Transitioning from military service to a rewarding career can feel like a daunting undertaking. The work environment and requirements are usually pretty different. What made you successful in the military may not work as well or could even be counterproductive in civilian life.
Many veterans have trouble coping with this adjustment for several reasons:
- The lower stakes lead to boredom.
- The lack of straightforward rules and missions can cause confusion and anxiety.
- Survival behaviors learned during combat, like a flight or fight response, are counter-productive in a work environment.
- Stress and painful memories from deployment can make it difficult to concentrate and remember important information.
- Military skills don’t always translate to a new work environment.
But the structure and discipline you mastered during your military service can also help you succeed in a civilian work environment. Here are a few things to remember:
Focus on your health.
- See a doctor when necessary and only take medications as prescribed.
- Stay away from unhealthy foods (high fat, high sugar).
- Don’t use non-prescribed drugs or drink alcohol excessively.
- Keep a routine—get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat at the same time each day.
Learn and practice communication skills.
- Maintain polite and friendly communication with co-workers
- Ask for help about talking about deployment with colleagues
- Learn the appropriate ways to handle conflict and criticism, taking into account the culture of your workplace.
- Keep you workspace neat
- Make task lists
- If you have trouble staying focused, write your thoughts in a journal or notebook.
Create your own structure
- Assess your values and make a list.
- Determine the ways your job fits with your values.
- To identify your values, ask yourself questions like:
- What kind of an employee do I want to be? Hard-working? Dependable? A trustworthy officer?
- What parts of work are important to me? Using and building my skills? Fixing problems? Leading a team of people?
- What do I like about my current job? The way people treat each other? The feeling of accomplishment? Good benefits?
- How does this job fit with serving my country?
- Set long-term goals, like an ideal future position or promotion, and then set short-term goals that will help you achieve them.
- Stay current on training and the technology used in your field.
If you are looking for some training, check out Purple Heart’s Veterans Vocational Technical Institute.
If you want to go back to school and complete an undergraduate degree, learn about Purple Heart scholarships.
For career counseling or other services, find a National Service Officer near you.