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Options for Veterans Transitioning Into Civilian Life

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By Dr. Chris Reynolds
AVP – Dean, Center for Teaching and Learning at American Public University System
Online Career Tips Special Contributor

The shift from military to civilian life is a scary time because it challenges you to start over with your life’s civilian goals. Career and education goals are among the top that I often hear Veterans discussing. You may likely find it challenging to do something as simple as communicating with the civilian world.

Learn a “new” language

I know that in my own life, I find that I often catch myself talking in acronyms being direct to my civilian counterparts. I am reminded that to those who have not served, I may as well be speaking Latin! So, among the first things you literally have to “un-train” yourself from is “military-speak.” Many civilians don’t know what OPSTEMPO or Commander-in-chief (CINC) refer to. It is often a good idea to listen to those around you to gain a feel for the environment. Be open to the culture around you—use your keen military presence and sense to gather information on the environment before engaging in activities or conversation.

Let the networking begin

One of the hallmarks of military life is the network of soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen and women that you have worked with while in uniform. This network is vital to maintain as you transition. Likewise, it is important to begin building your civilian network as you move into civilian life.

Chances are, your military skill has a civilian counterpart. Find out what networking groups there are that include your military skill. is such a place where you can meet professional colleagues. Post your resume and let the networking group know that you are a returning veteran and you are seeking a job. You can use the free federal resources that are available to you. The US Veteran’s Administration offers a variety of assistance programs to help you readjust. Their services include healthcare and counseling. Likewise, the US Department of Labor offers a Veterans’ Employment and Training (VETS) program that provides a rich array of resources to help you find a job once you are discharged. Another Federal site that can help is the “FEDS hire VETS” program that serves as the single site for Federal employment information for Veterans, transitioning military service members, their families, and Federal hiring officials.”

You will find that once you begin building your civilian network, it will follow and help you just as your military network did while on active duty.

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