One of the biggest issues many veterans face when they leave the defence force is deciding what to do next with their lives.

Many from outside the defence force might consider it just ‘finding a new job’, but it’s more than that.

It’s about finding a new career, which can give you a sense of purpose like your past career in the defence force.

I know from experience that this is much easier said than done.

Depending on who you talk to, some will say your defence experience will be a massive plus, however others will think that it’s actually a hindrance.

Unfortunately, the same is the case with employers – some understand the unique and valuable skills a veteran can bring to the workplace, where others simply don’t get it.

So, the inevitable question comes next – how much should you talk about your military experience? Should you play it down? Or play it up?

I wholeheartedly believe you should wear that experience like a badge of honour!

From helping more than 700 veterans through their transition, we’ve found that the issue is typically two-fold:

  1. Employers often don’t understand what a veteran can bring to their workforce, and see military skills as defined to certain industries.
  2. At the same time though, many veterans don’t know how to sell themselves to civilian employers.

So how do you set yourself up for transition success?

Below are just a couple of my top tips of how you can make your transition just a little bit smoother:

Have a plan – your transition is like an exercise – you’re only going to be a success with diligent planning and execution. Does this mean you need to know exactly what you want to do on transition? Of course not. Take your time and think about it. Attend events, read articles and books, apply for work experience. Do anything you can to better understand potential industries you like. I thought I wanted to move into risk management when I got out, but after working in it for three days I absolutely hated it. Veteran Employment providers, such as WithYouWithMe – but there are others too – can help you decide on a new career when you have no idea at all where to start.

Set your expectations – managing expectations is important. You’re not going to shift out of the defence force into a high-flying corporate role where you’re managing teams of thousands and getting paid seven figures. In fact, WithYouWithMe’s Veteran Employment Report from earlier this year found that on average veterans take a 30 per cent pay cut when they transition. That’s not to say you should be starting at the bottom either. It’s all about understanding your worth and the value of your skills. Worth keeping in mind when you’re planning that next step.

Network, network, network – you’ve probably heard this one million times, but it’s true, networking gets you jobs. Build out your professional network, attend events, reach out to senior people and request a coffee. It’s amazing how open people are to helping and it’s also incredible how many jobs you can land this way, without having to go through the formal channels. There are also a number of programs which offer mentors to assist with the transition. I recommend taking full advantage of that.

Read online with CONTACT Magazine.