Search
Advice » In the Workplace» Starting a New Job » Tips for Making the Transitio ...
Tips for Making the Transition from Military to Civilian Life

Tips for Making the Transition from Military to Civilian Life

When Reservist Bill Lyons landed in Bosnia on September 11, 2001, he and his unit expected a routine peacekeeping mission. Instead, they spent the next seven months hunting terrorists.  

After his tour of duty, Lyons happily returned to civilian life, where danger and death were not constant companions. The city of Somerville, Massachusetts, gave him his old job as director of traffic and parking. He had always prided himself on his communication and problem-solving skills as well as his ability to satisfy constituents during their encounter with government.

But back on the job, he found it difficult to focus, and he felt frustrated fielding calls about “allegedly unjust parking tickets,” or petty complaints like someone parking in front of a house.

"I'd seen kids with missing limbs,” Lyons says. “I was still very involved in the war on terrorism. My tenor and tone with constituents changed dramatically. I was curt, and less willing to hear out minor complaints.”

Today, as reservists return from dangerous but adrenaline-filled tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and head back to once-challenging jobs they now see as mundane, Lyons's experience is instructive.

Sort Out Your Priorities

“You return with a lot of mental baggage on both a personal and professional level,” says Alex Baxter, managing partner at Lucas Group, an executive search firm specializing in military talent. “The civilian world is a lot different from the military. In the workplace, people have different expectations of what can be done. You can get very frustrated if people don't meet the standards you're accustomed to. But you're not on a military timetable anymore. Tasks get missed; jobs don't get done.”

Communication is important, Baxter says. “You have to convey what you want done, but you can't bark orders,” he says. “Civilian work demands more persuasion, even with someone who reports to you. If you treat them like they're under your command, you lose loyalty and suffer turnover.”

“It's a big adjustment,” says Joe Riggio, a Marine for 26 years who now writes about making the transition to civilian life. “You've been in life-or-death situations, you're finally reunited with your family, and now all of a sudden you've got a project deadline. You have to be professional, but you also have to sort out what's important to you personally.”

There may be special difficulty if a company has no clear policy on reintegrating returnees, or if coworkers oppose US military efforts. Resentment may be expressed as: “I've done your job for a year. Don't tell me what to do.”

Riggio describes the natural reaction: “Hey buddy, I was over there fighting for you.” However, returnees must resist that impulse and convince themselves: “They just don't understand. I can't get caught up in conflict or office politics. I have to remember, these guys don't have a clue.”

Of course, that is easier said than done. “War is 24/7,” Riggio notes. “Christmas and New Year's blend into one. All of a sudden, you're back in a Monday-through-Friday world. You have to keep that in mind and realize it takes awhile to adjust.”

Once you return, “you're being paid to do your job,” Lyons says. “You've got to learn to focus. When your mind wanders to your friends overseas, you have to snap back and realize life does go on here.” Though he struggled to maintain a professional demeanor, after a few months he rediscovered his civilian work rhythm. However, he says, “the underlying tension never went away.”

Resources to Help Vets Adjust

The military itself can ease the adjustment. Active members have access to transition counselors at their full-time post -- some soldiers are ordered to meet with them before returning home. The MWR (Morale, Wellness, Recreation) division is another resource. Reservists may consult with transition and MWR officers at their base even after returning home.

Of course, some returnees find themselves so miserable or bored back in their old jobs that they consider changing careers. For them, the news is good.  Skills learned in the service can be leveraged into a different position, even an entirely new field. Many employers, in industries as varied as contracting and IT, consider military experience a plus. And the government offers veterans a variety of scholarships.

Articles in This Feature:

Latest Jobs

San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians
Posted: 07/23/2014
Valley Center, CA, 92082
Billings Gazette
Posted: 07/23/2014
Billings, MT, 59101
Saint Edward's School
Posted: 07/23/2014
Vero Beach, FL, 32963
Unique Residential Care Center
Posted: 07/23/2014
Washington, DC, 20001
Randstad
Posted: 07/23/2014
Lake Forest, IL, 60045

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile

 
 
 

Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
ArtBistro
Create and connect.
Excelle
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships
Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Education.org
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military.com
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.

Interviewing

100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2014 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2014.4.30.40-218
eTrustLogo