Choosing the Right Post-Military Career

If you are a veteran transitioning into civilian employment, you may find that you are faced with many questions.  After all, such a change is often difficult and complex. You may wonder what type of role you should pursue; what field or industry you’re best suited for; and where you can make the best salary.  There is also the apprehension that you may make the wrong choice, and end up back at square one.

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Think first.

Before you make any final decisions, your first course of action is to identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Furthermore, remind yourself why you are leaving the military.  This may have a large effect on where you are headed.  For instance, a veteran who has simply retired from the armed forces will have different employment needs than a soldier with a hardship discharge.  In addition to helping you recognize your path, you will also be practicing for answers to common interview questions down the road.

Remain open-minded.

The biggest mistake a veteran (or any job seeker) can make is to overly limit your options.  For former military personnel who are seeking a corporate job, holding out for the Fortune 500 is not necessarily a good idea.  Don’t discard job opportunities at smaller, private companies, as they often provide a great opportunity for growth. Just remember to do your research.

Review your choices.

While you may already have a distinct view of the type of post-military career you plan to pursue, there is also a strong possibility you are confused and overwhelmed.  This may be especially true for career military personnel who have likely spent limited time in the civilian job market.  If this sounds familiar, you may want to seek out a formal career assessment to assist in isolating your strongest and most marketable skills, attributes, interests, and talents. There are also books available, directed toward former military personnel seeking this particular knowledge.

Another aspect not to be overlooked is the power of networking.  Keep your eye out for professionals working in your field of interest. Utilize professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, join groups, and remember to put the word out within your own social circles.  This is not the time to be reticent, especially if you want to benefit from the resources that surround you.  If fact, you will likely find that many would be happy to offer you their knowledge.

If you are still having difficulty deciding on a clear employment path, and you find that time is on your side, consider the benefits of continuing education.  Earning a degree in a brand new field will not only give you the knowledge to reach your goals, but a valuable competitive edge.

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Stay positive.

Remember that what you have achieved in your line of duty, alone, is more than many can ever hope to.  Don’t allow a few bumps in the road offset your enthusiasm toward reaching your post-military career goals, and enjoy this new and exciting stage in your life.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart Cooper & Coon specializes in career transition services for senior-level military decisions makers and government agency employees by assisting candidates in locating companies who welcome both their leadership and organizational talents.  


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