Civilian Employment After the Military: What You Should Know

It's a different world out there in the civilian workforce. Like the military, you'll have a chain of command, a specialization, a career path, and regular duties. But some things are different: looser command structures, less dedicated co-workers, and if you thought the bureaucracy in the military was frustrating, wait until you work for an underfunded government agency or a massive corporation.

Before you can get on the civilian career path, however, there are a number of challenges you'll have to deal with: civilian attitudes about the military, the difficulty of securing employment post-discharge or retirement while still serving, and if you have reserve duty commitments, many employers may balk at the time off requirements as well.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources, inside and outside of the military, to help soldiers, sailors, and airmen make the transition to civilian employment. And in many cases, especially in state jobs, your veteran status may be extremely helpful.

Resources to Help You Prepare and Secure Employment

The most significant resource, one which recent and future veterans will become familiar with, is the Department of Defense's now-mandatory Transition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP provides training and curriculum on successfully making the transition into the civilian world. Resources include help with financial planning, employment applications, job search assistance, information on educational opportunities, and more.

There are also branch-specific resources. For example, the U.S. Army has many invaluable resources, starting with the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) centers on every post, which counsel soldiers on their resumes, cover letters, and networking. There is also a program which guarantees interviews with private civilian partner companies and the Troops to Teachers program which helps soldiers translate their leadership skills to the classroom.

The other branches of the military have similar resources to the Army's ACAP. The U.S. Marine Corps has a Transition Readiness Program (TRP), which is similar to the Army's ACAP program, while the Air Force runs its TAP curriculum through its Airman and Family Readiness Center. The Navy offers Transition GPS programs through its Fleet and Family Support Program. And finally, the Coast Guard offers its services through the Office of Work-Life Programs.

Veterans' Preference in Government Hiring

While there is no accounting for taste amongst private employers -- some will favor veterans, others might not -- the federal government gives extra "points" to military veterans applying for federal civil service positions. Many states, California included, have such a veterans' preference as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans who are disabled, or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain time periods or in military campaigns, are entitled to a preference in Federal hiring practices and in retention during reductions in force (RIFs). The complex eligibility criteria for the veterans' preference are outlined in the enabling legislation, but a more intuitive resource is the DOL's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) website. This VETS site has an online, interactive system called the Veterans' Preference Advisor that determines eligibility for and the extent of the preference, as well as information filing a complaint should a federal agency fail to comply with the law.

Navigating the morass of federal and state hiring preferences can be a bit overwhelming, especially for those seeking private employment while still serving their country full-time. For assistance, consult an attorney experienced in military benefits.

Speaking with a Lawyer

Navigating the morass of federal and state hiring preferences can be a bit overwhelming, especially for those seeking private employment while still serving their country full-time. For assistance, consult an attorney experienced in military benefits.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified military law attorney to help you with military-related issues.