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Small American flags in celebration of Memorial Day.

There are few groups I have more respect for than our US Military. These honorable men and women are on the front lines of our country each day. In fact, they spend many of their most employable years in service.

At the end of that service, they must begin a new career. This often occurs somewhere between the age of forty and forty five – a time when many professionals are just peaking in careers they have been developing for twenty years.

Starting over can be a daunting and humbling task, but there are a few things that can make the transition a bit easier.

First, plan ahead. Finding a new job can take a year or longer, especially when you’re changing your career path. Start looking before you have left the military. Create an emergency fund for yourself that could be used to pay your bills if you were out of work during the transition.

Seek outside help. Many former military personal rely on military resources to find their next job. Use those resources, but don’t stop there. Reach out to friends and family for help. Begin looking for opportunities to meet new people within the community, so your professional network will expand beyond the military.

Revise your resume and LinkedIn profile. Your future employer will be very impressed with your military career – but, only if they understand it. Ask a few civilian friends to proofread your resume for you. Get them to share what was confusing, and make adjustments. And, if you were managing hundreds of people, be sure to spell that out. Although this may seem normal in the military, it is both unusual and impressive in the civilian work world.

Learn as much as you can about how the corporate interview process works. Getting a civilian job is often about knowing the right people. It’s about going around the online process. It’s about bending the rules a bit. This goes counter to much of the military structure you may be used to.

Identify your strengths. What is it that makes you good at your military job that you could bring with you into the corporate world? Perhaps you are an outstanding communicator or a great manager. In order to land a job in the civilian world, you have to know what makes you stand out.

Select a target job (or jobs) and target companies. Narrow your search down as much as possible. If you keep your options too broad, friends and family won’t know how to help you. But, if you know exactly what you’re looking for, it empowers them to act.

Last but not least, remember that finding a job isn’t easy – for anyone. If you struggle to find something right away, keep trying. It’s often a numbers game. Try not to fall into the trap of believing that nobody understands your background. Assume that you just haven’t met the right company yet and keep looking.

Good luck with your transition, and thank you for your military service!

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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