Guest Blog: the Veteran-Civilian Transition—from a Veteran, Himself.

I have had numerous discussions with hiring managers over the years on what their strategy is as it relates to hiring our veterans. Frequently these conversations will turn to the difficulty that the hiring managers have in understanding the unique perspective that hiring military brings. HR Managers often have limited insight into the programs already in place that assist veterans in transition as well as employers.

Veterans bring a broad variety of highly translatable skills from their military experiences: teamwork, critical thinking, work ethic, integrity, adaptability and leadership skills are just a few examples of character traits that all employers are looking for.

It occurred to me that many articles are written on hiring military from the perspective of the employer, but few articles are written from the view of the transitioning veteran. The following interview, conducted with an active duty US Army soldier, is intended to help understand that transition from a veteran’s perspective.


SSG Jeff Mason, 20 + years service, currently serving as 3rd Engineer Battalion Family Readiness Leader and Command Financial Specialist.  In his 20 + years of service, SSG Mason has been on 4 deployments to Iraq totaling 58 months.  He currently has 3 years and 4 months left until retirement.


Q:  What are the resources available for veteran career transition out of military?

“The Soldier For Life program is currently our go-to transition program. It is a 12-24 month program that allows soldiers to prepare for and transition out of the service. It is a mandatory step by step process that takes a soldier through the transition into civilian life. They provide comprehensive workshops that build on a soldiers foundation to succeed outside of the military world .”

Q:  What are the benefits and gaps of the Soldier for Life Program ?

“While the program is mandatory for transitioning soldiers, there is a solid gap in the preparation and transition for combat MOS soldiers. “

When asked further about this, SSG Mason indicated that the communication styles that are sometimes unique to the military, are not necessarily understood or accepted in the civilian workforce. This is often a topic of discussion with transitioning veterans, as they are aware that this can be a barrier to success if appropriate training and feedback is not provided to assist in acclimation to civilian life.

Q:  Have you heard of experiences, good/bad with separation transition that could have been better?  

“I have, I have had subordinate soldiers transition out of the military and not put their best efforts into the SFL-TAP program and have ended up traversing the US looking for work. Other soldiers I know of have fallen out of contact with the civilian populace and have become distraught with the way things have turned out. For a select few soldiers, I know they put maximum effort into the program and are now regional/team managers/ supervisors in their current jobs. Some have even taken that sense of purpose and drive and gone back to school in order to finish degrees and or start fresh.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the support services provided for transition?

“The SFL-TAP program is a good thing. But like any other program you only get out of it what you are willing to put in.”

Q: What is your personal perspective on transition?

“Obstacles in the way include medical benefits, pay and needed/ required skills to perform my job. As a soldier, I have done a great many things. Duties that have required skills that are not useful within almost any present civilian job. For me, most of my skills have been refined in places not many Americans are willing to go much less see.

Skills needed to succeed in my opinion are based on what the new norm is considered. Most of my skills would need to be replaced/ modified to represent the task and purpose at hand. Attention to detail and willingness to learn go a long way.”

Q: What is needed to make these transitions better and effective?

“Understanding, some of us have to take a bit longer to grasp onto practices that we haven’t dealt with before. Fear of the unknown is a major problem for veterans. In order to make transition a success, we need to become fully committed to ourselves and our prospective employers. We may not like it but we have to invest our due diligence and skills in new ways in order to compete with the younger generations.”


Q:  Why should employers hire a veteran ?

“Veterans, have skill sets that are unique to the civilian workforce. They have an ingrained attention to detail and work ethic to do their best for whatever job they are in. They know that they are a part of something bigger and much more important than themselves.”

Q: What is your perspective of the civilian job market?

“My perspective on the civilian job market is limited as I haven’t looked for a new career in almost 20 years. From what I gather through contacts who have gotten out it’s bleak. Resources tell me that most of the jobs that they have applied for have turned them down due to fears of “damaged goods”.  A few major corporations have taken a first-hand look at stopping this trend. GM, Tesla, Ford and Toyota all have a program to hire vets more frequently. This not only boosts the outlook on the vets perspective but also helps to show other vets that it is possible to get a well-paying position along with new skill sets for their future.”

Q: What can the civilian employers do to enhance the transition ?

“In order to enhance transition, employers need to ask pertinent detailed questions of their prospecitive veteran employees. Generalizing conceptual questions will not help the employer to determine viable skills that they are looking for in new employees. They need to know that some of the vets in transition deal with difficult issues and they need an understanding of what some of these issues will do to us. Not saying to walk on eggshells, but to understand and acknowledge an awareness of the issues.”

Q: Where do civilian employers have the best chance at finding, recruiting, hiring transitioning veterans?

“At each installation across the globe, there are programs that assist soldiers in transition. The absolute best thing that they can do is go to an SFL-TAP Job Fair. This month there will be over 300 perspective employers at our Job Fair here at FT Hood. These Job Fairs are held all over the US at Army, Navy and Air Force installations.”


The first step in hiring transitioning military is for the organization to make a commitment to hiring and retaining veterans. This commitment must be culturally ingrained within the organization and HR Managers and staff need to be trained in the intricacies of hiring veterans.

Companies, to be viewed as viable options for transitioning veterans, need to establish a presence in the veteran community that allows them to begin to build trust and name recognition. The military has an internal support system that prospective employers need to be aware of. Making contact with the Local One Stop Career Center, using, sponsored by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and attending/hosting a booth at a job fair targeting transitioning veterans are all excellent ways to kick off a veteran-focused hiring strategy.

Hiring veterans can provide companies with committed, disciplined and loyal employees and with a little understanding from both the employers and the transitioning veterans, a solid workforce for the future.

