How to transition from military to civilian life with confidence

This content is sponsored by Cropp Metcalfe

It’s common for veterans to look at their life, post-military discharge, with uncertainty or even fear. In the military, your career was defined by its rules, clearly-spelled-out protocol and expectations. And when you enter the civilian workforce, all that changes.

How do you get a civilian job? How can you do it well?

First, understand that you’re not alone

Leaving the military is difficult for many people. A 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 30% of veterans had a difficult time re-entering civilian life.

“Veterans who experienced emotional or physical trauma while serving are at the greatest risk of having

difficulties readjusting to civilian life,” the report says. “Similarly, suffering a serious injury while serving reduces the probability of an easy re-entry.”

Second, assess your mental health

The Pew survey reported that, of the veterans who’d suffered trauma or injury while serving, 56% “have had flashbacks or repeated distressing memories of the experience, and nearly half (46%) say they have suffered from post-traumatic stress.”

The stigma against therapy among veterans is well-documented – about “60% of military personnel who experience mental health problems do not seek help,” according to a study by Johns Hopkins University.

Believe it or not, taking care of your mental health, along with transitional work experience, leads to better job retention after leaving the military.

“In order to successfully transition into the workplace, veterans must understand how to express their feelings in a healthy way,” according to a 2015 paper in the International Journal of Social Science and Humanities Research. “Teaching emotions will help veterans develop emotional intelligence incorporating various scenarios that may arise in a work setting.”

If you don’t know where to start, begin by contacting one of the 300 Vet Centers across America that offer confidential and professional readjustment counseling, whether for trauma and bereavement or anxiety about the future.

Third, make a plan for employment

Veterans need options for financial stability when they get out, and your GI Bill gives you plenty of options for higher education. If you’re interested in vocational training and want to get your hands dirty with on-the-job training, contact the CroppMetcalfe Training Academy. Its instructors work with students to help them transition to civilian life.

“Part of the training we provide is the differences between that world and this world,” said Dave Myrick, retired from the Navy and a trainer at CroppMetcalfe. “We help them make that mental mind shift where every situation is different.”

The apprenticeship program is approved by the VA Department of Veteran Services to assist in this transition, and it ends when students pass the Journeyman’s exam. Classes run from fall through spring and are held once a week, in the evening after normal working hours.

“If you are currently working in the HVAC or plumbing fields, your work hours may count as your required ‘on-the-job hours,’” CroppMetcalf says on its website.

Fill out an interest form and take the steps you need to exit the military with confidence and hope in your future. For more information, visit

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up