The decision to leave the military is hard enough. When factoring in the transition back to civilian life, that decision becomes infinitely more difficult. That is, if you do not have a plan. Thus, the first major step in the road towards transition is to begin early.
The Tap Counselor and You
Every military branch has a TAP counselor or transition assistance program counselor. This person’s duty is to help you with forms, networking both inside and outside of the military and most importantly, to set you up with school and/or job opportunities. You can think of the TAP counselor like a high school or employment counselor. For many military members, this TAP counselor is also another life line to the outside world. These individuals are often in the community making opportunities happen for their de-enrollees.
Meeting with the TAP counselor is simple. You may choose to meet with them during as group session- these are usually scheduled 2 to 3 times a week, in a specified meeting hall; or one to one, in their office. Regardless to which avenue you choose for the meeting, make it happen. The networking possibilities are crucial and potentially endless.
Moreover, the TAP counselor can help you to understand your skill set. Again, your TAP counselor is just like any other college, high school or employment counselor. They can assess your skill with a battery of testing instruments and help you to gain focus for what you want next. During a time when you may need focus such as making the transition back to civilian life, take the help in direction that the TAP program and counselor can give.
Network with fellow members
The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough, when speaking about transitioning from the military. Talk with fellow members of the service, put your name in the grapevine of opportunities and see what happens. Many members will have family business contacts, business world contacts and contacts within schools. Knowing someone on the outside, within the civilian world, makes finding a job much easier, especially since the job market is as sporadic as it is today. Transitioning back into civilian life can be much easier when you have feelers in the community, prior to your official exit.
College Tours are Not Just for High School Students
Colleges and universities have begun to really step-up their non-traditional student initiatives. This non- traditional student is you. Think about it….You may not be the same age as incoming freshman, and you certainly do not bring the same experiences to the table. So, how can you be successful? Well, college tours help to orient you to a university. Thankfully, colleges and universities are beginning to tailor these experiences for various types of students. Instead of the traditional tour for traditional incoming freshmen, universities are creating opportunities for the non- traditional student that includes entrance counseling, touring older hang- out zones within the school, and introducing students to various organizations, designed normally, with them in mind.
What’s Left for the Transition Back to Civilian Life?
Lastly, count on your family for support. You will need their strength, encouragement and help during this transitioning time. They have help to re- orient you into your community and serve as unofficial counselors for thing that may come up- like where to apply for jobs, where to eat, what busses to take, etc. Your family, most importantly, knows you and what you need to be successful. Trust them to help you through this time!