Transitioning from the military

Our VetCV Team Members Talk About Transitioning from the Military

We sat down with our VetCV team members to ask them some questions about transitioning from the military. Find out what they went through and learn how soon you should start planning for your future.

Wesley Easton

United States Army, Sept. 2011 – Sept. 2018, E-4, Specialist

Q. When did you start planning your transition from the military? What were some of the decisions you had to make while still on active-duty that affected your future?

Being in the National Guard, we had many senior non-commissioned officers who were always telling us to think ahead and take advantage of financial help for college/technical schools. They/Florida set up job fairs for those who were interested. I decided to go to school for Software Development and that’s what I focused on when I left.

Q. What were you least prepared for when transitioning from the military?

A. The thing that gave me the most trouble was remembering that not everyone has the thick skin like most Veterans do.

Q. When choosing where to work after transitioning from the military, what did you look for and what was most important to you?

A. I was looking for jobs related to my degree, and of course I wanted somewhere that was going to be a good fit for me as well as the organization.

Q. If you went to college or took any other sort of classroom instruction courses, what did you look for in terms of education/a university after transitioning from the military?

A. I went to my hometown university, the University of West Florida, and picked the degree that interested me the most, software engineering.

Q. If you could give your former self one piece of advice about transitioning from the military, what would you tell yourself?

A. I would say to start thinking ahead as soon as you can. I would probably have pushed myself to start school sooner, so that I could have received my degree before or during my transition from the military.

Tim McWatters

United States Air Force; Aug. 15, 1996 – Feb. 1, 2017; E-7 Master Sergeant

Q. When did you start planning your transition from the military? What were some of the decisions you had to make while still on active-duty that affected your future?

A. I started planning my transition from the military about 5 years out. I had to ask myself, what do you think you want to do when you get out. I set small and large goals and then I started taking steps to accomplish those goals. I knew I wanted to get my degree in Software Engineering. College was one of the main reasons I joined the military in the first place. I made sure I took a course every semester that would work towards that degree, and I got smart on my benefits as a Veteran (GI-Bill and Vocational Rehab to name a few). I had to work hard, but I am currently in my last semester to achieving this goal, and I have also earned an amazing position as an intern in a very Veteran friendly company. I think setting goals, both large and small, are the key to a successful transition.

Q. What were you least prepared for when transitioning from the military?

A. I was probably least prepared for the amount of information given to me as my days in the military were coming to an end. There are so many amazing resources out there, but it is hard to keep track of them all (even as an organized individual). Take DETAILED notes and put important dates in a calendar, otherwise, you will become overwhelmed.

Q. What online or local communities/organizations helped you transition?

A. I found myself seeking assistance from military members that had already gone through the transition. Previous retiree’s and other Veterans are an incredible resource. No one’s transition is going to be exactly like your family’s, so ask the questions that are important to you and don’t be afraid to ask it again if the answer doesn’t satisfy you.

Q. When choosing where to work after transitioning from the military, what did you look for and what was most important to you?

A. The job search after retirement or separation is one of the most stressful times we may encounter. We know what we are worth and just need an opportunity to prove it. I think we all want to find a company that sees the benefits a Veteran brings to the table. We have been trained every day to be great decision makers, are hard workers, loyal, organized and we can make your company better if given the chance. Thankfully, there are many companies out there that are looking for employees with the skills we have learned in the military.

Q. If you went to college or took any other sort of classroom instruction courses, what did you look for in terms of education/a university after transitioning from the military?

A. I was thankful I went to a university with a great “Military Veterans Resource” office. They were extremely helpful in helping make sure I knew what resources I had available to me. The ensured I knew how to pay for classes and get the equipment I needed to succeed. I ended up at the University of West Florida studying Software Engineering.

Q. If you could give your former self one piece of advice about transitioning from the military, what would you tell yourself?

