Last week, I had the honor of participating in the #morethanaspouse Facebook party hosted by the National Military Family Association. By the time the party was over, I had answered nearly 300 questions on everything from careers, entrepreneurship to transition. An hour wasn’t quite long enough to share all the tips and thoughts about successful transitioning out of the military lifestyle so I wanted to follow up with a wrap up and throw in some other tips gleaned from our own transition a little over two years ago.
Ten Tips for a Successful Transition (Learned the Hard Way)
- Don’t kid yourself – you’re BOTH transitioning. Your service member spouse is leaving the military and you are leaving the active duty lifestyle. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety that comes with that. The good news is, it’s normal. Take it easy on yourself and understand that this is a very stressful time overall. Do what you can to be proactive.
- Attend the transition seminar together. Up until now, you’ve been the ultimate intel gatherer/gatekeeper – transition is no different. You’d be amazed at how much information is thrown at you during those seminars. It doesn’t hurt to take the team approach and compare notes at the end of the day.
- Understand your benefits. The Survivor Benefit Plan is just the tip of the iceberg. You should review your other benefits such as TriCare and dental to make sure you understand how your new coverage will work once you transition.
- Make sure your finances are in order. Many people recommend having six months’ living expenses readily available for post transition life. You should try to have at least three to four months’ worth of living expenses available to alleviate undue stress. This means, start as early as you can to put away that fund. If you maintained residency in a state that didn’t tax personal income tax while on active status, but are now establishing residency in one that does, it can be jarring. It takes some time post transition to get used to the fees and taxes of settling into your new state of residency. We’re a little over two years into our transition and just now feel like we’ve acclimated to our new financial reality. It takes time. And it’s stressful. The only way to mitigate that stress is to be prepared.
- Take advantage of all the employment resources on the installation while you can. Many of the resources and programs you’re used to are not available to retirees or veterans and their dependents, so make sure you get those appointments and counseling sessions in while you can.
- Update your resume. Even if you have no interest in working, you never know when an opportunity might arise and you want to be ready. Don’t wait until you need it to get your resume ready. Be proactive!
- Order networking cards. Companies like Vistaprint are constantly running sales, so you can get hundreds of networking cards for a song. Not sure where you’ll be living post transition? No worries, just leave the address off. You’ll want to have networking cards handy as you start meeting people.
- Start or update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with all of your contacts in a professional manner.
- Start attending career fairs together a couple years before the transition. You want to get that dress rehearsal in before it counts. Consider it a reconnaissance mission – it’s good to get the lay of the land and figure out how to interact effectively with recruiters before it counts. It’s also a great way to gauge what kind of opportunities are out there and what employers are actively seeking to hire veterans and military spouses.
- Network, network, network. Network not just for that next career opportunity, but also to find your “tribe”. Find those people who have recently transitioned who can offer some fresh insights because they have just gone through it. They’re going to become your new lifeline because they have successfully navigated the transition. They’ll be a great reminder for you – there IS life after the military. You’re going to be stressed, scared and anxious, but it will pass.
These are just tips to get you started. If you have any to add, drop them in the comments. If you’re going through transition soon, think about joining us for the our summit in November, particularly the Networking event on the 13th that will be focused on a Successful Transition. Service member spouses are more than welcome. It’s a great, low threat environment where you can relax and speak to military friendly employers and others who are either going through the transition themselves or have recently successful transitioned. Hope to see you there!