By Kelly M. Cruz, U.S. Army.
Senior Human Resources Specialist.
U.S. Department of State.

Before any movement, there is always a plan. The military may have taught me many lessons, but this lesson proves the most valuable. It is about preparedness. Whether it is movement on a battlefield or transitioning from military to civilian life, transitioning can be daunting and at times confusing, but a successful transition can be managed.

Transitioning career fields provides an opportunity to determine your next adventure. It is helpful to begin with a personal inventory of your knowledge, skills (both technical and in-demand soft skills), and abilities. This is an opportunity to reflect on your past experiences, assess your strengths, or even discover a new interest and how your personal qualifications can facilitate career advancement.

Nowadays, there is a wealth of information available, much more than what was available 10 years ago. The Department of Defense has created robust transition assistance programs. While each service is unique, the goal is to provide you the resources on education, professional, and financial resources. It is also beneficial to convert your military experience into civilian language. There are many websites and resources available to aid you in the process.

Reviewing your personal qualifications and utilizing your available resources, you are now ready to create the advantage for your next career move. If you are looking for a federal position, many agencies have Veteran Employment Program Managers who can provide employment assistance and assist with internal hiring processes. Many private sector companies have special outreach programs designed specifically for veterans. Researching their website or contacting their headquarters may provide you additional useful information.

Kelly Cruz in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2005.

Beginning and preparing for transition can never start too early. It is a significant event and it requires deliberate and detailed planning, especially regarding finances. Financial planning is crucial and can eliminate stress and anxiety. Do not get discouraged. Finding work, getting referred for a position, or even going on your first interview can take time, requires massive amounts of patience, and diligence. Many Veteran programs offer career fairs and typically include a variety of companies hiring targeting different skills. More important, be flexible. As you embark upon your transition, your career path may take on many different forms.

There is a mountain of information readily available to help you transition to civilian life successfully—use it! Gather as much information as you can and ask questions. Best of luck! Thank you for your service.

Kelly Cruz proudly served the United States Army for four years and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Kelly is a Senior Human Resources Specialist at the U.S. Department of State.

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