Enlisting was likely the most significant decision of your life, and leaving the military to seek a new career is equally as great. If you’re a woman veteran who is ready for a fresh start, you must prepare to not only tackle the job market but also to transition into civilian life.
According to Career Builder contributor Anthony Dupree, around 250,000 U.S. military members enter civilian life every year. Many of the service members undergoing this major life change are women. Military.com contributor Mary Dever writes that women make up 10% of the current veteran population and are the fastest-growing demographic. Transitioning into the civilian workforce requires adjustments, and despite having many desirable skills, many veterans struggle with the career shift.
Whether you’re coming out of the military or not, seeking a new career can leave you feeling overwhelmed. For the smoothest and most successful transition possible, women veterans should take advantage of leadership development resources, promptly address any medical issues, and consider the big picture when contemplating relocating for a job. Having a positive attitude is one of the keys to surviving change and thriving in your new career.
Leadership Development Resources for Veterans
As you prepare to exit the military, it’s a good idea to find a mentor who has successfully made the transition into civilian life themselves. Even if you’ve already left the service, it’s never too late to reach out to someone who can help you navigate common pitfalls and offer career guidance. Since women veterans often face different challenges then their male counterparts, it could be particularly beneficial to connect with female-focused veteran groups.
Foundation for Women Warriors, a California-based nonprofit, facilitates the professional development of women veterans through a variety of programming. The Warrior Assistance program connects women veterans with mentors as well as provides access to scholarships and internships.
Other educational grants for veterans include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, Tuition Assistance, and the Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program. With the help of financial aid, you can pursue an education that will get you ready for a new career. Some of the jobs best suited for veterans are law enforcement, information technology, healthcare, and business administration.
As you’re preparing to enter the civilian workforce, it’s essential to find ways to highlight your skills and military leadership traits on your resume. For example, skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, communication, and teamwork are all highly marketable. Your military background tells employers you’re someone who embodies discipline, integrity, and adaptability.
Struggling to tailor your resume or find direction? One of the steps to making progress in your career is hiring a career coach. A certified professional career coach can assist you in gaining clarity about what you want in your new career and developing a roadmap to reach your goals.
Unfortunately, not all employers are eager to hire veterans. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of employee discrimination so you’re aware of the legal protections available to you. Women veterans who are also mothers are vulnerable to even more bias from employers.
Taking Care of Your Health Post-Service
While it’s easy to get caught up in your career search, you don’t want to overlook your health. Dormant medical issues could cause problems for you down the road, so you should make a doctor’s appointment and get checked out.
Tell your physician that you’d like them to screen you for chemical exposure that might have occurred during your military service. Since veterans are often exposed to chemicals like asbestos, you should schedule a full physical as soon as possible. Along with chemical exposure, ill-fitting battle equipment can lead to a host of ailments. Wearing gear that was designed for men can result in neck, back, and hip injuries.
Another healthcare concern for female veterans is chronic urinary tract infections. Due to a lack of privacy, unsanitary conditions, and harsh climates during deployment, many women service members have issues surrounding urination. These issues and their symptoms continue to plague them as veterans.
In addition to your physical well-being, take care of your emotional needs and don’t ignore your mental health. Unfortunately, sexual assault during active duty is one of the major issues facing female veterans. While in the service, many women make the tough choice to not report an assault for fear of retaliation. Military sexual trauma often leads to PTSD.
Don’t forget to consider healthcare coverage when seeking a new career. After you leave the military, the VA will cover you for a time, but unless your medical conditions are service-connected, you will need to find other health insurance for post-military life. If your new employer doesn’t offer healthcare, you can apply for coverage on the Affordable Care Act website.
If you’ve just left the military, Military Times contributor Blake Stilwell suggests getting temporary healthcare coverage through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) or the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP).
Relocating for Career Purposes
Healthcare coverage isn’t the only thing women veterans need to consider when seeking a new career. You will also need to weigh the pros and cons of relocating for career purposes. Where should you establish life as a civilian?
If you already have a location or two in mind, you can easily look for work in your field using Google’s search function for veterans. This tool is for veterans with their MOS, AFSC, NEC, or rating. All you need to do is Google “veteran job search.” The results will show the special search box, and you can start researching openings in your area.
But don’t worry if you’re not sure where you want to call home. Flexibility will likely help you in your job search. Before committing to an employer, ask yourself these questions about relocating for a job:
- What are the financial implications?
- How will I acclimate to the area?
- How will this impact my family?
Not sure where to start your search? Learn more about some of the states and cities that veterans themselves consider the best places to embark on post-service life. Virginia, Maryland, and Texas are all highly-regarded, as well as Colorado Springs. These places offer access to VA medical services, high quality of life for individuals transitioning to the civilian world, and veteran-led support systems.
When deciding if and where you want to relocate for career purposes, it’s crucial to have a support system in place wherever you choose to call home. These support systems are especially important for female veterans trying to balance work and family. Previously deployed mothers might be dealing with increased child support and custody changes.
As you seek a new career and transition into civilian life, there are sure to be bumps and hiccups. But with a stable support system in place, you can overcome any hurdles and flourish in your new post-military career.