- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

70 Steps to Transition Success - The Civilian Job News Job Search and Military Transition Checklist
by Civilian Job News staff

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Article Sponsored by: Wil-Trans

Phase I: When you are in the 12- to 18-month window, you should get informed and organized by taking these steps:

1. Become familiar with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).

military transition checklist2. Visit for a summary of transition tools offered by the Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs.

3. Verify the actual date of separation, retirement, end of contract or EOS.

4. If you will have unused leave on the books, determine whether selling it back or taking it as terminal leave is best for you, from both a financial and timing perspective.

5. Develop a personal transition plan and timeline.

6. Determine the paperwork requirements necessary to support your separation, discharge, or retirement.

7. Compile a list of everyone you know who might become a potential job search lead, i.e., your network.

8. Expand that network through community service activities and volunteerism, if duty station and operational tempo allows.

9. Identify and foster mentors; ask for their help and guidance.

10. Subscribe to Civilian Job News and read it religiously.

11. Review your current education and training inventory, looking for any gaps that might be filled prior to leaving the military.

12. Obtain sealed original copies of your academic transcripts, if appropriate.

13. If continuing education is needed, begin the school application process focusing on academic institutions with strong veterans’ preference reputations, many of which are featured or advertise in Civilian Job News.

14. If necessary, schedule and prep for college entry exams such as the SAT and GMAT.

15. Identify, monitor and track the activities and progress of other individuals who are going through transition. Learn from their experience.

16. Speak with placement specialists in both the private and public sectors.

17. Become familiar with and consider employment with the federal government.

18. Research possible civilian job and career options. An excellent resource is the Department of Labor’s O*Net OnLine; visit or for details.

19. Recognize the fact that you must invest in the success of your job search and set aside money on a monthly basis to support that fact.

20. Track your job search expenses and save receipts; many of the costs of changing jobs may be deductible on your tax returns.

21. Research placement companies that specialize in military-to-civilian transition. We recommend Bradley-Morris, Inc. (

22. Obtain a copy of a military-to-civilian transition manual; we recommend ‘Out of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition’ (


Phase II: When you are in the 9- to 12-month window, you should begin the preparation phase of your search with the following steps:

23. Locate and visit your base or post TAP/ACAP office and become familiar with the transition assistance provided, including initial guidance on writing your resume.

24. Consider the value and/or the need of professional assistance with your resume. We recommend

25. Attend an introductory TAP/ACAP seminar.

26. Identify any additional on-base or on-post resources available, such as Family Assistance Centers and base or post education offices.

27. Visit your state and local employment services, especially the Local Employment Veterans Representative.

28. Investigate the possibility of job search/transition no-cost TAD/TDY orders; see if you qualify for permissive temporary duty (PTDY) to support this.

29. Work to expand your network of personal connections; consider not only who you know but also who those people know.

30. Ask for and arrange informational interviews with people in your network.

31. Learn how to use social media sites to expand your network.

32. Join web-based special interest groups affiliated with social networks. Target those with a military experience focus, such as U.S. Military Veterans Network and Link-Military Veterans Employment.

33. Identify companies and organizations with strong “hire a veteran” programs, such as the ones you will find in every issue of Civilian Job News.

34. Schedule a discussion with a representative of a placement company. We recommend Bradley-Morris, Inc.

35. Learn how to research companies now so that you will be proficient at doing so when the actual need arises.

36. Research yourself. Who are you? What makes you tick? Strengths? Attributes? Values? Motivators?

37. Enhance your self-knowledge by doing the exercises in books like ‘What Color is Your Parachute’ by Bolles and ‘Out Of Uniform’.

38. Look in the mirror and make sure you live up to the positive physical and grooming standards associated with being a military service member.

39. Take the time to identify your weaknesses. Be prepared to discuss failure and shortcomings in your life. What are you doing to correct or compensate? Turn negatives into positives.

40. Find out if your trade school or college offers career services to its alumni and participate, if available.

41. Compile a list of personal and professional references.

42. Gather together the documentation necessary to develop your resume.

43. Assemble a personal paperwork portfolio, consisting of resumes, reference list, separation paperwork, awards, transcripts, copies of diplomas, academic transcripts, certificates of completion, and the like.

44. Read civilian trade journals, newsletters, business magazines, newspapers, e-zines and blogs.

45. De-militarize / civilianize your vocabulary and your resume; learn to express yourself without using military acronyms and jargon.

46. Learn the rules of job search and interviewing etiquette.

47. Become familiar with the differences between military and civilian compensation and benefits.

48. Determine the appropriate attire to support your job search and interview activity, shop accordingly.


Phase III: When you are in the 4- to 9-month window, you should finalize your preparations by accomplishing the following:

49. Make sure your body language says what you want it to say. Handshake? Eye contact? Posture? Ask for feedback from a friend or family member and make adjustments as necessary.

50. Assemble a list of questions you will ask in an interview and modify them as your search continues.

51. Obtain a list of questions you might receive in an interview and prepare your answers.

52. Practice answering interview questions in front of a friend, a mirror, and/or a video camera; ask for feedback and adjust accordingly.

53. Learn how to write a good cover letter and how to use it in your search.

54. Become comfortable with following up on your applications, interviews, etc.

55. Learn how to write a good interview follow-up/thank-you letter.

56. Do at least one proactive job search activity every day: apply for a new position, follow up on an existing application, ask for an information interview, peruse a job board, make a call, knock on a door. . .

57. Actively participate in TAP/ACAP workshops, seminars, and interview days.

58. Join or renew your membership in professional societies, alumni organizations, trade associations, and the like, especially those that offer career transition programs and sponsor networking events.

59. Post your resume on job boards, specifically those that focus on veterans. We recommend the one powered by


Phase IV: When you are in the 0- to 4-month window, you should press the start button on your interview activity by doing the following:

60. Peruse the job boards - especially those that focus on companies with a predisposition to hire veterans - and apply to job postings of interest.

61. Make sure the message on your voicemail is professional and business-like in content, instructions, and delivery.

62. Investigate the option and availability of reserve programs if appropriate.

63. Respond to employment ads, especially those placed by organizations that target military personnel in publications such as the one you are reading - Civilian Job News.

64. Continue your proactive job searching, interviewing and networking activities. Take at least one positive action in support of your transition every day. Follow up on previous interviewing activity.

65. Register for and attend job fairs and/or career conferences. We recommend those sponsored by and

66. Request your DD Form 2586 - Verification of Military Experience & Training.


Phase V: When your search is over, you should wrap things up appropriately as follows:

67. Accept and decline job offers the right way and in the correct sequence.

68. Close the loop with any other organizations that may consider your file to be open.

69. Let everyone who has been of assistance know that your search is over and that you are out of the job market.

70. Make an effort to say thank you to everyone who has helped you make the transition.

Please note that we did not choose to start this countdown 18 months out because it takes that long to accomplish everything on the list. Some of the items in Phase I can start sooner than that. Most of what is on this list could be accomplished in 18 weeks, or even 18 days, if necessary.

The key is to make efficient use of whatever lead-time you do have and prioritize accordingly. Additionally, keep in mind that a “one size fits all” checklist of this kind is not possible. Everyone’s situation is different and you will modify the list to fit your needs. Your duty station, branch of service, specialty, educational background, and operational tempo will not only impact your timeline, but also the relevance and importance of each item on the list.

Checklist created by Tom Wolfe, Civilian Job News contributing editor and author of Out Of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition.


Return to January/February 2012 Issue