How to Adjust to Civilian Life After the Military

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The journey from the battlefield to the boardroom, or from military service to civilian life, is a profound and often daunting transition that countless veterans face each year.

This shift involves more than just changing careers; it's about adapting to a completely different culture, pace, and set of expectations.

Veterans are tasked with navigating the nuances of civilian society, redefining their personal identities outside of their military roles, and translating their unique skills and experiences into a new context.

While this transition is undoubtedly challenging, it's also an opportunity for growth, discovery, and the beginning of a new chapter filled with untapped potential.

The journey may be steep, but the view from the top is worth every step.


Life Transitions Therapists in Colorado

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719)345-2424
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Katelynn Dwyer, LPCC

Katelynn Dwyer, LPCC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Jennifer Luttman, LPC, ACS

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Melissa Peterson, LPC

Melissa Peterson, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Melvin Lee, LPCC

Melvin Lee, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424

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Emotional Preparation

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be an emotional rollercoaster.

Many veterans may experience a range of feelings, from relief and excitement about the future to anxiety, depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Acknowledging the potential emotional and psychological impacts is the first step towards addressing them.

Some individuals may feel a loss of identity or purpose after leaving the structured environment of the military, while others might struggle with redefining their roles within their family or society.

Therapy and counseling services can provide a safe space to express feelings, navigate through challenges, and develop coping strategies.

Veterans might consider seeking support from professionals who specialize in military transition or PTSD.

Many organizations offer mental health services specifically tailored to the unique needs of veterans.

Additionally, group therapy or support groups can connect veterans with peers who are facing similar experiences, fostering a sense of community and mutual understanding.



Financial Adjustment

In the military, many of your living expenses, such as housing, meals, and healthcare, may have been covered or heavily subsidized.

Transitioning to civilian life means taking on these expenses fully, which can be a substantial change.

Additionally, your income structure will likely shift from a steady military paycheck to a potentially fluctuating civilian income.

Budgeting and financial planning become essential tools in managing this transition.

Start by creating a realistic budget that accounts for all your income sources and expenses.

It's important to factor in costs that you might not have had to consider while in the military, such as health insurance, rent, or groceries.

Consider setting up an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. If you're unfamiliar with financial planning, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor.

Many organizations offer free or low-cost financial counseling to veterans.


Career Transition

Transitioning from a military career to a civilian job can seem daunting, but the skills you've gained in the military are highly transferable and valuable in the civilian workforce.

To effectively communicate these skills to potential employers, it's crucial to "translate" them into civilian terms.

This involves identifying the core competencies you've developed, such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, or technical skills, and expressing them in language that civilian recruiters will understand.

For instance, instead of using military jargon, describe your skills in universal terms. If you led a team of soldiers, this can be translated to project management or team leadership experience in a civilian context.

The job search process may also differ from what you're used to in the military.

Leverage resources like job boards, networking events, and veteran-focused job fairs.

Websites such as FlexJobs, Indeed, and Military.com offer tools to match your military skills with civilian jobs.

When it comes to interviews and resume writing, remember to highlight your achievements in a way that demonstrates your value to a potential employer.

Use quantifiable results where possible and avoid military acronyms that civilian recruiters may not understand.

Lastly, consider seeking help from career services that specialize in military-to-civilian transition, they can provide personalized advice and support throughout your job search.



Education Opportunities

One of the most significant benefits available to veterans is access to educational opportunities through programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill.

These programs can cover a substantial portion, if not all, of the costs associated with pursuing higher education or vocational training, including tuition, books, and housing.

For example, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits and is generally available for veterans who have served on active duty for 90 or more days since Sept. 10, 2001.

The Montgomery GI Bill, on the other hand, is available for those who have served at least two years on active duty.

Choosing the right educational path is a personal decision that should align with your career goals and interests.

Whether you're interested in obtaining a degree, learning a trade, or gaining certification in a specific field, there are numerous pathways to explore.

Consider what skills you want to acquire and how they will help you in your desired career field.

Don't rush this decision; take the time to research different programs, consider your long-term goals, and perhaps seek advice from academic counselors or career advisors. 


Social Adjustment

This can be challenging as the camaraderie and shared experiences among service members often create a strong sense of community.

It's not uncommon for veterans to feel isolated or experience a sense of loss when this community is no longer a part of their daily lives.

To combat these feelings, it's essential to actively seek out social interactions and connections in your new environment.

This could involve joining local clubs or organizations, volunteering, or participating in activities that interest you.

Establishing relationships with fellow veterans can also provide a sense of familiarity and mutual understanding.

It's perfectly normal to miss the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood you had in the military, but with time and effort, you can build meaningful relationships in your civilian life too.


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Conclusion

Transitioning from military to civilian life is a significant change that comes with its own set of challenges, but it's important to remember that these challenges are normal and can be overcome.

The skills, discipline, and resilience you've developed in the military are highly valuable and can be applied in your civilian life too.

It may take time to adjust and find your footing, but with persistence and the right resources, you can successfully navigate this transition.

There's a vast network of support available to you – from fellow veterans to organizations dedicated to aiding your transition. 


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July 13th, 2024

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