How to Make a Career Change Post-Military Transition

Making a Career Change

Obtaining the first career opportunity after reintegrating into civilian life is a huge undertaking for a veteran. The reality is that things don’t always work out with the first career choice. Civilians know all too well that moving on from a company or making a change is necessary for survival and personal growth. Since job security does not exist in the civilian world, veterans learn to adapt and apply this same principle. If you’re at a place where you’re feeling like a change is necessary, Empire Resume will show you how to make a career change post-military transition by taking two steps – defining your transferable skills and updating your military to civilian resume.

Define Your Transferable Skills

The first step in making a career move or job change after you’ve transitioned into civilian life is to define your transferable skills. Taking this step is key because it allows you to discover skills within yourself that you may not have realized otherwise.

What are transferable skills?

I’m so glad you asked.

Forbes Magazine states, “Transferable skills are ones that apply in all professions. They are the foundation of all the professional success you will experience in this career and other careers you may pursue over the years.” Forbes’ 7 transferable skills are as follows:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Technical
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Multitasking
  • Teamwork

Essentially, a transferable skill is any core competency gained throughout the course of your life. Transferable skills are the skills that can easily carry over from one job to the next, regardless of the position you’ve held in the past.

Transferable skills are valuable because you can apply them to any career, any professional setting, and any environment. You may see them commonly referred to as portable skills. Transferable skills are a hot topic when it’s time to transition to a different occupation or opportunity.

Another option is to consider transitioning into a STEM career (science, technology, engineering and math). STEM careers have been outpacing the the overall US job growth rate, and many employers are looking for new talent.

How to Define Your Transferable Skills

The first step in securing a new career or moving on from a company in the civilian world is defining your transferable skills.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper and prepare to write. It’s important to go through this process of writing rather than using your computer or phone. Something magical happens when you go through the act of writing. In fact, handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn and retain information. It forces us to slow down and capture the moment rather than quickly typing just for the sake of seeing the cursor move across the screen.

Here’s how you define your transferable skills:

  • Perform a Self-Evaluation

Look inside yourself. As you go within, create a list of your natural skills and the skills you’ve acquired over the years in your personal life, your hobbies, and your volunteer work.

Think about the tasks you complete on a regular basis and how you interact with family and friends. You will be surprised of the origin of your transferable skills.

For instance, think about the skills you use to make your home life a breeze. If you’re responsible for gathering groceries and cooking meals, the ability to plan, improvise, and be creative are three transferable skills.

Be sure to write down any skill that comes to mind. Don’t second guess yourself on whether you have the skill or not. Remember, tasks reveal skills.

  • Examine Your Professional Experiences

Making a Career Change

Next, examine your professional experiences. Your professional experiences derive from outside sources — your place of employment, your educational background, trainings, seminars and conferences you’ve attended.

As you evaluate your professional experiences, ask yourself these questions:

What did I learn here?

What aspect of this experience do I carry with me each day?

What type of skill did I develop from this experience?

How does this experience benefit me at work?

Did this experience positively impact my behavior?

This examination of your professional experiences helps to gauge your professional development.

Here, you will find another set of transferable skills that were not revealed while performing your self-evaluation. Add these skills to your list.

  • Review Your Achievements

Finally, take some time to review your achievements listed in your military to civilian resume, your veteran LinkedIn profile and your latest achievements in your current position.

Remember, your impactable achievements set you apart from other candidates when you’re ready to make a career change post-military transition.

By reviewing the achievements or results of your efforts, you will identify your value. The value you bring through the contributions you make to an organization will reveal key transferable skills.

To give an example, here you will find that you’ve been able to save your company thousands of dollars. Or, because you consistently your customers, you discover you have awesome customer service skills.

Maybe you’re great at proofreading business documents and making them look presentable for meetings. Or, you’re the PowerPoint expert of the office. Since you were able to work in your company’s best interest to get the best price from a vendor, your negotiation skills shine through.

As you review your achievements, add them to your list too. After you’ve taken the necessary steps of performing a self-evaluation, examining your professional experiences, and reviewing your achievements, you’re ready to move on to the final step – updating your resume.

Update Your Military to Civilian Resume

In another article, we address how often you should update your resume and walk you through the steps of how to update it. Taking this step is necessary when making a career change post-military transition.

Updating your resume opens the door for opportunity and change. Make sure you update your contact information, your resume summary, and add your current job title to your professional experience.

Remember the list of transferable skills you created? Now is the time to use it. Apply your list of relevant transferable skills or core competencies to your military to civilian resume.

Include any technical proficiencies you learned in your current position. Any software you’ve used will help you make the switch from one career to the next. For example, if you’re an experienced human resources professional who’s well-versed in the payroll system, ADP, you can easily make a career change.

Once your resume is updated, you’re well on your way to beginning the search for another career opportunity. When you’re a veteran functioning as a professional in the civilian world, updating your resume is an ongoing task that continuously requires you to take action because of the many reasons veterans leave jobs and change careers.

Reasons Veterans Leave Civilian Jobs and Change Careers

Making a Career Change

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 3.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in October 2018. This number represented 2.3% of the total workforce.

Veterans leave jobs for the same reasons civilians leave jobs and change careers. Change in jobs and careers is a natural part of civilian life. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that money is often the driving force for these changes. However, there are other reasons.

According to, there are 5 reasons veterans leave civilian jobs and change careers:

  • Lack of leadership
  • A deficiency of support
  • Better job
  • Skills not aligned
  • Chose the wrong job

Studies show that half of veterans leave their first post-military jobs and careers within a year of transitioning. 65% of veterans leave their jobs within two years , according to Military Times. Sometimes, the first job is not the right fit.

On a positive note, more than 43% of veterans report they leave their jobs for another, better position, also referenced in Military Times.

Some people frown upon changing jobs and make the reference of job hopping. Others look at changes in jobs and careers as an opportunity for better — better pay, better experience, and sometimes better health. Determine how you view the situation and do what’s best for you.

No Matter How Many Times You Change Jobs, Secure the Best One for You

Being a military veteran in the civilian world is not easy, and is especially hard for women. Securing the first job straight out of the military is a huge deal for everyone – veterans, civilians, and employers. But once you’ve worked your first job and feel it is time for you to move on, you should feel comfortable in doing so while making sure you secure the best position for you. Take some time to review the article on what veterans should look for in post-military jobs for more help.

If you have a chance to advance and make an impact in the world, you should do so. Many times, you will leave because of your employer’s mishaps, or for your own personal reasons. Entrepreneur Magazine revealed that if employers show more opportunities for advancement, 45% of veterans would not have left their first post-military jobs.

At the end of the day, you’re already a hero in eyes of the world because of your military service. Make sure you choose the best career and place of employment for you. Then, when you’ve finally found the right place, you can be a hero in the eyes of your company too.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

Making a Career Change

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