BLOG / Insights

Veterans in Transition: Advice From One to Another

As a veteran-led organization, BTS has always been about recognizing the contributions of our veterans and focusing on what they bring to the table, whether in uniform or not. On this Veterans Day we asked our workforce to answer the question below about transitions- an important topic for all those who are moving on from active-duty and looking to continue making their mark in new ways.

“What advice do you have for Veterans who are transitioning out of active-duty service?”


Take as much time as you can before going back to work (I took about 10 months). Make sure you are ready and trained to do what you want to do, not just what you can do based on your military training. The most valuable skills I gained have nothing to do with driving ships or splitting atoms. Realize you are valuable for more than just your training and branch out.

Network early and brand yourself in multiple ways; and start it early, especially on LinkedIn. Just sending a random message and asking a general question will not work in most cases. 99% of the people will not answer (PM’s especially). Smaller company recruiters are more apt to answer, assist, and possibly introduce you to other people that are willing to help you out. Tap into additional resources like Hire Hero’s and Wounded Warriors. Most of the time they are an outstanding group that are willing to help out. Research the job market and areas. Starting off after your transition you might need to go to a larger market area to get established before you decide to settle into your retirement location. If you do not keep your options open, you might have just closed the door to numerous opportunities and potentially that hidden gem that you wanted. Finally, research what companies are really looking for on a resume. A standard 1-2 page resume is not always the case, especially in a technical field. Reach out and ask the questions to the recruiters in the field.

Transitioning out of the service is definitely a task that needs lots of preparation. First and foremost, use your network of previous active-duty members you may know who have entered the workforce. Secondly, make sure your resume reflects all of your work completed during your enlistment or commission, especially those that required actual education, and make sure they reflect the civilian version of that training. And, last but not least, get your resumes out early. Find all employers that may be hiring within your specialty, and don’t be afraid to apply for jobs you may or may not be fully qualified in.

Have a plan ready. Have answers for the following:

  • Are you planning on going directly into the workforce? Are you planning on going to school? Both?
  • Do your current skillsets directly translate to a particular civilian job?
  • If not, have a realistic approach on getting the skillsets needed to get the job you want?
  • Know that you are not alone and there is help available, have those resources at the ready.

Don’t be the overbearing veteran, your non-veteran colleagues will appreciate your service but don’t want to adapt to military mannerisms or hear about “that one time in Korea” every 37 minutes. You shouldn’t pretend like it never happened, your service will always be a part of you and you should be proud, but be open to changes and compromise. However, you can afford to lay off the F-bombs and move away from the military lingo that will be foreign to those unfamiliar with it.

Before you take a job, research the company that has approached you to determine what their reputation is in business as well as taking care of employees.  You can use LinkedIn and Glassdoor as a starting point.

Start sending out resumes and attending job fairs no later than 3 months prior to ETS/Retirement. Attempt to keep current and/or re-adjudicate their S & TS clearance prior to exiting service. Use a network e.g., LinkedIn, Social, etc., for “word-of-mouth” opportunities. Post resume on multiple job finding sites. Use more than one or two pages to orchestrate one’s resume i.e., Again, better to use more pages than less in order to capture complete descriptions of job capabilities and presenting experience. Attend online or in-person resume building class/course.

Use a Veteran’s Service Organization (VFW, etc.) to file your disability paperwork with the VA. Prepare your PACE plans before you transition out of service. It is better to have multiple courses of action to fall back on instead of relying on just one.

  • Attend multiple TAP classes, they all focus on different things (some primarily focus on VA claims while others focus on resume writing and interviewing). I personally went to Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB, and NAS Corpus Christi TAP classes and all three focused on something different.
  • Network, Network, and Network
  • Have multiple versions of your resume and allow someone from the industry you plan to get into, to review your resume and be open to receiving critiques on your resume especially from people that have been in field.
  • Always go through a recruiter when searching for positions. They can get your resume directly to the hiring manager. Simply applying to a position will not land you your ideal position. Refer to #2.

Use the GI Bill and get your degree with no student debt. If you have a security clearance, get a position that maintains it and use your GI Bill to go to school online or nights and weekends. Do not let it lapse to go to school, it will be very difficult to regain and your experience will be dated.

It takes time, have patience. Life is much different outside of the military than while in so it also takes effort. You no longer rely on anyone to your schedule, you suddenly become the sole driver of your day.

Double and triple check that your clearance/ polygraph made it into the appropriate databases. Often AFOSI will only put them into localized databases, if you get out without them being in a publicly available database then it’s a good as gone.

I want to encourage every veteran to leverage transition programs that the military offers. I specifically engaged all of the Army Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which laid a foundation for career resources. Hire for Heroes was another program that sets a veteran with mentor from Fortune 500 companies. Again, I recommend transitioning veterans to be tenacious in pursuing what programs are afforded to them to assist in their transition.

Resume’s:  A two-page resume is not going to get you far. The more detail you can provide, the more likely you will be selected. Format all of your resume entries like:

  • Month/year, Unit/location, position
  • Bulletized experience/highlights (at least 4 bullets, 2 to 3 sentences long)
  • List all of your training and certifications at the bottom of the resume. Put them in order by month/year

Interviews:  Be clear and concise. Be prepared to talk to everything in your resume that is relevant to the position you applied for. Do not oversell your experience and/or your capabilities. Most managers in this industry will appreciate the honesty and will work with you as long as you meet the government requirements. Whether the interview is in-person or virtual, dress for success. Wear business attire. You will be taken much more seriously.

Read the entire Veterans in Transition series:

Tags: , ,

Contact BTS to explore solutions for your intelligence or defense challenges.