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Three Steps You Can Take to Prepare for a Career After the Military

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No matter how long you have been a member of the military community, ...

No matter how long you have been a member of the military community, returning to civilian life can feel daunting. The military provides a structured environment and sense of community that may be hard to replicate in the next phase of your life.

Fortunately, many employers value a veteran’s experience and are willing to reward that experience with preferential treatment in the hiring process.

Both the federal government and some government contractors give extra consideration to veterans. Many states allow employers to consider veteran status when making hiring decisions. When you’re looking for a new job, check out with the government, contractors and military-friendly private companies.

Here are some other steps you can take to give yourself an edge in the hiring process.

1. Attend a TAP or MySTeP Workshop.

The TAP, or Transition Assistance Program, helps soon-to-be veterans consider alternative careers, write their resumes and prepare for interviews. It also helps veterans “translate” their military experience into terms civilian employers understand. TAP also covers financial planning and VA services that are available after transitioning.

Attending a TAP workshop is typically mandatory for separating service members. Navy Mutual’s Education and Veterans Services team helps facilitate many of the TAP programs by providing information about finances and planning.

Most military installations encourage spouses to attend the TAP program too. If a spouse can’t attend, they can utilize MySTeP.

MySTeP is the Military Spouse Transition Program, and while not mandatory, it provides information and tools to military spouses as their service member plans to transition. The third part of the program, Stepping Beyond, focuses on preparing families to transition away from their military community. It covers the process of separating, DoD and VA benefits, finances, health care, and employment.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is social media for working professionals. It allows you to publicly post your resume, including your work and education history, any licenses and certifications you possess, and your accomplishments. There are numerous benefits to creating and maintaining a LinkedIn profile:

  • It allows you to build a network. When you first get LinkedIn, you can start by connecting with people you already know, then you can branch out to connect with other professionals in your desired field or those who work for a potential employer. Your connections may post job opportunities, endorse your skills, and help you connect with other professionals.
  • It lets you interact with recruiters. Recruiters use LinkedIn to source applicants when they are trying to fill an open position. You may receive messages about job openings if your profile is up to date. You can also set your profile to say you are “open to finding a new job” for increased visibility.
  • It helps you find job postings. Businesses often post available jobs on LinkedIn. In some cases, you may be able to apply directly from the job posting. Even if you have to go through an online application with the company itself, the LinkedIn posting may show your desired position’s description, required skills, projected compensation and how many others have applied.

Service members and veterans can get a free year of LinkedIn Premium (including LinkedIn Learning) through

3. Take advantage of your military affiliation.

Numerous employers give preference to veterans in the hiring process, including the federal government. Military spouses typically do not get the same consideration after transitioning unless they are the spouse of a service member with a 100% disability rating or one who was killed on active duty. Military spouses who qualify can utilize the Military Spouse Preference program.

There are also private programs that specifically focus on helping service members transition into a civilian career. Some civilian employers host military or veteran affinity groups within their organization that provide support and career development opportunities to former service members.

  • The USO offers a free Pathfinder Program that provides transition and job search support for both service members and their families.
  • Hiring Our Heroes is another free program, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that offers fellowships and hiring support to service members during their last 180 days on active duty. They also provide a program for spouses.