You enlisted, you served, then you hung up your uniform and faced the looming question of "What now?"
Making the transition from a military role to a civilian role can be a big change, but knowing how to best use the skills you acquired in the service and the resources available to you can help you stay on track.
"A lot of military people don't connect the dots or see the long-term picture and how their military skills are applicable to a civilian role," says U.S. Navy Veteran and AIU Online Alumnus Jason Gateas.
Gateas speaks from experience. His military resume includes two combat tours: Desert Storm and six months in Somalia for Operation "Restore Hope." His post-military resume now includes three AIU Online degrees and roles as a healthcare executive, college instructor and Ph.D. candidate. Today, he is the executive director of supply chain management for a large healthcare company, where he oversees procurement contract administration for more than 27 clinical and hospital sites, a passion he discovered in the military during his second duty as storekeeper and medical supply manager.
When it comes to servicemembers making the transition back into civilian lives successfully, Gateas shares the following tips:
- Go through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) "The education I got from the VA was the No. 1 thing that led me to a successful civilian career," Gateas says. "They go over job descriptions and how your [military] skills are applicable to the outside world. ... Listen to them. Use the tools they give you—they are successful." The VA also provides assistance with creating and building a resume. "Take advantage of your military experience. Craft your resume to market yourself and your military background properly."
- Rely on the skills you learned in the military. Be it skills for your resume or personality traits you acquired, don't leave those hanging with your uniform. Apply them. "I got my first job because of the skills I learned in the Navy." The job required specific technology and computer experience, and Gateas had it. "I made the transition [to civilian life] fairly easily. I started with a bang. My manager had to tell me, 'You're not in the military anymore. You don't have to work 12-hour days.' But I just went above and beyond," he says. "They teach you perseverance and dedication in the military. Once you master those, the rest comes naturally."
- Have a vision and don't be deterred. "Set a plan or you're out there in the dark. Sometimes you'll fall, sometimes you'll succeed, but you have to stick with it—through the good or the bad." Also, don't let others bring you down. "No matter where you go, you'll always run into difficult people. You have to persevere."
- Consider furthering your education online. "AIU [Online] launched my executive career. Without it, I wouldn't be where I am," Gateas says. "I was a busy working adult, working nine-to-10 hour days. I didn't have time for a brick-and-mortal school. ... [When you study online,] even if you have distractions at home, you can still set a schedule to make sure you accomplish your educational goals. ... You need discipline to attend school online, and you learn discipline through your training in the military."
Gateas used GI Bill funding to pursue his bachelor of business administration degree (2004) and then earned his master of business administration degree with a dual concentration in management (2005) and healthcare management (2006). "Without my MBA, I wouldn't be in my position. It's what you need to be competitive in the marketplace."
- Pursue your degree sooner rather than later. Gateas says if he could go back in time and do one thing differently, he would've gone back to college earlier. "It wasn't realistic at the time for me; all the options were brick and mortar." So don't delay. Take a small step now to help you ease into civilian life.
AIU is proud to be named a Top School in Military Advanced Education's 2015 Guide to Colleges and Universities for the eighth year in a row. AIU has also been named a Top Military Friendly® School for the sixth straight year. Learn more about how AIU serves military students.