How to navigate the transition from military to civilian life
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We surveyed veterans from across Leidos on making the transition from military to civilian life.
Why you should know: Roughly 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life every year, and up to 44% say the transition is difficult in some way.
Dozens of Leidos veterans responded to our call for advice and wisdom.
Here’s some of what they shared:
- “Keep everything from your active-duty time, especially your medical records. You’ll be asked to produce that lab report from 15 years ago when you were in Guam and there’s no medical establishment available to produce it other than you.” – David Lewis, Navy, transitioned in 2020
- “Don’t quit those healthy habits we applied in the military. Eat right, sleep right and exercise.” –Nanette Patton, Army, 2014
- “Hire a career coach,” Patton added.
- “Seek counseling for the first few months to assist with your mental health.” – Robin Turner Lewis, Army, 1995
- “I highly suggest taking the two-year select reserve contract option, which makes the transition less jarring.” – Dustin Williams, Coast Guard, 2017
- “Don’t underestimate the value of your military skills in the corporate world. Leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork should be highlighted in your resume and in your interview responses.” – Adam Engleman, Air Force, 2014
- “Sign up with Choose VA, which has an enormous number of resources for new and older veterans.” – David Huizar, Air Force, 1984
- “Ask as many questions as possible and take the time to learn what you don’t know.” – Will Johnson, Air Force, 2008
- "During your service, develop skills and complete education that is marketable on the civilian side of the house. Be proactive and don't rely on the military to do this for you." – Melissa Lee Dueñas, Air Force, 2006
What they wish they had known…
- “I wish I had known my dollar value and how to tactfully negotiate compensation,” says Williams.
- “I wish I had known about the many resources out there for veterans, including the Disabled Americans Veterans Charity, American Legion and Wounded Warrior Project.” – Viviana Rivera, Army, 2008
- “I wish I had done more research on the benefits available to veterans in the state where we settled.” – James Cantrell, Air Force, 2020
What they would do differently...
- “I would keep better records of my contacts, their email addresses and phone numbers.” – Aaron Canciani, Air Force, 2022
- “I would take some time to exhale after my 20 years of experience,” says Johnson.
- “I would focus more on my family than on my new job during my first years of transition.” – Richard Feustel, Marines, 2005
What helped the most…
- “The biggest thing that helped me was becoming involved in my community. It gave me that feeling of serving a greater purpose that I had in the military. It also increased the size of my support network.” – Shika Ashley, Army, 2018
Their message to employers...
- “Veterans bring many intangibles like leadership and a willingness to learn. We might not know everything, but we’ll say yes and figure out how to get it done.” – Chris Pietras, Navy, 2013
- “Old dogs can learn new tricks. Military folks tend to learn fast. We adapt and overcome,” says Patton.
- “Recognize and utilize veterans. We have unique experiences and talents. We bring depth, diversity and new knowledge to our teams,” says Lewis.
- "When screening applicants, avoid thinking of the stereotypes that often come with those who serve," says Dueñas.
Ask for help!
- “Seek out many mentors and people you can call to bend their ear, ask for advice or even just vent,” says Pietras.
- “I can’t stress enough to have folks in your life who can pitch in and help if you hit a speed bump,” says Williams.
- “Take advantage of the resources available to you and your spouse, especially networking, resume preparation and interview skill services,” says Engleman.
- “You’re not alone,” says Rivera.
Their best piece of advice…
- “Jumping at the first opportunity is tempting, but if you can, relax and take the time to find something you believe you’ll be happy doing,” says Cantrell.
- “Do what you really want to do. It might be the first time you’ve had that choice since high school or college. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out. Trying matters,” says Lewis.
- "Prepare, prepare, prepare. Don't expect others to do this for you," says Dueñas.
- “Put your family first before your new job becomes a priority,” says Feustel.
- “Be patient with yourself. It will take time to become comfortable navigating the civilian sector. You did it when you transitioned to the military. You can do it again,” says Ashley.
Leidos impact: Leidos participates in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, and unpaid internship for active-duty service members during their final six months of service, as well as the American Corporate Partners mentorship program, which supports transitioning veterans.
Leidos recently jumped to No. 2 on America's Best Employers for Veterans 2022, published by Forbes, climbing 88 spots from its previous ranking.
The company was also recognized as a Military Friendly Employer for the tenth consecutive year, and also earned the Department of Labor’s HIRE Vets Medallion Gold Award for the second consecutive year.
Nearly 20% of Leidos employees are veterans.
Please contact the Leidos media relations team for more information.