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How to Become a Top Veteran-Employer


250,000 service members transition out of the services and into the job pool every year. This stat is particularly relevant to you: an employer in a trades field.

Why? Consider that this represents 250,000 promising candidates to fill your positions. This is great news for an industry struggling to attract and retain skilled workers.

Are you ready to bring this talent into your company? The following 10 tips will help your company become more “military-friendly”. So take a look. Put yourself on the path of becoming a top veteran-employer in your industry.


If you want to bring in veteran talent, you’re going to need a strategy. Lucky for you, there are many great resources to help you build your company’s veteran-hiring program from the ground up.

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s toolkit outlining a strategy for your program. Create a welcoming workplace and recruit veterans, wounded warriors, and military spouses
  • is one of the largest military membership organizations. Use their job board for job fair information. Or partner as an official “Veteran Employer”
  • Hire Veterans is a job board where you can register, post jobs, and search through resumes
  • Helmets to Hardhats is an organization that connects veterans with careers in the trades. Register and post your job openings today
  • Veteran Jobs Mission is a coalition that helps employers hire retired military personnel and their spouses. They boast 330,000+ veterans hired, to-date


Building a kick ass veteran-hiring program requires a focused message. Communicating your support and commitment is key to bringing in the right people.

This means you must communicate what YOU can offer THEM. So ask yourself the following questions to focus your message:

  1. What aspects of your business appeals to this demographic?
  2. Is the worksite attractive to someone accustomed to a high level of challenge, pressure, and  stress?
  3. Are you offering an opportunity for advancement?
  4. Are you offering sensible benefits?
  5. How does your company go above and beyond to support this demographic?

Determine your message and make it central to your efforts. Call together your team. Define and refine your focus. Each member of your recruiting team should be communicating their commitment to this talent.


Understanding the skills of this demographic is key to placing them with the right job. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to translate military experience into civilian skills. In fact, the armed services can use a language of it own!

There’s an excellent tool that will help you with this.’s Military Skills Translator. You just enter the individual’s branch and position to see what their job duties were.

Then you can compare their skills against the job qualifications. Here’s to added confidence that you’re hiring the right person for the right job!


Do your employee benefits go above and beyond to support transitioning servicemen and women? Review the following options to provide extra support to a veteran workforce

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to support your workforce with work and personal issues. This can help with PTSD, health issues, or even family stress. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has many resources for this
  • Check out the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Employment Toolkit for tips on supporting your new employees
  • Start a mentorship program in your company by pairing a current veteran employee with newly hired veterans. Coach the mentor in helping the new employee overcome challenges, set goals, and adjust to their new career. Check out Blue Sky Coaching’s tips on being a good mentor for this

Do you have new veteran hires who are struggling with their transition into the civilian workforce? Direct them to any of the government resources available supporting this process.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment is an excellent program. They help military personnel with service-related disabilities excel in their work and personal life.

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs also has many programs that you’ll find helpful.


This so happens to be one of our very favorite pointers for HR recruiters, directors, managers, and the like. Why? A strong network can (metaphorically) move mountains.

This rule is especially applicable when it comes to recruiting veterans.

How, you say? Chances are, your company is already employing one if not multiple military personnel. Through them, you have access to a  vast network of servicemen and women who are, no doubt, qualified. Your next incredible hire could be only an employee away… Heck, even throw in a sweet incentive for employee referrals. Need ideas for effective incentives? Check out Fast Company’s suggestions for ideas.

So access veteran talent through your current workforce’s social circles. Recruit from this network to become the top veteran-employer of your dreams.


Everyone wants to work for companies whose workforce they identify with.

So ask yourself.. how do you market yourself as a top veteran-employer? This is key to attracting more of the talent you seek.

Your marketing department can come in handy here. Call a meeting with your marketing team to bring them on board with your mission. Work with them to launch new campaigns aligned with your goal. Their creativity can take you a long way in building the workforce that will help your company grow! Try our the following ideas:

  • Launch social media campaigns highlighting current veteran employees: what specific benefits do they enjoy? Challenges and opportunities? What does their career path look like?
  • Create veteran-oriented marketing materials—promote the benefits, programs, and support your offer veterans
  • Launch a Youtube series interviewing current veteran employees. Focus the conversation on their civilian transition. How did your company support it?


Many major companies offer websites focused on men and women who served our country. Model your program after their successes.

Review their work with your team and begin brainstorming. How can you  showcase your company’s journey toward becoming a top veteran-employer? Note the creative ways each of these companies has adapted their recruiting, culture, and benefits to support the new diversity in their workforce:


Partnerships with business and trade associations can open up another channel for this talent.

You can leverage community collaboration for connections to veteran talent through partner firms. Encouraging inter- and intraindustry networking. The 100,000 Jobs Mission is an excellent example of a successful collaboration that improved recruiting practices and outcomes.


There are many programs that will help your company hire veterans:

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’s Special Employer Incentives program helps companies hire more veterans. They connect qualified candidates with a specific role at your organization. You can also be reimbursed for part of the individual’s salary, covering supply and instruction costs.
  •  Check out the Special Employer Incentive Fact Sheet for more information.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Guide to Hiring Veterans. This resource is helpful for kicking off the conversation within your organization.

Bring together all players key to your new program and review. Bring everyone on board with the importance of the movement and get started!


At CraftForce, we believe that restoring our nation’s workforce begins with employing our veterans. That’s why, with a network of over 800,00 veterans, we are committed to helping you become a top veteran-employer.

Visit today to learn more about how we can help you build the workforce your company needs to grow.

Want to contribute to the CraftForce blog? Submit your blog topic idea(s) at 

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