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Resources for Making the Transition from the Military to the Civilian Workforce

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This Veterans Day, Americans will again turn their attention to the brave men and women of the United States military — those actively serving, and those who have served our country in the past. It goes without saying that military service is dangerous and demanding, requiring tremendous physical, mental and emotional fortitude. Despite these realities, separating from the military and making a smooth transition from military to civilian life also has its challenges. Fortunately, many resources exist to help veterans adapt to their new circumstances. To learn about the transition process, we spoke with two Aerotek professionals who made successful transitions from military to civilian life.

1. Make use of transition assistance programs
Before he was Aerotek’s Director of Business Development for government services, Dave Majerowicz held three different positions in the military.

“I was in the [U.S.] Air Force for a little less than 15 years and had three careers while on active duty,” says Dave. “For the majority of my career I was an aircraft mechanic on fighter aircraft. I worked on the F-4 Phantom, F-5 Aggressor and then the A-10 Warthog. Then I spent two years teaching new mechanics on the A-10 aircraft at field maintenance training. My last four years in the Air Force were spent as a recruiter. I recruited enlisted new recruits for two years and then doctors and nurses for two years,” he says.

Dave urges fellow veterans to make use of programs the military provides such as the Transition Assistance Program, which offers services such as “pre-separation counseling, Department of Labor Employment workshops, Department of Veterans Affairs benefits briefings, the Disabled Transition Assistance Program, installation briefings, individual assistance and online transition assistance,” according to Military One,

“There are great programs you can use while you are transitioning out and after you leave [the military] that are designed to prepare you and to make the process easier,” says Dave. “Use them and your network of friends, family and fellow veterans to help.”

Veteran and On-Premise Manager for Aerotek Aviation Bill Taylor, wholeheartedly agrees. “Use every resource available to you. The Family Support Center has a lot of assistance programs. Don’t feel guilty about attending; they’re there for you! As you get nearer to your separation date, your job is to be prepared for that transition. However, he cautions, “don’t wait until the last minute. Time tends to speed up as you get closer to your separation date.”

2. Create an action plan
As part of the transition process, veterans are provided assistance with post-service employment plans. Though this may seem daunting at first, it helps to remember that many of the skills and talents veterans utilize in the military are easily transferable to careers in the civilian workforce.

Bill encourages fellow veterans to be thoughtful when it comes to their career plans. “Try to narrow down what you want to do once you leave the military,” he advises. “Too many people [myself included] aren’t specific enough when it comes to figuring out what they want to do.”

Military One counsels veterans to “make the most of [their] individual transition plans [ITP] …” The ITP is the veteran’s “transition road map,” says Military One. “If used correctly, your ITP will help guide you through tough decisions like your next career move, financial goals or continuing your education. Develop your plan with care and thought toward your goals and objectives for any areas of your life affected by the transition. Update and refine action steps to help keep you focused on your goals.”

3. Transfer your skills
In the air force, Bill worked in aircraft maintenance, where he held a variety of positions as a line worker and a supervisor.

His knowledge of aircraft maintenance came in handy for his work in the aviation sector with Aerotek. But Bill also found his ability to adapt to change and his people skills were just as important to his success in his current career.

“In the aircraft maintenance field, things changed not only day-to-day, but hour-to-hour,” he recalls. “It was crucial that I learned to adapt to these changes in order to adjust my priorities accordingly. I also learned how to deal with people and how to build an effective team,” says Bill, who noted that these skills were especially important as he moved into supervisory roles.

After Dave left the military and joined Aerotek, he discovered that “core values such as integrity, work ethic and service before self” that he learned and practiced in the Air Force, served him well in his civilian career.

“These [values] were ingrained in me from basic training throughout my time in the military,” says Dave. “These essential building blocks prepared me well for a civilian career and for life in general.”

Dave’s experience as a recruiter for the military was especially helpful in facilitating his transition to civilian life.

“I worked and lived in the community that I recruited from and had a chance to work with hospitals, high schools, colleges and industry,” he says.

Despite this advantage, Dave admits he needed to make certain adjustments in terms of the way he did business outside of the Air Force.

“There were aspects of the military like chain of command, uniforms and lots of lingo and acronyms that I had to learn not to use to make it easier to communicate with my [non-veteran] coworkers.”

Likewise, Bill needed to make some changes in order to adapt to the “new normal” of a civilian workplace.

“The biggest change I had to make was remembering that the authority I had in the military didn’t apply to the civilian sector. In the military, if I told someone to do something, they followed my orders. But, in the civilian sector, that approach just doesn’t work.”

Aerotek’s Dave Majerowicz and Bill Taylor contributed to this article.

Aerotek salutes our veterans and thanks them for their service.

Are you a veteran seeking employment? Aerotek is looking for men and women like you. Visit our job board and check out our Facebook and Twitter pages.