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Transitioning From Military to Civilian Life

Take Inventory of Your Skills and Keep a Sense of Humor

Mom and baby with golden retriever, dad looking on in the background.

When my husband came home one day in April and told me he was retiring from military service in July, I panicked. I had a small business and he had no prospective job lined up. We were thrilled to be able to move back to our home state of New Hampshire, but we had a family to support. We needed at least one of us to have a full-time income and insurance. I immediately started applying for jobs over the internet and found one relatively quickly. I moved to New Hampshire to start my new job, while my husband stayed behind to sell our house and let the kids finish out the school year. In July, he drove three kids, a golden retriever, and the family cat over 1,000 miles to join me.

Soon he was applying for every job he saw a posting for. He applied for a job as a truck driver, tuna factory processor, substitute teacher, and vacuum cleaner salesman. When I asked if this is what he saw himself doing for the next 20 years, he shook his head in distress and admitted that he didn’t know where to start. He hadn’t been to a job interview for over 23 years. It took some serious soul searching for him to identify his strengths, interests, and skills. He opted for temp work while identifying his new career goals.

As he soon discovered, successful military members have unique skills that make them valuable employees in the civilian job market. Many are disciplined, have respect for punctuality, and are able to follow directions. Most also have leadership skills, technical training, and higher education degrees. For veterans, it’s important to take inventory of your skills and acknowledge your natural talents or interests before launching the job search.

On Saturday, April 9th from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Service Credit Union will host the 6th Annual Seacoast Veterans Conference at its corporate headquarters located at 3003 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, NH. Veterans will find employment resources, small business opportunities, healthcare, VA and legal resources, and more. The conference is open to all veterans and their families. This year’s theme is “Exploring New Horizons.” Home to many active-duty military, reservists, and veterans, the Seacoast community stands ready to offer support, mentorship, and assistance to help veterans transition successfully.

My husband has been at his new career for over 10 years now and he has a newfound value for his military training as a stepping stone to his new career. Oh, some things will never change; he will always be a procrastinator, wake up at the crack of dawn and wear his hair military regulation short. But these days he chuckles when we drive past the tuna factory.

Sharon is a former military spouse of a retired Air Force master sergeant.