Military Vets’ Civilian Job Transition

Returning military vets often experience a career letdown when they re-enter the civilian workforce. Here are some tips to help vets successfully navigate the transition.


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It’s not uncommon for military vets’ civilian job transition to be fraught with disappointment. For many (if not most) returning vets, the job marketplace simply doesn’t offer them positions with the same level of authority or responsibility as their active duty roles.

For example, veterans who were responsible for coordinating complex military operations or overseeing dozens of combat troops may find themselves relegated to entry-level positions in the civilian workforce. As a result, returning vets often experience feelings of inferiority or even depression.

The reality is that military skill sets don’t always translate well in the civilian job market. In the private sector, managerial and leadership positions aren’t achievable until employees have paid their dues, worked their way up the corporate ladder and landed supervisory roles in their 30s or 40s.

Consequently, there are a handful of tactics and strategies returning vets can use to manage the emotions and practical realities associated with their transition to the civilian workforce.

  • Adjust career expectations

    Returning veterans who expect to automatically land the same level of job they had in the military are almost always disappointed. To be fair, the ability to command of company of combat soldiers doesn’t automatically qualify someone to lead a team of business professionals. In many instances, the two positions may require completely different skill sets. So right out of the gate, it’s important for vets to adjust their career expectations and prepare to take a step back to prepare themselves to take two steps forward.

  • Prioritize educational goals

    Education can help mitigate the transition from a military to a civilian career. It has been suggested that military vets who exercised logistical or supervisory authority in their service roles would need MBAs to qualify for the same level of positions in the non-military workforce. Although education won’t entirely erase the gap between the military and civilian career environment, the right degrees can help returning vets get their civilian careers back on track.

  • Communicate more effectively

    The simple truth is that most U.S. employers are not familiar with the types of activities and responsibilities that are associated with military service. By breaking their military service down into vocabulary, achievements and activities that civilian employers can more easily digest, returning vets will increase their likelihood of landing jobs with higher levels of responsibility.


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