makes sense that you’ll want to include your wide-ranging military experience. Develop that document, but plan to adjust it with every application you submit.

For example, VA makes it easy to tailor your resume to the job you want by listing the desired skillset in every position announcement on USAJobs. Once you’ve reviewed the announcement, tweak your resume to emphasize skills that match the job requirements.

“The position announcement you are applying to will give you all the information you need to succeed,” explained Tim Blakney, a Veteran and recruitment consultant for VA. “Demonstrate how your skills will fit perfectly with the position.”

Translate your experience

Your time in the service will undoubtedly have taught you many things, but as with any profession, there’s an internal jargon that’s developed in the military. They’ve become second nature to you, but you can’t assume everyone shares that knowledge.

“The people who are reviewing your resume may not have served,” explained Kendra Wilson-Hudson, a Veteran who now works as a physician recruitment consultant with the VA National Recruitment Service. “They may be civilians.”

Take the time to interpret your experience for your new audience. Try using a military skills translator to convert your military specialty or your service equivalent career into a list of everyday terms for your resume.

Get comfortable talking about yourself

When it comes time for your first civilian interview, the difference can be jarring. Remember that your job is to sell yourself to the recruiter or hiring manager, and the best way to do that is to be prepared.

At VA, we use a performance-based interview (PBI) process, which asks you to pull your answer from a particular moment in your career that best illustrates your success. However, knowing how to respond in a PBI can provide an excellent basis for answering all kinds of questions.

PBI questions hinge on a storytelling component, but it’s best to focus your answer on the problem you encountered, the action you took, and the results you experienced. Remember that system by reminding yourself you want your answers to be “up to PAR” (problem, action, result), and you’ll be able to answer the most difficult questions with ease.

And for those questions that really make you uncomfortable, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Work at VA

Welcome to the next stage of your career. At VA, we value all that you have to offer as a Veteran, and look forward to bringing your skills here.

By VA Careers

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Published on Jul. 19, 2022

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