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The 5 Veterans You Meet During Your Transition Out of the Military

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Blaine Zimmerman

The 5 veterans you meet during your transition out of the military. It’s been almost six years since I transitioned out of the Army from Fort Drum. I still remember my transition classes pretty clearly, especially what I thought was worth my time, and what was very clearly checking a box (they let a guy slide with a resume in Comic Sans – not the most professional thing you can do). More than that though, I remember the other people in the transition course with me. Not their names or anything like that, but the attitudes of the people in the workshop, and they all fall into some very distinct buckets. Since joining INvets as the Director of Veteran Engagement, I’ve come to realize that these folks still exist, as I’m sure most of you transitioning have met them (and probably fall into one of the buckets). To be clear, they aren’t all bad buckets, but I wanted to break them down and talk some tips and advice around each one. 

The E4 with the “six-figure job” lined up

I don’t know why this one stands out so vividly in my mind, but I can picture the 3 guys in my transition course that fell under this category. They talked a big game about this six-figure job that they had lined up in some obscure location. They didn’t have very many details about the job, or exactly what they’d be doing, or where they’d be living. They definitely had a solid plan on how to spend that money, but it was pretty clear that they probably did a Google search, found out that a position existed, and decided they were definitely getting that job, OR they “had an uncle that would get them in.” Now, I’m not saying that every one of them were lying, but I would venture to guess that the majority of them had a very ill-conceived plan. Finding a great job is one of the most important aspects of transitioning, but make sure you’re researching the company, completely understanding the role, and are completely sure that it’s a career you see yourself doing long-term. The salary amount is never the end-all, be-all to your overall satisfaction

The “I’m a Veteran, people will be lining up to hire me”

 Please don’t go into your transition with a sense of entitlement. While it is true that many employers see veterans as a welcome addition to their teams due to the soft skills we’ve learned in the military (showing up at the right time, in the right place in the right uniform, respect, understanding chain of command, work ethic, etc.), no one is going to just hand you a job because of your veteran status. Understand how to positively use your veteran status and be able to effectively translate your military experience to what your desired employer is looking for. Remember, it’s up to YOU to translate your skills to what an employer is looking for. Most hiring managers aren’t going to take the time to look up phrases on your resume like “Battalion Schools NCO.” They will get confused and throw your resume away. Now, if you were a “Training and Development Manager” all of a sudden you become more marketable to their teams. Understand your value and know how to convey it effectively. 

The “I’m just going to get my degree in X, then get a job”

This is a great path to start heading down, but there are things you should prepare yourself for. Possibly most importantly, it’s understanding what your college experience is going to look like. Depending on your role in the military, you’ve more than likely spent the last 4-20 years in a very close bond with your co-workers, been able to tell NSFW jokes, had a slightly altered sense of humor, and an overwhelming amount of trust in the people on your right and left. College is quite a bit different than that. You’re going to be in class with a bunch of 18-22 year old’s who are probably going to ask you if you’ve ever killed someone and who’s main life experience is figuring out how to get into the best frat parties this weekend. You’re going to have to be patient. You’re also going to have to work with these kids on group projects. Understand that this is a great experience for you to get used to future co-workers that you will have to complete projects with that you have nothing in common with (or just straight-up don’t like). Know what you’re getting into, prepare yourself mentally for it, and then don’t give up when it gets hard (or annoying)! Also spend time understanding your benefits package, where you will want to live, and if you need to work while going to school.

The “I’m over it”

We’ve all seen this person. They are completely ready to cut all ties with the military. Whether they’ve had a rough go recently, are dealing with family or personal issues, blaming their military experience on “bad leadership,” or just exhausted and ready to be done with the military. They usually go into the transition process without a plan, and sometimes expect other people to do everything for them, whether that’s writing their resume, applying for jobs, or just going through the motions with their transition courses because they know they have to. The transition is going to naturally be harder on these folks, because they’re making it harder by focusing on the negatives of their past, rather than setting themselves up for success in the future. If you know someone like this, do the right thing, and talk to them. Listen. Sometimes that will make the biggest difference in the world in someone’s life. They have a clean slate outside of the military to start writing their next chapter, and it will be an uphill climb if they don’t start working to prepare themselves for their civilian career

The Over-preparer

This person has their family budget in line, has six different versions of their resume ready to go, prepared by position, is already lining up interviews, and has a real estate agent lined up showing him houses virtually. If you’re not this person, you may find this person annoying. But you know what? They’re right. This is exactly the kind of approach you need to take when transitioning out of the military. Very few people can start their transition process 30 days out, find a job, and move seamlessly. You have to start early, and you need all the help you can get. It’s incredibly hard for anyone to blindly apply to a position, submit their resume, and get an interview. A lot of times, you need a foot in the door just to have an actual human being look at your resume. 

You may fit neatly into one of these buckets, or you may have a foot in a couple of them. This is exactly where we come in. With our employer network, we can help provide that foot in the door to the company that you’re interested in. Our virtual connection point gives you a leg up against the competition to make sure your resume is seen and gives you a better chance at the interview room. No matter where you are on your transition journey, you want to make sure that you’re presenting yourself in the best light and appropriately highlighting your military experience to what career you want to join. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we can put our resources to work for you to make your transition into civilian life a little easier.