Making the Transition Back to Civilian Life Easier: 5 Tips
1. Create a Routine
The first step to achieving a sense of normalcy again is creating a routine. A routine is helpful to anyone who’s going through a transition, but especially so for veterans. Your life in the military was very scheduled and suddenly going from that to doing nothing (if you don’t have your post-military plans figured out yet) can make you feel like you don’t have a purpose.
If you’re looking for a new career, center your schedule around preparing your resume and interviewing. If you’re not yet sure what you’re going to do next, fill your days with tasks and chores, socializing with old friends, spending time with family, and hobbies and interests.
2. Serve Others
Many people join the military because they want to serve others. If that’s you, why not spend some time helping others? Volunteering is a great way to create a routine, give back, feel a sense of purpose and integrate or re-integrate yourself into the community.
3. When Job Searching, Highlight Your Military Accomplishments
Many veterans find it challenging to translate their military experience into experience fitting for a civilian job, but if you really think about it, you’ll see that the invaluable things you’ve learned can really give you a leg up. What have you gained from your years in the military? Certainly practical skills, but what about diligence, courage, willpower? Perhaps leadership? If you’re not sure how to adapt your experience to a different kind of job, consider reaching out to a career center or attending a career fair to get some help.
4. Take Advantage of Your Resources
There are some helpful resources for veterans transitioning to post-military life, including:
- Career Help – resume assistance, job search assistance, mock interviews, writing centers, etc. Check your local public library – many do these things for free or can connect you with local resources.
In the Suffolk area? Check the Suffolk Public Library’s website for a list of local resources.
5. Find a Support System
The secret to successfully transitioning to post-military life – the secret to overcoming any challenge, really – is finding a support system. Your support system might simply be your family and friends. Or you might prefer to connect with others who better understands your experience, like in a support group setting.
Support groups are a place where you can share your emotions and circumstances with others who understand how you feel and will not judge or criticize you. The benefits of participating in a support group may include:
- Feeling less lonely, isolated, or judged
- Reducing distress, depression, anxiety, or fatigue
- Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
- Improving skills to cope with challenges
- Staying motivated to manage chronic conditions or stick to treatment plans
- Gaining a sense of empowerment, control, or hope
- Improving understanding of a disease and your own experience with it
- Getting practical feedback about treatment options
- Learning about health, economic or social resources
Everyone is different, but there are some common challenges veterans face when re-entering the civilian world.
Relating to People Who Don’t Understand the Military Experience
The military experience is a unique one and service members face challenges that most civilians know nothing about. This can leave them feeling alienated or misunderstood.
Sebastian Junger, award-winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author of six books and producer-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” likens the experience to leaving a “tribe” – a small group committed to a clear purpose – and going back to an individualistic society, where veterans can often feel like they’re not needed or that they lack purpose. In fact, a 2022 report found that about half of veterans sometimes feel “like a stranger in their own country.”
Re-Connecting With Family and Re-Establishing a Role in the Family
You might come home to find that their family has created new routines during their absence. In this case, the veteran and their family will have to adjust to changes.
Joining or Creating Their Own Community
When a service member moves to a new base or post, the military will help them and their families adjust to military life. This isn’t usually the case when someone is leaving service. There isn’t nearly as much support for helping veterans and their families adjust to post-military life.
Preparing to Enter the Workforce
If the military has been your only career, it’s possible that you’ve never created a resume or applied for a job. And although you have experience, you might be unsure how to apply that experience to civilian jobs.
Returning to Work
Returning to the civilian workforce may include a period of catching up, learning new skills, or adjusting to a new position. It will also include adjusting to social changes that may have occurred in the workplace.
You’re probably used to lots of structure. In the military, you’re required to follow a strict schedule when you’re on duty and coming back to a life without one can be overwhelming.
Physical Injuries and Mental Health Concerns
Many veterans experience lifelong effects from physical injuries or mental health conditions like depression, PTSD or other invisible wounds.
There are plenty of support groups available in the Coastal Virginia area, including some specifically for service members and veterans.
At Region Five, we offer specialized resources and support for veterans, service members and their families. Our Service Member, Veterans and Family Support (SMVF) team is made up of veterans from all military branches so there will always be someone who understands your struggles and can help you create a clear path to where you want to go.
The SMVF Program offers transition support, peer support/support groups, mental health services, job coaching, training and more.
Ready to ace your military-to-civilian transition? Get started here.