Transitioning from the military to civilian lifestyle is far from easy.
You’re not used to the whole job-search process: creating a resume, matching it with a cover letter, going through the whole interview process.
The whole thing can seem pretty scary!
Worry not, though, in this guide, we’ll teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to transition into a civilian position!
- All things job-search. How to make a resume, write a cover letter, ace the interview, and more!
- Top web resources for veterans - job-boards, guides, and more.
- Challenges you might face when transitioning to a civilian lifestyle (and how to tackle them).
- Top 4+ strengths that veterans bring to the workforce (and how to use them).
- 7+ Best jobs for veterans.
- Everything you need to know about the G.I. bill & education.
- Vocational rehabilitation program for veterans (and how to use it).
There’s a lot to cover here, so let's just jump into it!
Veteran’s Guide to Job-Search - Everything You Need to Know
Let’s start with the basics. To land a job, you’ll need:
- A strong resume
- A convincing cover letter
- Strong interview game
Let’s go through each of these step-by-step.
Resume Writing for Veterans
The resume is a one-page document where you list out all your relevant work experiences
Here’s what you’d include on a typical resume…
- Contact Information - Full name, email address, phone number, and location.
- Work Experience - Your career in chronological order. Your latest job goes on top, and then you go from there.
- Education - Degree name/type, as well as major or concentration.
- Skills - Your top soft skills (leadership, critical thinking, etc.) and hard skills (operating machinery, coding languages, software know-how, etc.).
Want to learn more? Here are some of the best resources on how to create a convincing resume.
Want a smooth resume-creating experience? Ditch your old Word resume template and use a resume builder instead.
Novoresume was created with recruiters in mind: our CVs are well-designed and easy to skim. Pick one of our 8+ resume templates and get started!
The most comprehensive guide to creating a resume you’ll EVER read. It comes with all the best tips, tricks, and examples.
Step-by-step guide on how to take your military experience and put it on your resume.
Part of developing an effective resume is choosing the right format to present your military background.
Check out this guide to discover the 3 most common formats, and decide which one's right for you.
As a veteran, you probably have a lot of important skills you need to highlight on your resume. Check out this guide to discover some of the most important skills you can mention in your resume.
A resume objective is an optional section that goes on top of your resume and acts as an introduction.
In short, it says what your background is, and how you’re going to use it for the job you’re applying for.
Done with your resume?
Now, we can move onto writing a cover letter.
Here’s what you need to know -
How to Write a Cover Letter
Every company you’ll ever apply for will ask for a cover letter to supplement your resume.
The cover letter is a short document (250 - 500 words) that briefly highlights your skills, and explains how your background is relevant for the position you’re applying for.
Here’s what a typical cover letter structure looks like:
And here’s what you’d mention in each of the sections:
- Contact Details - Here, you include all the essential contact information, including your full name, phone number, email, and the current date.
- Hiring Manager - If you can find their full name (from the job ad, About page, etc.), feel free to address them directly. If not, you can go with a simple “Dear Hiring Manager”.
- Opening Paragraph - You’ll want your introduction to be relevant and straight to the point in order to get the manager’s attention. To do this, you can start off by saying what’s your role, years of experience, and top skill/achievement that makes you relevant for the job.
- Body - This is where you show off your personal skills and explain why you’re the perfect fit for the job. Here, you can address some of the specific responsibilities for the job and how you have the right experience (use examples!)
- Closing Paragraph - Finally, you wrap up your cover letter and write the call-to-action conclusion here. In the final paragraph, you wrap up any points you couldn’t in the previous paragraphs, thank the hiring manager for their time, and finish with a call-to-action.
- Formal Salutation - Once you’re done with the final paragraph, all you have to do is write down one last “goodbye” and sign off. Some of the most popular sign-offs include “Kind regards,” and “Sincerely.”
Need more advice on how to write a cover letter? Here are a couple of resources and guides that can help you out:
As with a resume, you want your cover letter to be well-designed and easy to read. Use one of our templates and make sure that your cover letter stands out from the rest of the applicants.
This is our super-comprehensive guide, an all-you-need-to-know guide to cover letters. Check it out to learn how to write a convincing cover letter step-by-step. Once you’re done writing, be sure to go over the Novoresume free cover letter checklist at the end of the article to see if you missed anything.
Need some inspiration? Check out some of these cover letter examples, and learn what, exactly, each of them does right.
Hiring managers like to see that you’ve done some research and that your cover letter is customized for the job you’re applying for. You can show this by using the manager’s name and formatting your letter in the right way.
Your cover letter should catch the recruiter’s attention from the first sentence. Follow the tips in this guide to see how you can do that!
Finally, you’ll want to end your cover letter on a high note and inspire action. Check out some of the top examples on how to do this in this guide!
