By Marc Mendelman
Transitioning to civilian life is like starting things from scratch again. You are uncertain of what path to choose and, most of all, what opportunities you have at your disposal. Let us make it easier for you in the beginning: as a starting point, you have to decide whether you want to proceed as an employee or an employer (in other words, an entrepreneur).
The Employee Status
First and foremost, you should undergo an introspection, get to know yourself again. The quickest way to accomplish this is to make a list of your skills and life goals that you experienced before the military career. How can you improve or help the world around us? What are you best at? What kind of activities makes you feel at ease? Try to separate these two lives (the soldier and the civilian) from one another, seek the differences between them. What does the civilian stand for?
Once your list is ready, you are going to need some assistance in making the best call for your career. There are many resources nowadays that veterans can use for career guidance, transition support to civilian life, connection to other working veterans to serve as a support network for you, and much more.
There are some trustworthy websites that many veterans have confided in. Thanks to them, you can finally get to know with certainty where to go. You can find such communities and guidance at: Careeronestop.org, CorporateGray.com, Military.com, Militarytransition.com, Va.gov, and more.
Your local Transition Assistance Office will provide you with the Transition GPS course to guide your transition. Here, you will spend the first two days going through a curriculum training that tackles your personal management (finance, family, VA benefits, etc.). The following three days are dedicated to an employment workshop that focuses on creating your resume, practicing job interviews, effectively searching for job opportunities and guiding you through social media. After all these, you will be ready to decide your career path: working career, entrepreneur, or student.
The Entrepreneurial Status
However, if you can’t stand having a boss to report to, or you have some ideas that wouldn’t get support from an employer, you can follow the entrepreneurial path. Mind you, the business field is a wild forest to wander in, and it is full of obstacles, tedious paper work, and overwhelmingly limitless possibilities of failures or success. Being an entrepreneur requires a self-disciplined and action oriented personality, which is very suitable for a veteran.
A truly inspirational story is the one experienced by the U.S. Army Veteran, Nick Palmisciano. After countless struggles and even facing bankruptcy, this stubborn guy finally saw his business coming to life. His big idea has evolved from his T-shirt hobby. After he had paid attention to his college classmates, he realized that the world needed more funny T-shirts. He came up with some funny word games inspired by the Army world mostly. He printed those on shirts, and his colleagues loved them. But his hard work had just begun. This was just day one of his $20 million company.
So if you have never backed down from hardships, you can give your entrepreneurial side a shot. There are also some helpful resources to guide you through the wild storm you face when starting your company. Here are some of them:
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV): This institution focuses mainly on training you as a successful entrepreneur. They will disclose to you trade secrets, know-hows, cutting edge tips and tricks, and will get you started in the small business management. If you want to start learning useful skills from scratch, this is the place for you.
The Veterans Business Association has a more personal touch. Within this association, there are organized monthly meetings where veterans come together to discuss everything there is about the business domain. They are also encouraged to bring their friends, so there is no exclusivity status, and awareness is openly promoted. During these meetings, everyone can attend workshops and seminars and communication is highly encouraged. Their website is always updated with the latest news and studies that concern veterans.
Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is managed by the VA’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), under which veterans fall. The VEP website connects veteran entrepreneurs to relevant best-practices and information, offering direct access to the resources necessary to guide every step of entrepreneurship.
All in all, it is up to you how you want to enter the civilian life again. The fact is that there are many programs, resources and communities you can benefit from and that are there for you to support and guide your career decisions. All you have to do is take advantage of these tools, and you can easily achieve your goals. Do share with us in the comments what career you eventually chose and what life lessons you learned along the way.
About the Author
Marc Mendelman is a Junior HR consultant and a Contributing Editor for Today Assistant. He is passionate about identifying daily work hacks and creating ways of increasing personal and professional productivity. Loves identifying the core strengths of each individual and help them reach their true professional fulfillment.