Support Through Transition

Military to Civilian Life and Beyond

Every year over 250,000 people leave the military and begin their transition into civilian life. This transition is said to be one of the most challenging tasks associated with being in the military, resulting in emotions ranging from stress to the fear of the unknown. To combat these emotions it is important that military spouses remain supportive by encouraging an ultimate family goal, becoming familiar with the military transition process, listening to your spouses concerns and helping your spouse learn about the civilian workforce.

On that beautiful day you said "I do" to your military husband or wife, you said "I do" to the military too. Whether you realize it or not, you are the backbone of the military family unit. Your military spouse will need your support throughout this transition.

One of your most important jobs as a military spouse is to encourage your partner to communicate their goals. Open the lines of communication by talking to your spouse about what you want from the military transition, including your goals, fears and expectations. Have your spouse reciprocate their goals and together combine them into a common goal for the family. Once a common goal is obtained, both of you will know what to expect and how each step of the transition process is lining up with your final goal.

The next step for a military spouse is to learn about the transition process. Each branch of the military offers transition briefings that cover everything from retirement eligibility to civilian health care options. Attending these briefings will help you maximize the transition benefits your family receives.

It is common for the transition from the military to a civilian lifestyle to cause anxiety, but listening to your spouse's fears and concerns can help them through this emotional time in their life. During this transition, which can last up to two years, your spouse may possibly exhibit signs of career abandonment. Signs of career abandonment can be depression, anxiety or even anger. Listen closely to your spouse's feelings, be encouraging and try to redirect their feelings onto another task. Many military spouses help their significant others cope with their fears of career abandonment by presenting activities such as community service and household responsibilities to keep them occupied.

One of the biggest hurdles involved with the military transition process is finding a new career. "Planning for your next career is more important than any project you might take on and should be treated as such," said Marv Harris, retired Air Force Officer and spokesman for the Retired Officers Association.

The civilian world can provide great opportunities, but also may present many obstacles from writing a resume to translating military rank. Editing your spouses resume, finding jobs that your spouse is qualified for and engaging in mock interviews are all ways to help your spouse find a successful civilian career.

Re-entering the Workforce: For Military Spouses

Maintaining a career as a military spouse can be difficult, but now that your spouse is transiting out of the military it may be your time to re-enter the workforce. Reentering the workforce may present many of the same challenges that your spouse is experiencing from writing a resume to explaining gaps in employment history.

Writing a resume with limited or outdated work experience can be complicated. The following tips can help you compile a resume that will present a good impression to many prospective employers.

List Years of Employment

List years of employment rather than actual dates. For example, if you worked May 2002 - January 2005, you would list 2002-2005 on your resume.

Volunteer Experience

Volunteering provides excellent skills that can translate into work experience. Incorporate your volunteer experience into your work history.


While you may be out of work, education provides useful skills that will please any employer.

Life Skills

Raising a family, controlling family finances and coaching little league are all life skills that can easily be rollover into the civilian workforce. Prove this to prospective employers, by providing examples of how these life skills can be beneficial to them.

Unique Qualifications

Military spouses have several unique qualifications such as emotional resilience and the ability to adapt to change easily. Use these skills to help promote your resume to a potential employer.

Explaining gaps in your employment history can be difficult for anyone, but can be extremely problematic for military spouses due to the transient nature of the military. The following tips can help minimize and explain gaps in your work experience.

Resume Format

Consider formatting your resume to minimize gaps in your employment history. Choose a Functional Resume which focuses on your skills rather than the traditional Chronological Resume which lists employment dates in reverse chronological order. Begin with a Summary Statement and Career Highlights to focus on your skills and accomplishments.

Cover Letter

Explain all gaps in employment clearly in your cover letter. A cover letter gives you the chance to provide detailed reasons for why you were out of work.

Using these suggestions will not only help your spouse transition easily from military to civilian life, but will also help you re-enter the workforce. During this time both of you may be experiencing some of the same struggles. Remember to support each other and keep a positive attitude throughout this process.

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