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How to Transition from Military to Civilian Life

Transition from Military to Civilian

About 27% of veterans admitted experiencing difficulty when readjusting to civilian life. As a member of the military, you have a responsibility for a mission and a purpose for your life.

What happens when you leave the military?

Adjusting to civilian life comes with its share of obstacles, but with enough time, you will start to feel comfortable in your new way of life.

Keep reading for some difficulties that new civilians face, as well as tips for overcoming them!

Flexibility in Civilian Life

One of the first things you'll notice as a civilian will be a new sense of freedom.

When you enlist, you give your life to the military. They dictate your time, where you live, even the clothes you wear. Now, you can wake up each morning and decide how to spend your day.

Some civilians may embrace this newfound freedom, and for others, it may be unsettling. I'd suggest taking baby steps.

In the first couple of weeks, it might be helpful to build a routine and incorporate some of your same habits.

For example, keep your morning routine the same. Wake up at the same time and enjoy your same breakfast. Small consistencies in your day will help you slowly adapt to such a big change.


You won't be the only one adapting to military life. Your family will be experiencing changes, too.

The same way you built your day around your branch responsibilities, your family has their own schedule. They have a routine in place that will be changed as you spend more time at home.

It will be a difficult transition for everyone. I suggest speaking with your spouse, children, etc., about what this new chapter will look like. Address what will be different in the house and ask if there are things that should be kept the same.

Some military spouses note initial discomfort at the increase in shared time together, and you might experience stepping on each other's toes.

Remember, this is completely normal. In the same way you prepared for military life, now you are preparing for civilian life. The best way to accomplish both is with open communication.

Military as a Culture

The military is more than a career. It's a way of life. It’s a culture defined by its own experiences, social norms, and language.

The military is a built-in family of people that understand you. Leaving that can feel lonely, which is why cultivating new relationships is critical to a successful transition.

Try and be patient with new people who aren't part of that culture.

You may not have the same bond with new co-workers or neighbors as you did with men and women you once served with. Try and be patient with new people who don't immediately understand your culture.

To make friends as a civilian, you can try and find others with shared experiences. Or, you can pursue your individual interests and hobbies and try and meet people that way.


The resources that were available to you as a member of the military may change when you become a civilian.

The military provides healthcare, offers housing assistance, as well as educational opportunities.

For some new civilians, they struggle to pay bills or find sufficient medical care. Again, it's important to know what state you'll be leaving the military in and preparing for the loss of these benefits.

However, the benefits of the military also include retirement and help to find civilian jobs.

Retirement vs Work Force

A big part of your transition will depend on your goals after military life. Depending on your time in the service and your rank, you might be moving comfortably into retirement or you want to pursue another career. Dedication, leadership, and teamwork are vital attributes for military service that can be acquired through education. These characteristics are also advantageous in the workplace. If you wish to boost your military career, a graduate degree in Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is appealing to veterans and active military members. There are plenty of institutions offering courses like MBA for military vets that you can check online.

With retirement, it's important to find new ways to feel fulfilled. Retirement is an opportunity to explore new hobbies, build new social circles, and rediscover yourself outside of your career.

However, retirement may not be an option for you financially, which means you'll be re-entering the workforce.

Entering the corporate world will be unfamiliar. Instead of being available to the military at all times, you may find yourself with 9-5 responsibilities. All of these changes make it important to adjust your expectations.

The first step will be researching what jobs interest you. It might be helpful to understand what job you're suited for through aptitude or personality tests.

Then, you can format a resume to highlight your skills. Communication, working as a team, and adaptability in high-pressure situations are just a few transferable skills that can be marketed towards potential employers.

Throughout the hiring process, pay attention to differences in the work environment. The military has a clear ranking system and rules of conduct. A traditional office setting may be more laid back.

Something that might help is searching for military-friendly, or military-related employers that understand a life of service, and may offer support during your transition.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. For those in the military, these events often refer to heavy combat as well as injury and death.

Symptoms of PTSD may present as trouble sleeping, irritation, being easily startled or, constantly on guard. Untreated PTSD can interfere with readjustment as veterans often cope by isolating themselves to avoid potential triggers.

If you're suffering from PTSD, I'd strongly recommend seeking professional help. PTSD is often treated with a variety of therapies.

Therapy focuses on confronting thoughts of trauma and teaches healthy coping skills, with the primary goal of helping veterans feel safe in civilian life.

Going Away Gift

Regardless of your branch, be it Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or the Navy, your time in the service becomes a part of your identity.

One of the biggest fears of leaving the military is losing that part of your identity. If you're searching for a way to stay connected, check out they offer custom military challenge coins for every branch.

This small memento can be a reminder that the military has prepared you to excel in this new way of life.

Adjustment Starts Now

The obstacles one faces when adjusting to civilian life might seem overwhelming. This transition isn't meant to happen overnight. With the right amount of time, you will start to feel confident and comfortable with your new routine.

If you're looking for more useful articles on personal development, health, or careers, check out the rest of our site!

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