So there you are, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in your hand and the rest of your life in front of you. You have made the decision to hang up your combat boots and get out of the service. What you have not decided yet, though, is what to do next. You stir your coffee, look out the window, and ask yourself “so now what?”
It is a great question, and you probably don’t have a truly great answer for it. In many ways leaving the military puts you in the same position you were in when you graduated high school or college: the world lays before you with prospects to go in pretty much any direction you choose. Which path is the one you want to take?
There are many possibilities. You can go back to school, get a job, move back in with your parents, or become a hermit. For the first time in years it is a choice that no senior officer or NCO will make for you. So what are you gonna do?
Contrary to popular belief it is unlikely that you will be able to find a porch to sit on for the remainder of your days, unless you are retiring to a cabin in the middle of the mountains and plan on living on whatever you can grow, catch, or hunt yourself. The retirement benefits aren’t that generous. You are going to need to supplement your well earned but meager pension.
What if you are just getting out after a hitch or two? Finding the retirement porch is probably decades in the future, so you need to find something to do until the rocking chair becomes your retirement throne.
So, back to the question: now what?
There are two common paths that people leaving the military take. They generally either go back to school or find a job. Many vets, like me, end up doing both at the same time as they work their way through college or graduate school. Regardless of which path you take, however, you are ultimately going to end up back in the market for a job, if not a new career. That is what the next string of posts will focus on: getting a job.
Despite what you may have heard, you can find employment after you get out despite the sour economy. It isn’t easy, though. There is no magical job fairy that sprinkles you with sparkly guaranteed-employment dust. There are opportunities, though, but it takes some work to take advantage of them.
How long has it been since you wrote your resume? How about a cover letter? Have you had any experience being interviewed for a job? What kind of skills can you show to a potential employer? What do you want to do?
These questions and many more will be answered as we look into post-military employment….