The civilian workplace differs from the military in several key ways.
You may be back at the starting line when transitioning to a civilian career, and may have to play “catch up” with civilian peers since military service has delayed the start of your civilian career. There are several typical differences between military and civilian careers, and some simple steps you can take to bridge the gap.
Pay and benefits
You may take a significant reduction in pay and benefits, especially if you enter the civilian job market in an entry-level position. Assistance from financial relief organizations is not typically provided or paid for by a civilian employer. You may need to:
- Attempt to become debt-free by the time you separate from service.
- Scale back your discretionary spending, to get used to life at a lower income, and to establish a nest egg for emergencies.
Organizations will vary in the perks, benefits, and support provided to employees. You should:
- Research the benefits provided by companies, review job offers carefully, and ask questions during salary and benefit negotiations.
- Familiarize yourself with the company’s employee assistance program, and consult with the human resources office on the types of support and benefits available.
Training and professional development
The amount of training you receive as a military member and the financial assistance for optional educational opportunities are not guaranteed in the civilian work environment. It can be helpful to:
- Let your supervisor know that you would like to be considered for formal training opportunities.
- Seek out informal mentoring or job coaching.
- Find out what training, professional development, or education benefits your company offers.
Health care and other services
In the military, you typically have convenient access to a wide range of free services: health care, legal advice, fitness centers, and others. Outside the military, you may need to locate, select, and pay for these services.
You can research health service providers online and by asking friends and family for recommendations in the location you intend to move to after separating from the service. When employed, you can also ask your human resources department for lists of health service providers.
Employees typically need to take paid or unpaid time off to visit a healthcare provider during work hours, so you may need to:
- Build up a supply of vacation, personal, or sick time for emergencies.
- Locate healthcare providers and other service providers who offer after-hours services. Urgent care facilities, for example, are typically open in the evenings and on weekends
Paths to advancement
Many civilian jobs do not provide a clear path to advancement, and automatic pay raises based on time in the position are rare. You may want to:
- Ask about both vertical and lateral paths for advancement at organizations you interview with.
- Position yourself for advancement by keeping a record of your accomplishments and contributions to discuss with your supervisor at performance reviews.