Done with the cover letter?
Time for the last step of your job search: the interview.
Mastering the Interview
After creating a killer resume and a cover letter, it’s time for the final challenge:
The job interview.
Some of the most common questions you can expect are:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How did you hear about this position?
- What are your biggest strengths?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
There’s also a good chance that they’ll ask you questions related to your military career, such as:
- Why did you join the military?
- What aspects of your military background prepared you for this position?
- What opportunities are you looking for now that you ended your military career?
To learn how to answer all these questions and more, check out some of these top guides:
This guide covers the most common interview questions and how you can answer them. Wherever you’re applying, you’ll likely be asked several of these questions. So, make sure you’re prepared!
Your strengths say a lot about you as a candidate. As a veteran, the recruiter will want to know how your skills and strengths are going to be relevant for the job. Check out the guide for 30+ sample strengths and 4 sample answers you can use.
Some companies (especially if you’re applying for a job in a different state) use video interviews over the conventional in-person interview. Check out the guide to learn how a video interview is different from the conventional ones, and discover the best ways to do it right.
Finally, at the end of the interview, it’s your turn to ask the hiring manager a few questions. See the guide for sample questions you can ask to demonstrate your interest in the role and the company you’re applying at.
Now that you know how to ace the application process, let’s cover some job boards...
Finding the Job - 5+ Job Board Websites
When looking at job boards, you have 2 options.
Veteran job boards - These are specifically designed to help vets find jobs, and will only have the relevant listings.
Conventional job boards - Where you’ll find just about any type of position.
Here are a few:
A job portal that helps veterans transition into a civilian lifestyle. You can find jobs, discover career events, learn about the job-search process, and more.
Job board for positions in the federal government. While not specifically for vets, the US government prioritizes hiring veterans (as long as you’re qualified for the job).
Job board for veteran-friendly positions/organizations.
A job board for positions in the private security industry.
Another veteran-only job board.
And of course, you can also use some of the conventional job boards:
- Monster.com - One of the most popular job boards in the US.
- Indeed - Another popular job portal.
- The Muse - Job board with a twist. The Muse comes with detailed company profiles, so you can learn what employers are all about before applying.
- LinkedIn (LI) - While not exactly a job board, you can find a ton of vet-friendly positions on LI.
- GlassDoor - You can use Glass Door to both find jobs, as well as learn about the benefits companies offer, read up employee reviews, and more.
7 Essential Job-Search Resources for Veterans
There are a ton of cool resources on the web that can help you transition into a civilian lifestyle:
You can Feds Hire Vets to find federal organizations that prioritize hiring veterans over other candidates.
Tons of awesome resources to help you transition into a civilian lifestyle. You can find resources on top jobs for veterans, a list of GI Bill sponsored schools, entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans, and all sorts of other things.
You can use O*Net Online to discover positions/roles you want to try out. The website has a lot of info on what each job means and what tasks you’ll be completing.
You can use this website to find vet-only job fairs in your area.
If you’re leaving active service soon, if you’ve been discharged within the past year, or if you’re the dependent of a Veteran, you may be eligible for free educational and career consulting. Benefits include counseling to help you decide which jobs you want, and finding the right program or job that works for you.
The American Corporate Partners is a great non-government resource that helps unemployed veterans with a free, year-long mentorship program that helps build your next career. Completing the application takes just a few minutes, and once you apply, an ACP staff member will reach out to you to schedule a call about your career goals.
LinkedIn offers U.S. veterans a free one-year premium careers subscription, which also includes access to LinkedIn Learning. Premium comes with a bunch of cool features: you can see whenever someone looks at your profile, access free educational resources, and more.
8 Other Job Search Resources
Finally, here’s a bunch of other essential guides and articles if you want to learn more about the job search process.
Do you have a reference or two you could use from the time spent in the military? Here’s how you can list them on your resume.
Should you mention hobbies and interests on your resume? If done right, they can help you establish rapport with the interviewer. See the guide for 40+ sample hobbies and what they say about you.
Not sure how to list your military achievements in your resume? See the guide for real-life examples and how to give more credibility to your statements.
Do you need a picture in your resume? It depends on the country. Check out this guide to learn if you should include a picture on your resume.
Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? It’s time to get on that! Use this guide to learn how to create a strong LI profile.
Nowadays, most companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to scan every application that comes in. This software scans your resume for relevant keywords to decide if your resume is what they’re looking for. See the full guide to learn how to properly use resume keywords and pass the ATS.
Need some inspiration? Check out some of these resume examples that stand out.
Fact - most resumes look alike. Want YOURS to stand out? Use one of these 3+ creative resume templates.
Now, unfortunately, you might also face some challenges that come with transitioning from a military lifestyle to a civilian one.
