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transitioning from military to civie life

Translating military experience to a civilian job

Many ex-military staff find it challenging to translate military experience into the civilian employment arena. If this is you, you might already know that it can be hard to know where to start, what to include on your resume and how to explain your military experience in civilian terms. Like all big changes, it can happen much smoother with preparation. Let’s take a look at some tips on making this transition.

Create a transition plan

The military has unique cultures so it’s not uncommon for discharged members to experience ‘culture shock’ when adjusting to civilian life and civilian workplaces. There are quite a few services and resources to support the transition including Open Arms. These services offer confidential one-on-one counselling to talk through any issues you or your family may be dealing with. This can help keep your mindset open to opportunity and your new chapter. Veterans looking to explore a career in tech could consider WithYouWithMe. This site also has a range of career assessment tools including aptitude and behavioural tests that can help you understand your potential careers in the civilian workforce.

The Veteran Employment Toolkit is also a practical guide to planning your transition to the civilian workforce and is recommended by many veterans.

Identify the job you’re seeking

Once you have an idea of the types of roles you are looking for, you can focus on bridging the gap between the skills and experience you already have, and those needed for the type of job that you want. You might need to complete a course or gain on the job experience to fill these gaps. Once you’ve decided on your desired job, you can then work backwards to identify the path to upskilling for your chosen job.

Assess your transferable skills

Finding employment outside the ADF isn’t easy but understanding your skills is the first step in finding work that aligns with your post-transition employment goals. Ex-military staff sometimes sell themselves short and take whichever job they can get because they don’t realise how valuable their skill set is and how employable they are. For example, perhaps you managed or worked with a team, made on the fly and fast decisions, coordinated actions in high-stress environments or even thrived in ever-changing and chaotic environments. There are multiple soft skills in these examples. It’s just about taking the time to think about your experience and translate it to civilian life. You’ll be surprised at the number of skills you have!

Some examples of transferable skills between military and civilian life include:

Problem-solving Collaboration Critical thinking
Responsiveness Leadership Technology Skills
Project management Teamwork Organisation
Attention to detail Strong work ethic Technical writing
Managing logistics and resources Understanding compliance, SoP’s and technical frameworks Self-sufficiency


Australia’s military is one of the most highly skilled in the world. It’s likely you have qualifications, training, skills and experience that will make you a valuable member of the civilian workforce. Don’t underestimate the professional learning and development you have gained from your service.

Identify and build networks

Networks are a great way to find new opportunities. In fact, a high percentage of jobs are still never advertised because they are able to fill the positions within their networks. Connect with ex-colleagues, family and friends and let them know you’re looking to transition back so they can keep their eye out for roles that might suit.

You can also build your network by meeting people through others including ex-service organisations, sporting or other interest groups, and/or through social media.

Great networks not only help to open up job opportunities, they also create a solid support structure and help you feel more connected in civilian life.

Adjust your language to your new audience

You’ve probably spent years speaking with particular terminology and phrases relevant to the military but in order to adjust to civilian life as an employee, you’ll need to focus on changing your language to match the way people speak in the type of job that you’re pitching for. Avoid using acronyms and make sure you translate any jargon into language that employers can understand.

Employ a professional resume writer

Hiring a professional resume writer can take the stress out of the job search. The process also helps build confidence and gets you started on the right foot. Phil Mitchell, based on the NSW/VIC border, is particularly experienced in supporting veterans transition to civvy life. He works with clients one-on-one to help you create the perfect resume that combines your military experience with your relevant skills. Phil will also help you to explain your skillset in non-military terms.

Obviously, you’re the expert when it comes to your military experience and similarly, it’s critical to employ an expert when it comes to marketing yourself for employment opportunities.  As well as producing an outstanding resume, they can also assist you with publishing a LinkedIn profile and writing tailored cover letters for your job applications. It’ll be money well spent because selling yourself in the best possible light is necessary for your success.

Please contact us today to help you get started in cracking the civilian employment market.

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