6 Tips on Career Transition – for Women Veterans

Allison Albers
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    The number of women serving their country is on the rise. The trend is projected to continue upward in the coming years, as highlighted by Pew Research Center. As women service members prepare for the civilian workforce, they face unique challenges that are often different than their male counterparts. Women veterans tend to leave earlier than men, and often without a college degree or certifications. After leaving the service, there are obvious differences between the military way of life and what is expected in the civilian workforce. If not properly prepared, these barriers could prohibit women veterans from excelling in their next career.

    At the end of 2022, Hire Heroes USA conducted a survey of our women veterans. The results indicated a variety of current struggles women veterans face during their transition and entering the job market. The top concerns included career change, license and certification requirements, work-life balance and childcare. Consider the following tips to guide your new journey and be successful after leaving the military.

    1. 1.) DECIDE IF YOUR MILITARY JOB IS YOUR FUTURE – A career change is the leading barrier for women leaving the service. It is vital to identify a target career and start preparing for the career transition as soon as possible.  Brainstorm things you enjoy or that you could see yourself doing once you leave the service. Hire Heroes USA can connect you with women veteran career advisors or subject matter experts in your field of interest. They will help you determine the necessary steps to transition into your new career and industry with confidence and success. A great tip is to read current job postings for those specific types of positions and determine the qualifications required and what gaps you need to fill. This could lead you to expand your skills with education or new obtaining a new certification
    3. 2.) IDENTIFY BARRIERS, PLAN, AND PRIORITIZE – Every woman is unique in their wants, needs and hurdles they face in their career journey. Some have to consider the needs of their family and children, others place finances as the biggest factor of being successful. Make a list of your career and personal priorities and any barriers that you might face. Then rank them. 

               Questions to get you started: 

    • Where will you live? Does your career of interest exist there?
    • Do you need childcare? What options are available and how much will it cost? 
    • Do you have any education or certification barriers or skill gaps?  
    • What employee benefits are essential to you?
    • What type of employment suits you best (part-time, full-time, remote, hybrid, night shift)?
    • Once you have a better understanding of what challenges you will face, create a plan starting with your #1 priority. Whatever type of action plan you create, be sure to give yourself a realistic cushion on time, expectations and detours. Acknowledge that things may take longer than expected but prepare for what you can.
    • 3.) FOCUS ON YOUR WARDROBE – Entering the civilian workforce will require you to have more focus on your personal appearance choices, especially during the interview process. Learn the difference between business professional and business casual looks. A simple, modest and clean look is easy to achieve with a plain blouse, coordinated slacks and neutral flats or pumps no higher than 3 inches. Remember that dressing for success does not require a huge financial investment or the need to look fashionable. Thrifting, utilizing secondhand clothing apps or connecting with local organizations like Dress for Success are great ways to save a few dollars before you secure a stable salary.
    • 4.)  BUILD YOUR NETWORK AND CONNECT WITH PEERS –  You are not alone! Connect with veteran resources, women veteran support groups, and network with friends and family as much as possible.  You’ll be surprised by how many people can relate to your barriers and will offer to help or give guidance for you to be successful.  Networking can also lead to doors opening that would have remained shut without this effort. There are national women veteran organizations like the Women Veterans Network and Women Veterans Alliance, both are great ways to connect with your peers and stay updated with resources and events. Remember to research local women veteran groups to physically connect and generate close friendships with those who get you.
    • 5.) FIND BALANCE – Many women find it important to maintain a work-life balance but also forget the balance that is needed during the job search process. The journey to finding a new career can be time-consuming and mentally draining. Remember to step away and focus on yourself and/or your family. Dedicating a set time of day to focusing solely on securing employment will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Unless there are set deadlines, try not to stress how fast you complete employment requirements. Being prepared in your job search will help to maintain a balance so you develop meaningful connections and will be ready to apply and tailor your resume for the right job opportunities.
    • 6.) BE PROUD OF YOUR VETERAN STATUS – Although nothing is guaranteed because of your veteran status, allow the pride you feel about being a veteran to shine through. Be prepared to speak to your military strengths even if your experience was not always positive. Women veterans can be stereotyped and their decision to serve is often questioned. You have achieved something that only a minimal percentage of women in this country have.  You are a strong, capable, objective-focused, team player, with the ability to follow directives and complete tasks assigned to you. Everyone in the military exhibits these skills daily and that sets you apart from every civilian that has never served. You’ve achieved incredible impact under high levels of stress, don’t ever forget that!
    • As you prepare for your transition from military service to civilian life, remember you do not need to do everything alone or all at once. The tips discussed were collected from stories women veterans have shared. The exact details of their transition process varied, but the barriers they faced and the best practices that helped them overcome them were similar. You do not need to reinvent the wheel with facing the transition process and looking for new employment. Working with organizations like Hire Heroes USA that specialize in veteran employment support allows you to benefit from experts that have honed their skills in this unique area. 

    Allison Albers is the Women Veterans Program Manager at Hire Heroes USA. Hire Heroes USA recently launched a Women Veterans Program, sponsored by Advance Auto Parts Foundation, designed to provide resources and support specifically for women veterans at no cost. If you have any questions, please reach out at www.hireheroesusa.org to sign up for services.