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Military to Civilian? Career Transition and Job Search Tips

Many of the men and women in uniform returning to their loved ones and to their communities are sometimes at a loss as to how to transfer their military life into civilian or corporate routine: as well as how to figure remuneration. Understandable!

Something that might help in the transition is a list of a few job-search differences which you can adjust to, with a little know-how.

Later, we’ll look at a few jobs, with salaries, which recruiters report that veterans are getting hired for, and staying with.

First…a few helpful hints about what to do and what not to do as you segue back into mainstream society:

Tips for Acclimating

When preparing a CV or resume, use mainstream-speak as much as possible, and clarify when necessary—either in print or, when your excellent resume garners an interview, in person!

Try to avoid resorting to military-speak.

We know it’s tough; you may have grown accustomed to certain jargon – in fact, it may sometimes feel ingrained in you.  However, something as simple as rank may not mean much to your interviewer – what MAY mean something is if you “interpret” the duties inherent in that position of responsibility.

The same suggestion applies when you land an interview.  As much as your civilian recruiter commends you for your service, they are ever so thankful to know what you’re speaking of.  Try to catch yourself so you speak in “civvy speak”.  If you slip up, just give the recruiter a heads up as to what the phrase means.

Use Equivalents

Armed Forces personnel might benefit from using equivalents of language. You don’t want to lose the importance of what you’re saying – nor to mitigate your earned qualifications. As an example, if your title was that of Corporal, say, in Inventory, and you had men and women under your charge, the position can be explained in the following manner:  Head (or Supervisor/Manager) of Inventory.  Staff of seven.

That title is similar enough in function, and conveys to a civilian exactly what your job entailed.

No matter your rank or position, your Armed Forces position is adaptable: your duties as a Commissioned Officer, might, for instance, be “translated” in this fashion:  Trained in leadership and management.  Effectively planned and organized multi-layered internal and external projects.    Oversaw a company of 100 enlisted soldiers.

Remember:  your recruiter will be looking for a person who has ample experience as a supervisor.  Make the connection in the recruiter’s mind between your Armed Forces career and your duties in the slot they are interviewing you for.


It might be best to leave out the awards and promotions you earned in the military, unless you can think of a way to translate the experience.  You might, for instance, draw a similarity between your military skills and qualifications which are deemed valuable in the civilian sector, too.  Here’s one example:

Skill:  The ability to perform duties in exemplary fashion under extremely high pressure.  Why this applies: Corporate life will have plenty of times when executives feel as if they have steam coming out of their ears —  or that of their co-workers!

It’s reassuring to know that your back is covered, so to speak, by a colleague who doesn’t buckle when the going gets tough.

Identify Your Benefits

Have you been offered the job?  Keep in mind that when your package of benefits is laid out, it’ll include the amount of money you’ll make sans withholding taxes.  This means you’ll need to calculate how much your net income will be, not your gross.

In civilian life, there are both pre-taxes (gross) and after-taxes (net) salary figures.  In the military, of course, a chunk of your remuneration –which probably included housing and compensation–was tax-exempt.

This link might come in handy, when figuring out your bring-home pay.  It figures how much you’ll have to make (gross) to equal what you made in the military:

It might also help to keep in mind that, once you’ve arrived at the amount that equals what you took home (net) in the Armed Forces, you’ll THEN have to deduct any investment plans you participate in, such as a 401(k) plan.

Also, the cost of your health insurance is sometimes deducted from your net salary.

Cultures Dissimilar

Finally, remember that life in the Armed Forces was pretty straightforward and probably held great purpose for you.  You might find corporate or business life to be “different”, in that the office politics and culture may clash with your ideals.  If this is so, keep in mind that there are many companies, each with their own cultures.

Perhaps you’d consider consulting a career coach.  She or he might help you decide whether you’d be more suited, perhaps, to a job whose mission stresses a far-reaching concept that jibes with your own goals.

Alternately, you might very much enjoy working in a company whose CEO and other top brass donate a sizeable portion of their earnings to charity.

Now, let’s examine a few fields which are hiring and holding the interest of our GI’s!
A Few Private Sectors Popular With Military Personnel

A little under two-hundred employers with an established record for recruiting and retaining military personnel, were polled regarding which jobs GI’s were fast-tracking to.  A few top results were:

Business Administrator – at over a hundred thousand dollars a year (gross), these slots go fast, but are interviewed for selectively.    You might term BA’s the upper management/executive trainees.  Business Administrators are being groomed for senior management spots.  The positions are chiefly concerned with management of sales and finances and with efforts at branching out into the realm of new products or new business.

Construction Project Manager –  If you’re eager to use the leadership skills which you sharpened in the Armed Forces and you like being the go-to guy when issues need to be ironed out, there are plenty of PM jobs in Construction.  These managers work on a construction worksite and map out the work.  They also determine the cost of the project and direct the work flow, ensuring it’s done as per client specs, and on time.   These jobs pay a little over $92,000, on average.

Bank Branch Manager – A Bank Manager monitors the work flow of an entire branch – everything from the overall financial picture to operations and customer satisfaction.  A BM has to answer to the umbrella or parent company, and needs to stay abreast of banking regulations…as well as to ensure that all policies are adhered to.

This job offers a starting salary of just under $60,000 per annum, as well as the security of plenty of employment opportunities. A recent federal report projected that this position will make up 42% of all jobs in the field of finance over the next four years or so.

Other sectors which are attracting military personnel are: IT, Telecommunications, Driving (all vehicles), Healthcare, Office Management, Retail and Corporate Training.

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