Here at Code Platoon we care about veterans and military spouses. A lot. That is why we took the time to comb the web and all of our resources to compile this guide for you. We pored over hundreds of guides and tips and only listed the best ones here. Are you ready to see what we found?
As early as possible is ideal, but at least one year in advance of leaving the military is a good idea. Don’t immediately start vacationing and taking time off. It might be tempting, especially after multiple deployments, but don’t do it. Strike while the iron is hot.
By preparing early we mean that you should be applying as early as possible to as many jobs as possible. This in turn means networking early, preparing for interviews early, cleaning up your resume early, and cleaning up all social media early, making sure you have a highly professional email address– i.e. first and last name, no nicknames – and no embarrassing photos on Facebook. Get your SMART transcript ready, too, especially if you want to go to college because it shows how many college credits you have already learned while in the military.
In terms of job interview preparation, try to hold practice interviews (out loud, with friends, with career advisors, etc.) and realize what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as what your time with the military gave you. Always ask yourself the hard questions, even if you’re not sure of the answers yet. Real job interviewers will not be easy on you so practice effectively and practice as soon as possible.
You should also take this preparation time to decide what kind of work you actually want to do. This will help you tailor your job seeking approach to getting the jobs you actually want.
Moreover, preparing early for the real world means civilianizing. You should try to civilianize all aspects of your life because that is how you will have to live the second you leave the military. Make sure you’re not using military lingo or that your resume has specific military acronyms on it because hiring managers will not take the time to find out what you mean.
Finally, and very importantly, save. Early. As much as possible. Even with all of your (hopefully) early preparation, the job markets these days are uncertain. You could be jobless for a while and you will need to rely on savings to support yourself and your family, if you have one. The military will no longer be there to pay for your food and housing, so make sure that you can. You should conservatively estimate how much money you should save up, but a safe bet is at least $3,000 to $5,000 per month that the military will no longer pay you for, depending on where you live, whether or not you have a family, and any other circumstances.
USE YOUR RESOURCES AND ANY OTHER RESOURCES YOU CAN FIND
The military doesn’t just throw you out without any help. Make sure you take advantage of all the free services that are available to you, like military placement firms, military job boards, military job fairs, TAP/ACAP, and those military networks like VFW, any former military members you know, and military associations like AUSA, MOAA, IAVA, Marine for Life, etc. etc. Your friends and peers are one of your best resources, and this way you can learn from buddies who are going through the same challenges as you.
You should also make sure to use your military move wisely. Don’t just immediately use it to go back to your home town. If you wait until you find a job, you can actually use your military move to pay for relocation to wherever that is. If the company you’re applying for is unwilling to pay for employee relocation, this will make you an extra favorable hire.
Your military-provided life insurance services stop when you leave, naturally, so be sure to convert your standard $400,000 Servicemembers Group Life Insurance policy to a term policy with Veterans Group Life Insurance, especially if you are a veteran with health issues. If you are in good health a more competitive commercial policy would be an option. As a military retiree, you will still remain eligible to use TRICARE health insurance, but ideally you will soon switch to a good, affordable plan that comes with a new employer or a spouse’s job.
To help decide where to move to, you can easily look up what the most affordable cities are (Rochester, MN, Provo, UT, and Huntsville, AL to name a few) or where the most military-friendly employers are based (hint: Texas). If you are buying a home, you are probably eligible for a VA home loan, which could help you buy a house without a large down payment.
Finally, consider the reserves. Joining the reserves can make the transition a lot easier since you can still get to wear that uniform every month. Joining the reserves can give you enough money to cover a job search for several months, but in return you must sign a contract to serve for several years. If you don’t accept a financial payment package in direct transition, you can transfer to the reserves without any kind of future-job harming commitment.
Here are some other helpful sites:
- www.CivilianJobs.com – for job boards, job fairs, career conferences
- www.Bradley-Morris.com – for job fairs, career conferences
- www.USAJobs.gov – for federal jobs
USE WHAT THE MILITARY TAUGHT YOU
This applies to pre-finding a job/college as well as post-finding a job/college. In fact, this should apply to the rest of your life. The military was probably one of the best things that happened to you and it will have instilled many valuable lessons in you.
First, know when to ask for help. At some point or another, you’re going to need someone to talk to. Whether it is about money, health, family, or your service, know it’s okay to open up. The network you have around you wants to help. Let them know when you need it. No one can help you if you don’t let them know you need it.
Be humble. As humble as you were to your superiors in the military, if not more. Unfortunately, many civilian employers do not appreciate the risk and commitment you undertook when you elected to serve. Do not expect job interviewers to be impressed by your time in the military, instead be polite and friendly and try to show them how that experience makes you the best, most qualified candidate for whatever position it is you are interviewing for.
Be a self-advocate. You need to realize that no one is going to do anything for you. Whether it is filing a claim for an injury at the VA or getting your Post-9/11 GI Bill started, there are so many benefits that you can access as long as you put in the effort to attain them. The system for getting them isn’t always easy to navigate, and it can be frustrating and infuriating to wait for answers. Use the previous tip and ask for help, or just be patient, and turn in whatever paperwork you need to because hey, it’s for your own good.
The little things you learned in the military can also make you successful as a civilian. You can show up to class or work early. Stay after class or work to ask questions or do extra work. Ask lots of questions and be enthusiastic. Volunteer for hard assignments. Solve problems instead of giving excuses. These little things will set you apart, and also help dispel potentially negative stereotypes of veterans that exist in this country.
SAY ‘THANK YOU’
You should be thanking people throughout your journey to a successful military transition. Thank interviewers very soon after your interviews, thank those who offer you positions even if this is followed by a rejection rather than an acceptance, thank your friends and network who helped get you to where you are, thank your family, the list goes on.
About Code Platoon:
Code Platoon is an immersive, beginner-friendly coding boot camp located in the heart of Chicago. Code Platoon offers to cover 80% of tuition costs if you are a veteran or a military spouse, so the total out-of-pocket cost is $2,500. Code Platoon provides instant leads internships, interview preparation, job counseling, employer matching. Join us today by signing up at codeplatoon.org/apply.