Making the Most of Your Military Training

So now your time in the service is winding down and you're probably looking forward to greener pastures (or fair winds and following seas). Regardless of how much planning you are putting into your upcoming separation or retirement, there is probably just that slight nagging sensation in the back of your head that pops up with the thought:

"What am I going to do for a job?"

Indeed, it is a pretty hefty concern. After all, a few years of intense training, long hours and hard work and you've gotten pretty good at your job. What if you can't find a similar job that pays around the same when you come home? Worse yet, what if there is no employment for a person with your training outside of the military? Fear not, you are treading where thousands of fellow veterans have trod over the centuries. Many problems can be avoided simply by realizing what exactly you have in terms of marketable skills.

Licenses, Permits, Certifications

So you were a Paramedic in the service with 6 years of experience. You could probably keep up with an Emergency Room physician if put to the test. However, be aware that military paramedic training does not necessarily carry over to the civilian world. You'll need to check with your state as to specific requirements for certification of EMT's and Paramedics to see if any of your training does, in fact, carry over. Otherwise, you may need to enroll in a civilian training program to be eligible to obtain a necessary license.

Always check into requirements in your state before you assume that you have a "guaranteed" job back home. The fact is, hospitals and ambulance companies may be dying to hire the person I just described because of his/her experience and qualifications, but without that license, they are out of luck.

But everyone else is OK, right? Only the former Medics and Corpsmen have to worry about licenses? Sorry, friend. This will also become an issue if you held a position like Barber, Electrician, Plumber or Military Police in the military. Check with your state's appropriate licensing boards.

My Military Training Doesn't Count!

So you've checked with your state and they don't accept your military training for the purposes of obtaining a license. Here you have a few options as you move forward.

  1. Find another career. If you are getting out at age 22 or 23 and intend to go back to college, this isn't the greatest tragedy. Likewise, if you really didn't care for your career and always wanted to be something else (Butcher, Baker, Candlestick maker etc.) now is the perfect opportunity to go back to school and transition into a completely new career field. Aside from college and Vocational Technical Programs, consider union apprenticeships as well.
  2. Suck it up and swallow your pride. So you were a Master Electrician in the Navy, a purveyor of plumbing expertise in the Army or the best darn medic in the whole Air Force. Now that you are home your state says you have to go to a school approved by them before you can even consider getting a job in the field you have excelled in. While this requires a great deal of humility, keep in mind that this might also be a blessing in disguise. Things went differently in the military, and now you are bound by state and local regulations which you may be completely unaware of. Additional training could help you hone your skills and become even more proficient in your trade.

Other Professions

So the medic gets out and becomes a paramedic, the dental hygienist gets out and becomes a dental hygienist, where does that leave the Deck Seaman, the Infantryman or the Combat Engineer? Welcome to a crossroads in your life. You will find now that there is no direct career path if you worked in a combat arms position or simply held a job that was very much service specific (in the case of the deck seaman). First, one must consider what skills they have acquired.

Management and Supervisory Positions

The Military called you an E-4 Supply Clerk who was responsible for ordering new materials. Put that on your resume and you can assure yourself more time collecting unemployment. Translated into civilian jargon, you were a Purchasing Agent.

As a recently appointed E-5, you supervised five forklift operators and a few inventory specialists in an ammo depot. Unless you are applying for a Government Service job at an ammo depot, you'd be wise to sell yourself to prospective employers as a Warehouse Supervisor.

Generally those in paygrades E-4 and above at least have a fair claim for management and supervisory positions provided they actually supervised people. Remember, however, that you no longer carry the authority of an NCO or Petty Officer. Employees are not bound by federal law to listen to what you have to say, and now cursing at employees is a great way to find yourself unemployed again.

Non-Traditional Options

So, the Army sent you to HALO (High Altitude-Low Opening) Freefall school. Ever consider becoming a skydiving instructor?

The Navy had you work in the Criminal Investigative Division. Ever think about a career as a Private Investigator?

You spent years working in the Personnel Office. You'd probably be a real asset to a Staffing Agency.

So you were a Master Diver? Consider donning the scuba gear once more, on the outside, people pay big money for that stuff.

In Conclusion..

No one is guaranteed a high paying job with an expense account. There are jobs out there, however, and you are just as qualified (if not more) than your civilian counterparts. Don't bore prospective employers with sea stories filled with jargon and curse words. Show employers that you have a lot to offer their company but are also willing to learn. Best of luck in the job search.