Military vs. Civilian Job Security

military vs civilian

At this moment, service members are weighing their options as to whether they should renew their obligation to their respective service branch or begin the process of making the military transition into the civilian world. They are left wondering which option offers the most job security — the military or civilian workforce. We’ll address a common question asked by many, “Does job security exist in the military?”

Is There Really Job Security in the Military?

The answer depends on how one perceives job security. To get a clear understanding, let’s define the term to discover what it truly means.

According to the Business Dictionary, job security in the workplace is defined as the assurance or guarantee that an employee has about the permanency of employment. Essentially, job security means a guarantee of permanent or long-lasting employment.

It is important to note that guaranteeing employment is something that the military cannot afford to offer, nor can any employer in the civilian workforce. This also applies to military friendly employers. Below, is the reason why.

The Military Cannot Guarantee Employment

Unfortunately, the military cannot guarantee employment for various reasons such as:

  • Reduction in Force (RIF) and Force Shaping
  • Lowering Recruitment Efforts to Reduce Manpower
  • Involuntary Separations
  • Decreasing Acceptance Rates in Officer Training Schools

On the surface, it seems that job security in the military is very strong. However, as I’ve personally seen, sometimes they enact a reduction in force to try to reduce manpower.

The military will do this by encouraging people not to re-up or re-enlist.

Additionally, the military will offer a reduced payout for people retiring before their 20 year mark, and the military is far more likely to discharge people that aren’t receiving top ratings from their military performance evaluations.

Let’s discuss, in detail, 3 of the methods that shows why the military cannot guarantee employment for military members.

Reduction In Force (RIF) and Force Shaping

military vs civilian

In the civilian workforce, we constantly hear about major companies laying off hundreds and thousands of people. The military does the same in downsizing initiatives called reduction in force (RIF) and force shaping. Each branch of the military participates in these two differing downsizing methods.

In aan article from the MilitaryTimes, they discuss that the military is cutting its end strength across all branches of the military, seeking to slash more than 25,000 positions from all branches in active duty, Guard, and Reserves. 

No one is immune to RIFs and force shaping as enlisted and officer ranks are both affected by these efforts to reduce manpower. This happens because of budget cuts mandated by Congress, which send service members transitioning from military to civilian life.

Lowering Recruitment Efforts to Reduce Manpower

The military will also lower its recruitment efforts to reduce its manpower. This includes changing standards such as the following:

  • Health and fitness standards (weight requirements, etc.)
  • Military eligibility requirements (medical conditions, for example)
  • Entrance test requirements (ASVAB, AFOQT, AFQT, etc.)

Involuntary Separation

While there’s no way to tell which jobs, ranks, or positions will be cut, if your MOS or career field is overstaffed or if your officer class has too many people, you could be in danger of involuntary separation.

Imagine how this elimination impacts each service member, the service member’s family, and the entire military health care system, including medical patients.

Each one of these manpower reducing methods forces military members to lose their military career – a career they’ve come to know and become accustomed to over the years. Additionally, they lose a structured environment which makes it more difficult for them to make their way back into the civilian world.

Military Members Should Be One Step Ahead Because Job Security Does Not Exist

While there’s no way to avoid a reduction in military force, servicemen and women can be one step ahead by preparing themselves for a civilian career search when the time arrives to transition into civilian life.

Preparing to be a veteran job finder includes the following:

  • Learning how to translate military skills to civilian terms
  • Learning how to write a military to civilian resume
  • Learning how to prepare for a civilian job interview

In the meantime, service members should take some time to discover why veterans make good employees and review the key strengths that will make them stand out in the civilian world.

After a reduction in force, finding gainful employment will be on the minds of many military members. Often, finding a new job will be of the ultimate importance.

This is why servicemembers should not delay their job search. Once you find out that you’re being forced out of the military, you should begin the career search as soon as possible. You may want to:

  • Review your GI Bill
  • Use Tuition Assistance to go to school
  • Get a certification to enhance your skills
  • Build your professional network
  • Begin financial planning

The Emotional Effects of Lack of Job Security and Military Reduction in Force

military vs civilian

Be sure to take some time to let the emotional aspect of being forced out of the military run its course. Losing a job is emotionally draining and having to begin the career search right away is mentally exhausting.

Always remember, there’s nothing you could have done differently to prevent from being in the RIF. So, you have to believe that you did your best each and every day. And, don’t worry. Your positive efforts, achievements and accomplishments will show in your military performance evaluations.

As we mentioned in a previous article, hardships women veterans face when transitioning into the civilian workforce, this is the time to do some self-reflection and introspection to discover your new self and new life outside of the military. Do this by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who am I, now?
  • What are my current dreams and goals?
  • What brings me happiness right now?
  • What matters to me the most, right now?
  • What is the one thing I value about myself?
  • What do I want most in life?

Sometimes, taking a step back and looking at the big picture of your life and time in the military will reveal some things you didn’t know about yourself. Who knows, you may be surprised to discover that you may want to pursue a different career path. When this happens, the team at Empire Resume will be there to lend a helping hand. 

Job Security Is Not Guaranteed, But Empire Resume Can Help

An article in Forbes Magazine entitled, Job Security is Disappearing, gives 10 tips to help you take charge of your career since job security is not guaranteed. The tips are paraphrased as follows:

  1. Understand how your work makes a financial impact on your company.
  2. Know the salary ranges for people in your industry or career field.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the skill sets that are sought after.
  4. Be open minded and willing to take opportunities whether full time or contract work.
  5. Brand yourself for the career you want.
  6. Actively network with others. (LinkedIn is a great tool for this)
  7. Know the companies that could hire you if you lose your current job.
  8. Establish credibility through online avenues such as LinkedIn.
  9. Stay informed of the advances in your profession.
  10. Keep your eyes and ears open and never assume your job is secure.

As an Air Force veteran turned Professional Resume Writer who helps veterans transform their resume to get the civilian jobs they deserve, I believe that job security in the military is certainly stronger than the civilian sector. However, as discussed above, it is by no means guaranteed.

There really is no more guaranteed job security anymore regardless of where you work. In 2019, it is hard to find an employee who hasn’t been laid off from their job at least once in their lifetime due to departments, divisions, and even positions being wiped out.

Empire Resume specializes in writing resumes for members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. We are experts at helping service members make the military transition to the civilian world.

As a result, we help veterans get the career they deserve by providing the most useful and effective career search tips and strategies on our constantly updated military blog, offering our custom built resume and cover letter writing services, and also helping them create a veteran LinkedIn profile.

Together, we can help you avoid the illusion of job security and keep you from being stuck after reality sets in from reduction in force or company downsizing, whether you’re a transitioning servicemember or you’re making a career change post-military transition.

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.

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