Here’s how you can prepare.
Challenges for Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Life
Unfortunately, there are still many returning veterans who suffer from depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a major problem for vets around the world.
Having PTSD might feel like it’s a serious obstacle that prevents you from carrying out certain duties on the job.
Symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Feeling emotionally numb, and more.
You may feel like you’re constantly on the edge, emotionally numb or disconnected, and close to panicking or exploding.
But this shouldn’t diminish what you’re capable of doing.
So, here’s how you can fight back.
First, see if you qualify for PTSD disability compensation. More info on that here: VA Disability Compensation for PTSD.
And if you’d like to learn more about PTSD, including the signs and other resources, you can read on that here: Overview: Recognize the Signs of PTSD.
Now, let’s briefly talk about the treatment for PTSD.
PTSD is not new, and luckily, there is more treatment available today than ever before.
The first step, and often a hard one, is recognizing the symptoms for PTSD and asking for help.
Many veterans unsuccessfully try to overcome PTSD on their own, before seeking help.
If you start to recognize some of the symptoms, don’t be afraid to seek out help as treatment is possible - and it works.
In fact, some of the most common two treatments include:
PTSD therapy has 3 main goals:
- Improve your symptoms
- Teach you skills to deal with the symptoms
- Restore your self-esteem
Of course, individual treatment will vary from patient to patient, so highly specialized counselors can help you figure out what works for you.
Medications help you stop thinking about and reacting to what happened - including nightmares, flashbacks, and more.
They can also help you develop a more positive outlook on life and feel overall feel better.
There are several types of drugs that help with this, but each case is different and not everyone’s PTSD is the same.
So, your doctor may prescribe medicine based on your specific symptoms or issues.
There’s a lot to cover on this topic, so if you want to read more, check out the VA PTSD Treatment page for more info.
Know Your Strengths - What Sets Veterans Apart
Veterans add incredible value to the workforce because of their unique strengths.
As a vet, you already possess some of the essential qualities companies are looking for!
Let’s take a look at how these strengths can set you apart from others.
Military trained veterans know how to lead by example using several different styles of leadership.
This special training includes motivating others, setting examples, delegating, and giving clear and direct directions.
If you want to become a manager or a team lead, leadership skills are going to give you a huge boost.
Teamwork is an essential part of the military experience.
You’ve spent years working together with your unit, relying on each other to get the job done well.
So, just about any job you’re going to apply to will benefit from your strong teamwork skills.
Strong Work Ethic
Military members learn early on that failure is not an option.
So, a strong can-do attitude is part of most veterans’ work ethic. This strength is highly valued at the office, and can really help you stand out.
Working Under Pressure
Military members are used to getting work done under limited resources and constant changes.
With this responsibility comes pressure and stress.
But since veterans are used to handling these factors in a constructive way, they’re less likely to crack under pressure during stressful workdays.
Other Core Values
Veterans have a strong set of core values and ethics they learn in the military.
Most of them follow the same core principles, which include:
With them, veterans understand the importance of working as a team and how to build trust.
So, the next time you’re applying for a job, think about how you can use the above skills in your resume or interview.
If done right, they can give you a competitive edge that not a lot of applicants can bring to the job.
And speaking of jobs, here’s how you can plan your career path outside the military:
7+ Best Jobs for Veterans
Haven’t decided on a job yet?
That’s fine - we’re here to help.
Once you have a clear outline of your skills, experience, and other qualities, you can look into any of the following jobs which are best suited for veterans.
The military is well known for producing leaders who know how to manage people and get the job done.
Coincidentally, this is the EXACT skill-set you need for a job as a project manager!
As a PM, your main responsibility is to create a plan for your team and hold everyone accountable, ensuring that they get the job done.
Average salary: $83,487
PS - Want to get a job as a PM? Check out our sample project manager resume!
Some other managerial jobs you could try are operations manager, business manager, sales manager, hotel manager, and human resources manager.
A lot of ex-military members are good at working with their hands.
The skilled trades is a large industry where you can start working as an electrician, plumber, carpenter, welder, auto mechanic, commercial driver, aircraft mechanic, technician, and more.
Average salary: anywhere from $49,000 to $91,000.
Becoming a teacher generally requires additional education.
But a lot of vets have the experience of mentoring and teaching other people during their military career.
If that sounds like you, you can look for employment in a private or public school as a high school teacher, middle school teacher, teaching assistant, kindergarten teacher, and so on.
Average salary: $49,468
PS - see our teacher resume example if you want to see what a job-winning teacher resume looks like.
A lot of military vets have received specialized engineering training during their time in the military.
And if you worked with tech during your time, that’s even better.
