7 Min Read • September 15, 2023

Military to Civilian Transition Guide: Five Steps to a Successful Transition for Service Members


It’s no secret that many veterans encounter obstacles, such as lacking a four-year degree from a college or university while searching for civilian work. In 2016, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study found that 53% of veterans are unemployed for four months or longer after leaving the military. That may seem like a discouraging figure, but it is important to know that there are steps transitioning service members can take to increase their chances of finding work faster. This blog acts as a guide for service members who are currently transitioning or soon to transition out of the military.

1. Utilize the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)’s information and resources.

First introduced in 2013, TAP guides service members and their families from military to civilian life. Resources and information provided through TAP curriculum cover the essentials for seeking a degree or entering the civilian workforce. 

TAP classes are offered across the US, and service members can visit TAP Centers to complete them. However, don’t worry if you don’t live near a TAP center near you; TAP eLearning is available to those who are unable to attend TAP in person.

2. Know what security clearance you hold.

There are three types of government security clearances: confidential, secret and top secret - all of which increase your marketability during your job search. During your time in the military, you may have earned a security clearance. But many security clearances have an expiration date, and it’s important to know if your clearance is still active. First, you’re going to want to check on the status of your security clearance to obtain the expiration date, issuing agency and other important information that is essential to your career growth.

Once you know your clearance status and have gathered all the relevant information, you can leverage your clearance in your job search. Generally, it is a great idea to include your clearance on your resume. Indeed offers some fantastic tips for how to list a security clearance on your resume

After you’ve added your clearance to your resume, we recommend applying for jobs that value security clearances as a candidate attribute. Some examples of jobs that value or require a security clearance include:

  • Positions at government agencies
  • Positions at private companies that work closely with government agencies
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Accounting
  • Financial Analyst
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Linguist
  • Software Developer
  • System Administrator
  • Web Developer
  • And more!

3. Network and prepare for job interviews. 

They say “It’s all about who you know” in the corporate world. While this corporate cliché might not be entirely true, it is true that networking has become one of the most powerful tools for job seekers in today’s market. While it may not be all about who you know, having a standing connection with an employee could differentiate you from other candidates at some companies. 

It’s important to nurture relationships you’ve created with other service members in the military because those connections could lead to job opportunities. Additionally, we recommend building professional relationships outside of the military at corporate events and job fairs. Before attending networking events, it’s important to prepare a brief elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is used in networking to introduce yourself and make a memorable first impression. It’s important to be quick and concise with your elevator pitch, highlighting what you’ve done and plan to do in your career in about 30-60 seconds.

You’ll also want to conduct practice interviews and make sure you have proper interview attire prepared for when you get an interview request from a potential employer. Generally, employers expect candidates to dress in business professional attire for an interview. This could include nice dresses, slacks, skirts, button-down shirts, blouses, dark-colored suits and ties. For shoes, you should wear heels, loafers, dress boots, derby shoes or oxfords. Affordable business professional attire can be found at department and thrift stores. If you need a rental, businesses like Men’s Warehouse or Rent the Runway are quality options. Additionally, through Save a Suit, veterans and transitioning service members can receive a free suit.

4. Adjust your language from military to business speak.

Internal military language becomes second nature to service members after a number of years in the service. There’s no need to completely eliminate military language from your vocabulary, however, you should be aware that most civilians won’t understand it. During your job search, you should be mindful of this and avoid military jargon. While a certain level of respect is required for addressing your superiors in a corporate environment, generally, business language is far more casual than military language.

5. Earn certifications and gain valuable professional skills.

You don’t have to wait until you’re retired from the service to start building your professional skill set. The Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program allows active service members to start earning certifications with credentialing assistance (CA) funding. 

Currently, SkillStorm is approved for Army, Air Force and Coast Guard COOL funding which can be used for our AWS and CompTIA certification training courses. If you’re interested in entering the cloud computing/DevOps or cyber security fields within the IT industry, these training courses are an excellent starting point. All of SkillStorm’s courses are taught online by expert instructors with live lectures occurring Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and office hours occurring Mondays and Fridays. Live lectures and office hours are scheduled on Eastern Time according to instructor availability. Can’t make it to a live lecture? Don’t worry because lecture recordings are uploaded to Canvas to view at a time that’s convenient for you. Check out our Army, Air Force and Coast Guard COOL course catalogs to see when our upcoming courses start!

Download Our Printable Checklist

Would it help if we made you a checklist for these items? We thought it would, so we went ahead and created one that you can use to keep track of your transition plans and progress. This resource also includes helpful links that you can reference throughout your transition from military to civilian life.



We’re happy to help! Send an email to military@skillstorm.com for personalized assistance from one of SkillStorm’s advisors.

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