Pathways to Civilian Careers for Military Veterans

A military veteran wearing a business suit and helmet, salutes the camera

Transitioning from a military to a civilian career offers new experiences that can be exciting and lucrative. The unique skills you developed in the military can help you succeed in a whole new environment. However, as with most change, the sudden transition may cause stress and worry. What are the options when it comes to careers for military veterans? And how do you land these positions? Here are tips to help you transition to a civilian profession with greater ease.

Go the traditional route

A sensible next career step for military veterans is a traditional job in the civilian world that takes advantage of the skills you learned while in uniform. Check out the Military to Civilian Occupation Translator to match your military skills and experience to civilian occupations. Many organizations make it part of their company mission to hire veterans; a website like VetCentral can direct you to those firms, or you can contact Robert Half for help.

Take advantage of any job-hunting resources the military might provide to update your resume, write a solid cover letter, track down leads and network to the fullest extent possible.

Keep in mind that a job search can be a full-time job in itself and that finding a good position can take a long time. The duration of a search is no reflection on your personality or skills; many people job hunt for weeks or even months before landing the position they seek.

Hit the books

Getting more education in your current field or taking a degree in a new area is a natural and positive way to transition to your new life. The military encourages this choice with financial support. Check out the Post-9/11 GI Bill for more information about assistance you can depend on if you decide to go back to school. The discipline you gained as a member of the military may help you make the most of your college experience.

Stick to what you know

Some of the best careers for military veterans involve a return to the same installation, this time as a civilian contractor. For example, if in your military career you were the client of a large defense contractor, you may be able to use your contacts to find a civilian position with that same contractor. You know the business from the military side, so the transition to the contractor side may be smoother.

An added benefit is that defense and government contractors "get" your military experience – no translation needed here. Investigate careers for military veterans with commercial companies or federal and state government.

Make your own job

You may also consider starting your own business. The skills needed to be a business owner are similar to the ones you developed during your tenure in the military: tenacity, vision, self-motivation, leadership, integrity and competitiveness, among others. The Small Business Administration has helpful information on how veterans can start their own businesses.