AMU Editor's Pick Military Original

Preparing for a Successful Transition to the Civilian Workforce

Get started on your Homeland Security Degree at American Military University.

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

Many servicemembers want to know how they can take advantage of their military training to have a successful second career as a veteran. Whether you are considering civilian employment after a four-year enlistment or approaching your 20-year military retirement, there are some important steps you can take to reduce the stress of moving into the civilian workforce.

Prepare in Advance

One of the best ways you can reduce the stress associated with leaving the security of the military is to prepare for a civilian job well in advance. That preparation should begin as soon as you enter the military.

If you are enlisted personnel, begin by selecting the right rating or a military occupational specialty (MOS). This rating or MOS will provide the training and experience that you can leverage into a civilian career. For example, if you are interested in computers or information technology, select a rating or MOS to obtain free training in those fields that you can put to use later to meet your civilian career goals.

Know How to Translate Your Military Experience into Civilian Workforce Jobs

As you gain military training and experience, it is important to understand how your knowledge and skills will translate into the civilian workforce. Hiring managers may not be familiar as you are with military titles, specialties or jargon.

As a result, be sure to use the correct terminology to link your military experience with the equivalent civilian skills. Keep the list current so you won’t omit an important skill when it’s time to create your resume. Make the comprehensive list of your military skills and experiences and divide the list into two columns. The left-hand column should include the military terms associated with your experience; the right-hand column should provide the equivalent job in civilian terminology.

Making this list is also beneficial when you’re interviewing for jobs. Some examples of this list might include:

  • Yeoman: Administrative Service Manager
  • Financial Specialist: Auditor or Bookkeeper
  • Logistics Specialist: Procurement Clerk
  • Marine Safety Specialist: Transportation Manager

There are many online resources to help you translate your military job skills into civilian job skills. One good tool is O*Net Online, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Be Prepared for Meetings with Recruiters and Prospective Employers

As a servicemember, you may be placed into a leadership role early in your military career. That type of role fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition to including these skills on your resume, make sure to display your inherent leadership and critical thinking skills when you talk to recruiters and prospective employers.

Be prepared, make eye contact, appear confident and ask follow-up questions that show you have researched the job you want. Your questions about the responsibilities of a specific role or company information available online show an employer that you have a genuine interest in the job. Your questions will also show that you have mentally prepared for the interview.

Servicemembers can be a tremendous asset in the civilian workforce. Long-term planning is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure that you make a successful transition to the civilian workforce.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been with the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security, contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has also received commendations from the Coast Guard. Presently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.


Wes O'Donnell

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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