Going back into the civilian work force after a long absence and intense experiences in a combat zone may have its challenges. You may be assigned different work or different people to work with. There may be unfamiliar new policies, procedures and programs to learn. Also, your own perceptions and attitudes about your job may have been affected by your military experiences.
Combat veterans returning to civilian work after a long absence often need a period of adjustment before they feel connected to their work and their co-workers. In the beginning, don't be surprised if you:
- Feel out of place or unsure of where you fit in
- Miss the intensity and emotional commitment typical of combat duty
- Have mixed feelings about how your job was handled while you were gone
- Lack the enthusiasm and motivation you once had for your job
These feelings are part of the process of readjusting to civilian employment after military deployment. But there are some things that you can do to make your work transition as smooth as possible.
Before you go back to work
Anticipate some of the challenges of returning to your civilian job and be more prepared for going back to work by considering taking these actions:
- Meet with your supervisor. A meeting to learn about changes that may have taken place while you were gone and about what your responsibilities will be now that you're back can be very beneficial. You might ask for a briefing to be brought up to speed so you'll know what to expect on your first day back. Make sure you understand what will be expected of you and how processes, goals and personnel may have changed. You can also learn a great deal about changes that have taken place by talking to co-workers.
- Know your rights. Employed Guard and reserve service members called to active duty are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. You can learn about your rights under USERRA by visiting the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve website (click on Resources). The site provides a summary of the law, answers to frequently asked questions, information on how to obtain assistance from ESGR with potential problems in the workplace, and tips for service members on how to encourage continued employer support for their military service.
After you go back to work
It may take some time to feel at ease again in your workplace. You'll make better progress if you:
- Show your appreciation. Make your appreciation for the people who performed your job while you were away well known. You'll need their support and insight as you get up to speed, and your goodwill can make it easier for them to adjust to their new roles in the workplace.
- Stay aware of how your combat experiences may change the way you see your job. Returning to a civilian job after experiencing military duty in a combat zone may change your feeling toward day-to-day work. Your job may not seem as exciting, interesting or meaningful as what you were doing on active duty. A military-style approach to solving problems may not work well at your civilian job. Remember, you may have new skills and knowledge from your military experiences that can bolster your performance and benefit your organization.
- Get support if you're having difficulty performing your work. You may have rushed back to work without giving the readjustment process enough time, or you may be dealing with ongoing physical or emotional issues that interfere with your job performance. Employers will usually work with veterans to find accommodations that allow them to continue working, or they may offer the services of an employee assistance program. Sometimes, simply talking to a trusted friend, fellow veteran or family member is enough to help you gain perspective about work-related concerns. Keep in mind that members of the Guard and reserve can receive confidential, non-medical counseling and support through Military OneSource regardless of their activation status.