Over the course of my military career, I took off the uniform and returned to civilian life no less than five times. My first experience was after six years of active duty, followed by three post-9/11 mobilizations, after which I reintegrated with both public and private sector organizations. The final transition was my retirement in 2017 after more than 26 years of service.
The transition back into civilian life isn’t always easy and doesn’t happen overnight. Here are three tips to help minimize your stress level while taking off the uniform.
Take some time and decompress following your tour/career.
You’re returning from a high stress environment and need time to adjust and reunite with family, friends and society. Don’t rush back into civilian life without allowing yourself time to reflect on your experiences, revisit your personal and professional goals, and reconnect with the world.
Network and communicate.
Some Guardsmen and Reservists have stable civilian positions awaiting their return, while others might not have a clear re-employment path. Regardless of which camp you fall into, I suggest keeping the lines of communication open with existing or potential employers.
In the case of existing employers, they need to know you’re alright and when to expect your return. This is the basic level of interaction they deserve and I recommend sharing more as your situation allows.
For those without a career plan following a period of extended duty, network as much as possible while in uniform. Connect with other Guard/Reserve members and learn from their experiences while listening for potential opportunities. Develop your network and identify mentors – both in and out of uniform – that might provide advice and useful insights for your career. You should also connect or reconnect with individuals working in industries that interest you along with previous employers, if appropriate. Look for current trends and explore if your skills and experience might be of use within these organizations.
Of course, you also need to keep the lines of communication open with friends and family, which helps keep you grounded during your mobilization or deployment. For those in school or planning to attend after their current tour of duty, I suggest getting applications started and leaning into upcoming coursework. Make use of available time and better prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
Leverage the resources.
There are a vast amount of resources available during the military transition, which can range from VA benefits to medical, employment or family support functions. Take advantage of formal transition assistance materials along with the services offered by many veteran support organizations and community groups. Click here for a full list of TRANSITION RESOURCES along with interactive databases, advice, commentary and insights from veterans who’ve gone before you.
Over the past decade, I’ve heard countless members describe the transition process as if they were “crossing into the unknown.” This is most often the case when members don’t have a solid transition plan which helps reduce the uncertainty and stress. Take time to evaluate what you want next, prepare a plan early and lean on the programs available to make this next stage go smoothly.
Visit Military Transition to learn more about military-to-civilian resources.Read comments