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Transitioning to Civilian Life: Networking, Mentorship, and New Skills

a man and woman practice professional networking

Transitioning to civilian life may not be easy. But with the right resources, you can become financially secure and personally fulfilled as you start your next chapter.

In this three-part series, we’re exploring some of the steps you can take to make your transition to civilian life as smooth as possible. First, we discussed the importance of planning ahead and finding support programs.

In this second post of the series, we’re going to focus on networking tips, the importance of mentorship, and the benefits of the GI Bill for skills acquisition. In the third part, we’ll look at the financial planning considerations to keep in mind.

The Civilian Transition

Since becoming a service member, many of the key elements of your life have likely depended on the orders you receive -- where you work, where you live, and your benefits. While this lifestyle can be unpredictable, especially if PCS moves are involved, there can be comfort in the familiar.

Moving to civilian life often means a complete change in lifestyle. And finding your first civilian job may not feel easy. But there are many ways you can set yourself up for success in your future career.

There are many groups, organizations, and programs that are passionate about helping those who are transitioning from a military to civilian career. These can provide you with resources and opportunities for success in the future. However, there are other ways you can ensure a smoother transition.

Networking Opportunities

When it comes to job searching, there’s an old saying that has persisted for years: “It’s not what you know -- it’s who you know.”

While it may not be entirely about who you know, it sure helps a lot. The more people you know and the more people with whom you have a positive relationship, the more people there are who might flag your application or put in a good word for you with the hiring manager.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 18 million veterans in the U.S., which makes up about 7% of the civilian non-institutional population. Chances are that, almost anywhere you apply, someone there is a veteran. Doing your research about the people who work for any given company and their background can give you an idea of who to contact for information on a position.

Even if they don’t know you personally, a veteran may be more likely to want to hire another veteran because they would be familiar with the dedication, discipline, and skill set you would bring to the role.

Additionally, just as there are organizations that help with civilian transitions, there are other groups that provide networking opportunities for veterans, such as

You also may be able to find a networking event in your local community. It’s OK if it’s not geared specifically toward veterans. Mingling with others in all types of career fields at these types of events can help expand your field of opportunities. And even if there aren’t any other veterans there, there could be military spouses or military brats -- you never know who you might find as a connection.

Finding a Mentor

While networking can help you expand your field of connections, the quality of those connections is also important. And there’s one special type of connection that can pay huge dividends in a career -- a mentor.

A mentor is a person who helps you grow your skills, can answer questions for you, and gives you guidance in your career. But that doesn’t mean it should be a one-sided relationship. Whoever you choose as a mentor, you’ll want to ensure you’re offering them the best of yourself as well -- while they may be more experienced in a certain field than you are, is there something they don’t know that you can teach them? Mentorship should be beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee.

Finding a mentor may feel daunting. But taking the time to be intentional with your pursuit of mentorship can make the process easier. First, think about how exactly you want to grow your skills and what that would look like. Then, consider the type of person who would have the knowledge to help you do that. If it’s already someone you know, that’s great -- but if you don’t know anyone, networking could help.

Once you’ve identified a potential mentor or mentors, reach out and discuss the idea with them. Many people are happy to share their knowledge and career experience with others.

How the GI Bill Can Help

If you feel like you want to or need to gain additional skills for your civilian career, don’t forget about the opportunities the GI Bill can provide. The GI Bill can help pay for the costs of education expenses including tuition and books as well as housing, providing up to three years of benefits. The amount of benefit you’re eligible for depends on your length of service.

If you’re planning ahead for your transition to civilian life, you can even take advantage of the benefits offered by the GI Bill while you’re on active duty. You may be able to take classes part-time or get job training.

And for those who served on active duty for a minimum of 90 days after Sept. 10, 2011, you may be eligible for the benefits offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Additionally, the GI Bill Selected Reserve is for reservists with a six-year obligation who served in a drilling unit and remain in good standing.

Armed Forces Bank Is Here for Military Families

At Armed Forces Bank, we want to be your trusted banking partner for all your financial needs.

But we also want our valued service members and their families to know that they’re not alone. Serving the military community is our mission, and we’re here to support you as you achieve your financial goals.

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