The transition from active duty to veteran or retiree family can be as confusing as it is exciting. Through the Transition Tales series, MFAN’s Advisory Board combines personal experience with practical advice and resources to assist the whole family through this complex adjustment period.
The opinions expressed in this column are the views of the author, Heidi Dindial.
This year, our family will be making a huge transition from active duty to retirement. Our transition story isn’t something that was planned or even thought about at this time a year ago. A series of unfortunate events landed us to this point.
At first, the thought of him retiring made me freak out internally. How would we survive? Would he find a job? What does life even look like not living in an unpredictable environment? So many questions filled my mind.
Presently, we are seven months away from the biggest event of our lives thus far. I couldn’t be more excited, unless he finds a remote position where I see him 24/7. (Maybe I should follow-up with a six-month post retirement note for readers to let you know how it’s going).
If you are finding your family at the start of this journey and feel overwhelmed, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Here are few pointers to help you get started:
linkedin and networking
After telling my husband for years to get a LinkedIn account, he finally got onboard and created a profile. Following the advice from HireMilitary’s Founder and CEO, Michael Quinn, I told him he needed a professional picture. My photography skills are not those of a professional, but an iPhone capture was a start. He is scheduled to get professional photos done with Portraits for Patriots this month. They offer this service to military spouses as well and it’s a wonderful service to help you feel confident when beginning your search.
Next, he needed to start networking. The earlier you start, the better insight you have into which career field you are interested in. Search online for upcoming events in your area! We’re lucky that many are available where we live and my husband is using in-person and virtual networking to excel. For additional tips, follow Tyrone Hewitt on LinkedIn. His passion lies in seeing service members identify “transition blindspots” before leaving the military.
Transition assistance program (TAP)
This biggest thing that opened his eyes was the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). He decided to take the class twice and as he had different instructors each time, he was able to hear two unique perspectives that shared a lot of helpful information. If you can start to plan early for your transition, please try to go more than once. If you are in a time crunch or geographically unable to attend in person, TAP is available online.
Number one takeaway from the classes: if you haven’t started your medical documentation at this point, you MUST! Obtaining all documentation is a time-consuming process. Start now and your future self will thank you.
Early on in my career, I learned that mentors hold so much valuable insight and guidance. The ACP Mentoring Program is a great resource that is offered to veterans and military spouses. Be forewarned, the application and selection process is in-depth—but that’s only because they want to ensure a good match. I am using them currently and my husband just started with his mentor. We often discuss what we’re learning and find ways to help each other in our professional goals.
My husband has used another mentoring program called VETERATI. This platform allows you to set up free calls with professionals in a variety of fields. An interesting facet of this program is that you choose your own mentors and can have as many as you would like.
Get involved wherever you can! Before the pandemic, I attended a Coffee Connection hosted by the USO where they had a speaker talk about the USO Pathfinder Transition Program. Initially, I wasn’t sure what the program had to offer but I shared the information and my husband reached out to the local area representative.
Certifications are helpful and can help you stand out. There are a lot of factors when it comes to certifications and knowing which ones to obtain.
- Onward to Opportunity (O2O) is a no-cost industry-focused and validated career skills program that connects transitioning service members and active duty military spouses to high-demand careers.
- Star 6 Sigma Global Academy is military-centered and has certification training paired with highly motivated trainers. They also periodically offer discounted and free certifications.
- Act Now Education is another great resource that has a wide offering of webinars, educational opportunities, and more. Their founder and Executive Director, Jai Salters is a military transition mentor who has built a team that is constantly putting out information for training, certifications, and degrees.
Finally, what lies ahead in a couple months is DoD SkillBridge through Hiring Our Heroes. They provide the opportunity for service members to gain valuable on-the-job experience in a variety of career fields. They cover many important aspects of each industry, including things like professional civilian attire (which my husband seems to be super excited about). If you are thinking about SkillBridge, apply as early as possible. Hiring Our Heroes can pair you with a cohort during your time in the program which is great for networking.
I wish you nothing but success and will leave you with a few words of advice: Transition looks different for every family. It can be the most stressful time or the most rewarding. Communicate the wins and the setbacks. Connect with the resources and utilize what is available to lessen the burden of transitioning. Give yourself some grace because transitioning is not easy, but I have heard the outcome is worth it!