Transitioning from the military to the civilian world can be be challenging, to say the least.
You’re leaving a world where life is very regimented, superhero-levels of loyalty are commonplace, and life or death decisions are made every day, to enter a world that in most cases, is a complete 180 of that.
Couple that with the physical and emotional injuries many veterans have suffered, the lack of a support, structure, or guidance, and the bullshit story we keep hearing that veterans are broken and incapable of adapting, and it becomes apparent why the transition can be so difficult for many.
As a veteran, you’ve already endured greater sacrifice than most people could ever fathom. You’ve overcome challenges that most people would run from, and you’ve taken on leadership roles at a younger age with higher stakes than most of your civilian counterparts.
Despite all of that, transitioning into the civilian world will require a complete shift in thinking.
You’ll need to realize that you aren’t a piece of equipment to be abused and thrown away. You’ll need to start taking better care of yourself—treating yourself as a priority. You’ll need to reframe how you look at the world and interact with people. And you’ll need to find a new way to add value in the civilian world, just like you did in the military world.
It’s not going to be easy, but it’s just another challenge for you to overcome.
I’m going to share some of the resources that I’ve found helpful, both in my own life and in the lives of my fellow veterans, who I’ve counseled over the years. If you find this helpful, please share it so others can benefit from it too, and be sure to thank the authors, podcasters, doctors, and other folks who created this amazing content that we’re sharing here.
Founder and CEO, Spartan Media
It all starts with what you put into your body
Even if you don’t realize it yet, years of washing MREs and horse-sized doses of Motrin and antibiotics down with Rip It have wreaked havoc on your microbiome, which has a significant and adverse effect on overall health—especially your immune system and mental health.
Your microbiome directly effects your metal health because it produces your neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that regulate your emotions, hormones, and sleep. But to produce the proper levels of neurotransmitters, you need eat a proper diet, including probiotics and fiber, get plenty of sleep, and avoid processed foods, alcohol, excess sugar, and antibiotics.
I stumbled onto Diane Sanfilippo’s podcast, Balanced Bites, when looking for a solution to a health challenge of my own, and was instantly hooked because of the depth of scientific information provided. In episode 204, she interviews Dr. David Perlmutter, M.D., a renowned neurologist and the author of Brain Maker, where they discuss your microbiome, its role in mental health, the impact of your diet and medications, and how to create a healthy microbiome.
Sleep is essential
You’re probably used to running patrols all night, then manning a post all day without any sleep. You can get away with that for a while, but it takes a heavy toll on your body.
During sleep, your body repairs damage, removes toxins and waste at the cellular level, and rebalances hormones and neurotransmitters. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body stops repairing damage, inflammation increases, and cortisol and neurotransmitters become unbalanced. This leads to long-term physical and mental issues.
In episode 314 of The Paleo Solution Podcast, Robb Wolf interviews Sarah Ballantyne PhD from The Paleo Mom, about the role of sleep in your physical and mental health, how to improve your sleep using techniques tools, and supplements.
Stop thinking of therapy as a dirty word
Everyone can benefit from therapy, but because of the stigma erroniously attached, most are ashamed to seek it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken—it means that you place enough value on yourself that you’re willing to invest in your own well being. Think about it like this—elite athletes work with specialized coaches, the best actors work with acting coaches, and business leaders work with business coaches. Don’t you deserve to be the best version of you? I regularly see a therapist and you should too.
I’m a huge fan and long-time listener of Jordan Harbinger’s podcast, The Art of Charm. In episode 511, his guest, Dr. Melanie Watkins hits it out of the park in articulating why everyone should seek therapy and how it’s actually a signs of strength, not weakness. She and Jordan discus mental health, warning signs, and what to expect in therapy.
Meditation isn’t just for hippies
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce depression and anxiety, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being—all without the nasty side effects that come with the pharmaceutical medications that the VA hands out like Halloween candy.
I’ve tried meditation on and off since high school, but never had much success with it until hearing episode 446, where Jordan interviewed Tony Stubblebine, CEO and founder of Coach.me. They discus meditation in depth, explain the benefits, and Tony even guides us though the process. He offers a free meditation guide and Calm app (computer, iOS, and Android) to help you get started, and if you don’t want to do it on your own, they’ll help you find a meditation coach.
Consistently add value
Fulfillment comes from creating positive change, and that is directly proportional to the value you add in day to day situations.
Raider Project 2016 Transition Seminar Keynote Speaker Nick Palmisciano
In most cases, the civilian workplace is completely different than the military in every way, even within veteran-owned businesses. Aside from the trite “thank you for your service” that you’re probably tired of hearing by now, no one, especially employers, really cares about your awards, sacrifice, disabilities, or personal problems.
It may sound shitty, but it’s reality.
Employers care about your ability to add value to their organization and you need to be able to convey your ability to do that in terms they understand. Nick Palmisciano, Ranger, speaker, columnist, and CEO of RangerUp, breaks it all down for us in the Raider Project 2016 Transition Seminar, where he was a keynote speaker.
How to get a job
Every employer’s goal is to run a successful and profitable business, and your personal circumstances, challenges, and military awards are irrelevant to that. Start with that in mind and you’ll have a significant advantage over other job seekers. Approach employers from the perspective of how you can solve their problems.
Knowing how to conduct a patrol, call air support, or execute fire and movement are all critical skills in a military environment, but utterly irrelevant in the civilian world. The personality traits required to build and implement those skills, however, such as leadership, attention to detail, and composure, are incredibly valuable in the civilian world. The key is to convey what you’ve learned in a way that shows potential employers how your unique experience enables you to solve their problems.
Networking is a lot like a recon patrol in that it helps you to gather intelligence that will help accomplish your mission. In this case, finding a job. Don’t look at it from a purely transactional perspective though—that’s a mistake that most people make that creates shallow connections. If you want results, you need to build real relationships based on mutually adding value in both directions.
The interview isn’t just about evaluating your job skills, it’s also about evaluating how you respond under pressure, how well you fit into their company culture, and how thoroughly you are willing to prepare for important events. It’s also important to point out that the interview doesn’t start when you sit down with the interviewer—it starts the second you arrive.
Launch a website
- Domains: Go Daddy (Veteran-owned)
- Hosting: CenTex Hosting (Veteran-owned)
- Web design: Spartan Media (Veteran-owned)
Veteran business directories
- VeteransList.us (Veteran-owned)
- The Veterans Directory (Veteran-owned)
- Service Diabled Veterans Directory (Veteran-owned)
- Veteran Owned Business (Veteran-owned)
- Art of Charm
- Cigars and Sea Stories (Veteran-owned)
- Change Your POV (Veteran-owned)
- Command Your Business (Veteran-owned)
- Military Entreprenuer (Veteran-owned)
- Change Your POV (Veteran-owned)