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One of the most sobering experiences that a member of the military can have is the adjustment to civilian employment. Growing up in a military town, I witnessed the difficulties that many had and, being a former member of the armed forces, I had my own difficulties adjusting to the changes that ensued. There were many factors that I and friends of mine from the military had not taken into consideration when making this change. Here are some of the more memorable changes that I had to take into consideration after getting out of the military that I didn’t ever consider before moving into civilian life.
In the Armed Forces, you never have to worry about things like dental, medical, vision or life insurance coverage. When you got sick, you went to the doctor … end of story. In the civilian world, I had to consider coverage options like MMO versus PPO, but the biggest shock was the cost. In the military all of these things are just taken care of and you never give it a second thought. Now you have to weigh the options and fit the coverages offered into your budget.
You never realize how much the military saves you on housing costs until you no longer have it. Like many members of the armed services, I lived in on-base housing or received a housing allowance. When getting out of the military, I didn’t account for this number in my job search and subsequently ended up making dramatically less than I had before leaving the service. You need to account for any housing perks you get and include that in your target salary range when looking for a civilian job.
When I left the military I went directly into an office-based management job in the civilian sector. I went from wearing military provided uniforms to needing suits, ties, shoes, shirts and belts. This was a massive expense initially, for which I was somewhat prepared, but the ongoing expense of maintaining this wardrobe wasn’t completely expected and can be a massive expense.
When in the military, you never worry about lay-offs, downsizing or declining profit margins. You know that every week you’ve got a job. In the civilian sector, you have to understand what company you’re going to work for and look at the stability of that company. My first job was for a pre-IPO VOIP Internet Service Provider that went under less than 6 months after I took the job. Do your due diligence and know who you’re working for.
After my military service, my first position was in management and this was quite an adjustment. In the military you had high levels of expectations and communication was direct and didn’t accommodate personal preferences. My first team that I managed hated me because I had the same level of expectations from my military career. I luckily had a great mentor that was former Korean and Vietnam-era officer that took me on and helped me adjust to the civilian work life.
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