Military to Civilian Transition Timeline for Veterans

Summary points in this post as part of Military Success Network’s Moving from the Military to the Marketplace series:

One (1) year in advance of separation from military – build networks, use social media, and review your resume and transferrable skills
Six (6) months out – begin direct and specific contact with growing network, practice interview skills
Three (3) months out – ship out resumes and cover letters, freshen contacts in real and on social media
Exit – welcome to your new work life, or retool to fill networking and skills gaps

Opportunity, it is said, is luck meeting preparedness.

Switch the order of those 3 ingredients in the formula and you still get the same thing: success.

A plus for veterans who are used to the order and discipline of the military, is that it’s a strong point to be able to take that familiarity of their service routine and apply it to their new calling. Life in the not always so structured civilian workplace, however, can come with some surprises. We’ll cover more on the new rules and behaviors later on in the Moving from the Military to the Marketplace series.

For now, we need to look at getting INTO that workplace. Here are tips you can plot on a calendar and then use it as a tool to guide you, even when things feel like they may go sideways on you:

PREPARATION is our first step. With preparation, you’ll be ready to take advantage of opportunity and to both make luck and to recognize luck when you meet it!

A year in advance

1. Create a civilian presence – before separation. Prior to leaving service, start your year of ‘living socially’ to build your civilian identity and network.

Social media, for example, provides a fast, easy and inexpensive way to reconnect with friends, research potential employers and check out businesses. Studies show that in the new economy, nearly 80 percent of jobs are shared on social networks. Join LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to network and land your job.

Get comfortable with it slowly, but know that while you do that, simply posting your profile already helps recruiters and future employers find and get to know you. Grow your network now and learn how to work it to find a job or business opportunity as you go.

2. Consider your strengths and identify the skills and even behaviors you learned in the military. What’s transferable?  You may find that even the seemingly intangible like integrity, loyalty and the desire to serve others that brought you into the military may be reflected in the value statements of organizations. What about your ability to work in a team, work under pressure and be responsible on the job?

A close look at what you offer in a team or hierarchical corporate environment will add confidence to your process and it will likely help ‘sell you’ on resumes and in interviews.

Do you have specific technical skills to present? Are you a candidate who is accountable? Capable of learning quickly and of meeting high performance standards even in a demanding training environment?

3. Start your job search with these descriptions of you in mind. Start where you are confident and look for companies whose needs match these traits that you’ve acquired during service. Then, trim these down to the ones that fit your technical background and interests.

4. Write a detailed resume with the skills and behaviors you’ve defined. Make it easy to spot the skills and then for the resume readers to match them to their needs.

Suggestion: start with a summary section that features those particular behaviors and skills that meet the needs of an organization or job opening. [Hint: Think, make it easy to see the cultural fit and desired skill set]

When you list the jobs you held in the military add your rank or responsibility under each one and your accomplishments in that position. Be specific: Did you lead? How many in your unit? Did you  consistently meet your objectives?

*Check out programs, resources and career guidance offered by the government. Review continuing education, colleges or certification programs and what assistance is available to attend them.

6 months prior to separation

Grow your network and now, tap them. Family, friends, former and close work contacts and other veterans can be called on for advice or to discuss interests.

Be clear on your objectives and don’t be shy about shipping out resumes to them. Ask about others or get referrals to those who might be helpful in your hunt for work and opportunity.

Pick a few trusted folks to give you feedback on the practice interviews you want to ask them to help you with.

3 months prior to separation

Now is a good time to ship out resumes and cover letters. Employers can relate to this window while waiting 6 months of more for you to ‘come out’ to work is beyond their planning, usually.

Connect. Connect. Connect. Ask for information. Keep up your networking. Check job alerts you’ve signed up for in your social networking starter stage above.


Got a job? Great. Lots more transition adventure ahead for you.

No job yet? Check into what gaps of skills or qualifications will help you match company needs. Look into additional technical training suited for the industry or field of work you are interested in. Now is a good time to move networking into live, in person situations and also to secure exploratory or information interviews.

Tell us what worked for you? We’re working on adding more tips from experts, so let us know what would help you here.  Leave your comment via Military Success Network’s contact page




  1. I thought this tool might have some value for military personnel that are transitioning.–A-visual-action-plan

    also, if they need a Technical Manual for business. try this.

    • Helena Kaufman says:

      Thanks again Scott,
      I was particularly impressed with the model that showed how Veterans are “mission ready” for entrepreneurship. The step by step business plan is well detailed.


  1. […] MilSuccessNet will post guides and expert blogs that support each step of a Veteran’s journey moving permanently from military to civilian milieus. Our first guide can be found here. […]

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