The engineering field is worth a close look as you can look into roles such as an electronics engineer, mechanics engineer, technical engineer civil engineer, and so on.
Average salary: $70,038
Telecommunication and Information Technology
The military is often dependant on advanced computer systems and communication technologies.
This is why a lot of veterans gravitate towards this industry.
If you’ve worked with communication systems in the military, you might have to expand your skillset a bit and look into working as a software developer, network administrator, computer support technician, telecom technician, database administrator, and so on.
Average salary: $78,607
Worked as a medic in the military? You can continue down that path in the healthcare industry.
Options include registered nurse, occupational therapy assistant, dental hygienist, dental assistant, emergency medical technician, surgical technologist, and more.
Average salary: $37,000-50,000
As a customer service representative, you’d be the first impression a customer has with the company you’re affiliated with.
This is where your communication skills can come in handy if you decide to work as a customer service representative, customer care agent, customer service specialist, customer service manager, call center agent, or something else.
Average salary: $41,332
PS - Check out our customer service resume if you need help creating a resume in this industry.
Now, you might have noticed that some of the above jobs sound pretty technical and probably require a great deal of training.
But don’t worry - you won’t have to invest all of your savings if you want to learn a new skill or do an apprenticeship program.
If you’re a veteran, here’s where the G.I. Bill comes in handy.
The G.I. Bill & Education - What You Need to Know
The G.I. Bill is a benefit program designed to help veterans cover the costs of their education or training.
To be eligible for the G.I. Bill, you must have served at least 90 days (after September 10, 2001) and received an honorable discharge.
And to qualify for the full benefit, you must have served at least 3 years of active duty after September 10, 2001.
Check out the G.I. Bill eligibility chart for more details on the program and the percentage of maximum benefit payable.
For the most part, your G.I. bill monthly payment rate is determined by the type of school you go to and where it’s located:
If you go to a public school, all tuition and fee payments will be covered for an in-state student.
And if it’s a private or a foreign school, you may be eligible up to $24,476 per academic year at most.
For approved programs, the G.I. Bill typically provides up to 36 months (3 years) of education benefits, and you also may be eligible to receive:
- A monthly housing allowance.
- Books and study supplies.
- A one-time rural benefit for certain veterans.
Because there are a lot of variables here, be sure to check out the G.I. Bill Payment Rates page for more info.
Finally, the type of training and assistance you can cover with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill include:
- Correspondence training.
- Entrepreneurship training.
- On-the-job training.
- Tutorial assistance.
- Vocational/technical training.
- Licensing and certification reimbursement.
- Institutions of higher learning undergraduate and graduate degrees.
- Flight training.
As a reference point, it can take up to 2-3 years to become a registered nurse, and you can start computer programming in as little as 1 year.
However, if you’re a veteran and struggling with reemployment due to a service-connected disability, then the next section can help you out.
Vocational Rehabilitation Program for Veterans
Vocational rehabilitation programs are designed to help veterans with disabilities find suitable jobs.
If you’re a veteran who has a VA disability (Veterans Affairs), you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation and reemployment services.
These services may include:
- Job placement assistance.
- On-the-job training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experience.
- Financial assistance for post-secondary training at a trade school.
To be eligible for the VR&E (Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment) program, you must:
- Have received an honorable discharge.
- Be currently eligible for a G.I. Bill (read above) or other educational benefits.
- Have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10% or a memorandum rating of at least 20% from the VA (Veterans Affairs).
If that is the case and you are indeed eligible for an evaluation under the program, you must complete an application and meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC).
From there, you and the VRC will continue counseling to determine the track of services needed and develop a strategy that addresses your specific rehabilitation and employment needs.
Check out the official Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) page for more info and how to apply.
To recap, transitioning from a military to a civilian lifestyle might sound hard at first.
There might be potential challenges you’ll face as a veteran, but as long as you keep the following tips in mind, you should be fine:
- First, figure out what are your top skills and what type of careers you’d excel in.
- Consider how your military background can fit within your resume, cover letter, and interview (check out our resources to help with this!).
- Look out for potential roadblocks: PTSD can be a serious threat. But there are treatments available - so, don’t be afraid to seek out help.
- With that said, as a veteran, you also bring some unique strengths to the workplace - from being a natural leader to an unmatched work ethic.
- Once you have an outline of your skills and have an idea of what you want to do, consider some of the best veteran jobs we’ve mentioned before.
- Finally, if you’re having some trouble with your reemployment due to a service-connected disability, see if you’re eligible for the VR&E program and how the reemployment services can help you out.
All in all, the job-hunt process as a veteran might sound daunting, but as long as you stick to it - it’ll pay off in the end!
If you’re looking for extra career resources, be sure to check out our career blog for the latest advice and more actionable guides.