A. I would tell myself to get organized. If I think I am already organized, then get MORE organized. There are hundreds of thousands of resources available to us as Veterans, but if you don’t know how to gain access to these resources then they are useless to you. Also, get your family involved. This will be a new life for them as well.

Bryan Powell

United States Marine Corps; Feb. 7, 2010 – Nov. 29, 2014; E-5, Sergeant

Q. When did you start planning your transition from the military? What were some of the decisions you had to make while still on active-duty that affected your future?

A. I started planning approximately 14 months before my planned exit date. Prior to the end of my active service, I started the process of buying a house. I closed on the house before attending SEPS & TAPS. This had a large impact because I was committed to living in that area and committed to paying the mortgage on that property. Fortunately, I found a good realtor that helped us through the process.

Q. What were you least prepared for when transitioning from the military?

A. I was least prepared for the solitude. The military tends to have intrusive leadership, and generally speaking, military life is not private. The family you served with are no longer around you every day. The person-to-person contact is not the same after leaving. I was least prepared for the isolation that comes with leaving active duty.

Q. What online or local communities/organizations helped you transition?

A. I visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) several times and received some minor advice relevant to the local area.

Q. When choosing where to work after transitioning from the military, what did you look for and what was most important to you?

A. The most important thing to me was a healthy work-life balance coupled with a manageable cost-of-living. I had spent so much time away from my family and was not prepared to do that anymore. There are some occupations and some companies that require a significant amount of time away from home. That works for some, but it was something that I am not willing to sacrifice at this time.

Q. If you went to college or took any other sort of classroom instruction courses, what did you look for in terms of education/a university after transitioning from the military?

A. I wanted something that fit into a whole-package concept. My wife and I wanted to live in an affordable, low-crime area with good public education for our child. In addition, the area had to have a decent job market for an occupation I was interested in. Finally, the area needed to have a 4-year university that offered a degree in the field I wanted to work in. I am currently at the University of West Florida studying Computer Engineering.

Q. If you could give your former self one piece of advice about transitioning from the military, what would you tell yourself?

A. Develop some kind of social network at your destination. Friends, family, and just generally knowing people in the area can relieve a lot of the stress of moving to a new location without the military acting as a safety net.

Niels Andersen

United States Navy; Dec. 1, 1980 – Feb. 1, 1986; HM3

Q. When did you start planning your transition from the military? What were some of the decisions you had to make while still on active-duty that affected your future?

A. Only a couple of months out before I separated. No real plan and no guidance. I knew that I couldn’t translate my Navy Corpsman training directly into a civilian job. As a Corpsman, you would think that you would be able to go through an abbreviated Paramedic course to get certified, but no, you had to start from scratch. I had already started college and thankfully was close to finishing so that left me with options since my military training didn’t translate to the civilian workforce.

Q. What were you least prepared for when transitioning from the military?

A. How to find a job and how to interview.

Q. What online or local communities/organizations helped you transition?

A. When I got out there was no internet and no one sat me down to talk about the real value of building a network or how to go about it. Building a network is probably the most valuable thing one can do to help themselves.

Q. When choosing where to work after transitioning from the military, what did you look for and what was most important to you?

(1984 President Ronald Reagan Campaign Speech Detail, San Diego, California)

A. Honestly, I was 23 years old so any job that paid something was my focus and I would begin learning and growing from there. It was like starting over but my attitude was that all the opportunities where there for me to figure out and make happen.

Q. If you went to college or took any other sort of classroom instruction courses, what did you look for in terms of education/a university after transitioning from the military?

A. I started college while in the Navy because I realized that I needed to learn. I was actually surprised that they accepted me, but thought that if I do well enough in class, they wouldn’t kick me out. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I just knew I had to get started and get a degree and I would be able to narrow it down as I learned more.

Q. If you could give your former self one piece of advice about transitioning from the military, what would you tell yourself?

A. Ask for advice, guidance, find people you admire and respect as mentors, and begin building your network. Volunteer, join community groups, build an online network and participate in discussions. I would have started that the minute I got to my first duty station.

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