After spending time in a structured military environment, the transition back to civilian life can be challenging at best. How do you make the switch back to a lifestyle where someone isn't telling you what to do all the time?
Returning to civilian life after a career in the military isn't easy. Some of the statistics concerning this transition are troubling. More than 32 percent of veterans have experienced some form of trauma during their service. Sixty-one percent have problems with their marriage after coming home, and 44 percent have some level of difficulty readjusting to life outside the military.
How can veterans make this adjustment a little bit easier, and continue to thrive in their civilian life the way they did during their military career?
1. Networking and Support
More than 200,000 service members come back home every single year. This makes networking with other veterans a viable option for adapting to civilian life. It gives you someone to talk to who may have had similar experiences. Getting started with networking isn't as complicated as it seems, even for individuals who might not feel they're tech-savvy enough to navigate the multiple networking sites for veterans.
For the most part, all you need to do is create a profile, fill it out and seek those who have shared your experiences. These networking skills can also be useful for finding new civilian jobs, which leads us to our next topic.
2. Translating Job Skills
Many people choose a military career as a way of learning new skills, and even obtaining college degrees. The problem is that many of these skills don't translate to applicable talents for a resume. Marksmanship talents and the ability to drive a tank don't help you much when you're applying for a career in tech support, even if that's what you did during your military service.
The critical thing to remember is that the perfect resume doesn't exist. There is no formula for a resume that will secure the ideal career. The trick is to translate your skills for a civilian job market. If you worked in IT in the military, most of those skills would convert easily into the private sector. If you were a nurse or combat medic, saying so on your resume won't have the same sort of impact as calling yourself a health care specialist.
While searching for a new job, it's important to look for veteran-friendly employers. Some companies actively seek veterans, making it easier to find a job as a civilian. A career in the military doesn't just give you a variety of skills that you can apply to a civilian career — it also gives you a strong work ethic and a sense of honor that's hard to find in other lines of work.
Unfortunately, there are just as many companies that avoid hiring veterans, because of negative stereotypes regarding PTSD, as well as a misplaced fear of future deployments.
3. Utilize Veteran Services
The U.S. military provides a variety of different services for its veterans. While U.S. veteran services have earned a bad reputation in modern media, it can be beneficial to access them. Most veterans qualify for health care, training, education, and even assistance with insurance and home loans as soon as they retire or are discharged from the military.
Take a trip to your local VA office and see what it can help you with. You might be surprised how much assistance it can offer, whether you're trying to start a new career, buy a new home or simply start over now that this chapter of your life is over.
4. Seek Crisis Support
For civilians, an emotional crisis can be life-threatening. For a military veteran, thoughts of suicide or self-harm can be brought about by things they may have experienced during their military career. Past trauma and PSTD can make these situations even more dangerous.
There are confidential crisis lines for military veterans and even active-duty military personnel, similar to the suicide hotlines that are available for a civilian. Program the number into your phone and seek help if you're experiencing an emotional crisis. Places like these have experts who can guide you through the tough times.
You Are Not Alone
Thousands of military veterans come home every year, ending their careers and making the transition back into civilian life. The most important thing to remember is that even though it might feel like it, you are not alone. Take the time to reach out to fellow veterans, friends, family and veteran services in your area. Transitioning to civilian life isn't easy, but it's something that hundreds of thousands of people do every year. You're not alone, and if you need help, don't hesitate to ask for it.