Land a Civilian Job After Military Service

A man and woman wearing hard hats and protective eye wear while spreading seeds in a forest

You may be in Kansas, but talk of resumes and business-casual dress means probably means you're not in the military any more. Often times, when service members retire from the military, searching for a civilian job is a new experience. With a little guidance and the right strategies, your job search can be smooth and successful. Is it intimidating? It could be, but you're going to be ready. You're going to be organized. You're going to take it a step and a time, and you're going to land a job.

Getting ready


your interview.

To sell the best version of yourself to an employer, you have to prepare. Organize your job search so you can find the right match for your needs and skills.

  • Clarify your skills and strengths. First, get a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training through the Department of Defense at the Transition GPS website. Then, think about how your strengths and your skills could be applied in a work setting. If you're drawing a blank, a career assessment could point you to career fields that are a good match. Your installation's transition office can set you up with a test at no cost.
  • Check your qualifications and licenses. Your military licenses or certifications might not translate to a civilian equivalent. Check out the Army's Credentialing Opportunities Online website to learn how to market your military license to a civilian employer.
  • Do your homework. After you narrow your search to a few career fields, research salary information and common skill requirements.
  • Set the bar, but not too high. Before you start applying for jobs, decide on the type of job, pay range and location you're willing to accept. If you're not making any headway with what you want, you may need to adjust your expectations or search in another area.
  • Job search like it's your job. That job isn't going to land itself. Set aside time each day for your search. During that time, send out resumes, complete applications, make follow-up calls, prep for interviews, network and look for new openings.

Find a job


Military OneSource help you put your best resume foot forward, read "7 Steps to Create and Submit a Federal Resume."

Your resume is rock solid, and you've done your research. Now it's time to find a job. You're used receiving military orders, but now it's up to you to get out there and find a civilian job. Take advantage of all your job search resources, such as recruiters, job fairs, and military transition offices.

  • Your installation's Transition Assistance Program. Here you can take an employment workshop; and get referrals for employment agencies and recruiters, job leads, career counseling and computer access for online job searches.
  • Your nearest employment office. Visit the Department of Labor website to find the office closest to you. There you'll find an up-to-date list of local job openings.
  • Private employment agencies. Companies hire private agencies to track down job candidates that meet their qualifications. Use your installation's transition office to connect with employment agencies in search of military members. Some employment agencies charge for services, so make sure you know who is paying.
  • Help wanted ads. Old school? Maybe, but job listings in local newspapers and trade journals are still reliable places to find job openings.
  • Job fairs. Meet potential employers, pass out your resume and even interview on the spot all in one place. Dress like you're going to a job interview, and make plenty of copies of your resume. Get the inside scoop on upcoming job interviews near you from your transition office, Chamber of Commerce or see listings for job fairs on and off military installations through the Army Career and Alumni Program and the Marine Corps Transition Readiness Program.
  • Federal jobs online. Separating from the military doesn't have to mean separating from government employment. Find civilian jobs with the federal government through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. You can also create an account and build your resume at USAJOBS. Remember to brush up on the website's process before submitting your resume.
  • Civilian jobs in the military. Find jobs online through the Air Force Civilian Service, Navy Civilian Human Resources or Civilian Personnel Online for the Army.
  • Other job search websites. The Internet is full of job postings. Even a general search for "job openings" could return results. Use caution when registering with some job search sites. Look for site recommendations, and network with other searchers, and employers, to connect with trustworthy sites.

Who you know

Networking is one of the most effective of all job search tools. Having a referral can give you a leg up over other applicants. Make connections and reach out to anyone you know. It takes minimal effort, but it can produce major possibilities:

  • Make networking cards. It's half business card, half resume. Your networking card should be small with your contact information on one side and a brief summary of your skills on the other. Keep several on hand at all times.
  • Brainstorm a list of friends, colleagues or acquaintances that might have a connection or job lead.
  • Put feelers out with trade organizations or unions.
  • Contact military organizations. Your military experience is valuable to many employers. Connect with organizations and former service members who are eager to help service members making the military to civilian transition through organizations like Marine for Life, the Military Officers Association of America, Non Commissioned Officers Association or Enlisted Association.


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