I spent five months unemployed before I started my first civilian job and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. My plan was always to roll right into my next job, and I would have never believed that it would take me that long to start working again. I started planning my career transition a full year in advance to avoid this exact situation. How could this have happened to me?

 

No one ever told me that I should plan for this. Why would they? Up to that point, my career had been playing out perfectly. My peers who left the military before me were able to get on their feet quickly, or so I thought. The truth is, most service members experience a period of unemployment. It’s not ideal but it’s also not the end of the world. Here are a few things that surprised me about unemployment:

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As an HR Director for a growing retail grocery company, I interviewed, hired and worked with lots of people, including several veterans. Each time, I was excited about bringing our shared, time-honored and battle-tested values into my company to help accomplish my company’s mission.  When that happened, it was great. However, there were times when it didn’t always work out.

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Any major life transition causes a complexity of emotions including fear, anguish and excitement. A military transition is no different and arguably may be more complex. You’re leaving a security blanket and leaping into the unknown. With that comes an unbelievable growth experience that requires hard work, incredible tenacity and thorough self-introspection.

 

 When you came out the other side, what did you learn? What did you learn about the process of the transition? What made you successful? When asking these questions to transitioned veterans, most often you’ll get the high-level responses such as: “I networked or prepared well for my interviews.” I want to take it one step further and dive deeper to provide you with 10 “secrets” or creative approaches that you often may not hear.

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1. Take care of yourself and stay healthy. Now, this may seem like your traditional new year’s resolution, but of course there is a military twist. Yes, we all know we are more productive when we eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. But as a transitioning service member, make sure you get your health check-ups while you are still in. Remember, once you’re out, you may be paying for health care for the first time and those trips to “sick call” will not be free anymore. This is also important if you were injured while in the service, and may need health care from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. If an injury or condition is not in your medical records, you will be hard-pressed to get help from the VA.

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For those of us who have lived a life in the military, the experience of being uncomfortable often became the norm.  It seems that during our military career we constantly longed for that next “comfortable” experience.   Whether returning from a field exercise, deployment, or simply a hard day at work; that comfortable feeling afterwards felt like a euphoric high.

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As a transitioning veteran, it’s important to note that your challenge isn’t over once you’ve received a job offer. You will remain in the process of transition for months after you’ve started work in a new job. There will be new people to meet, new organizational norms to understand, and many new processes which you will need to learn in order to be successful.

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