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Military to Civilian - Six Things No One Tells You About Transitioning

Posted 4 years 121 days ago ago by Admin

1. We underestimate the expense of transitioning.
Transitioning from the military takes more time and money than you might imagine. Take all these into account: Tricare, health insurance, final move, VA, ID cards, car registration, drivers license, travel claims and job hunting. Your transition will be a lengthy, expensive, full-time undertaking.

2. Saying “I can do anything” is not helpful. 
You’ve spent years building numerous skills in the military, and have a well- rounded resume to show for it. This jack-of-all-trades approach has a negative effect on your job search. Narrow down your skill set; tailor your resume to showcase the specific skills employers advertise in their job postings. 

3. We may have to take a step back.
You’ve worked hard to reach your position in the military, so have civil pilots and mechanics. Your civilian competition has been building skills, while you’ve been defending your country. Are you willing to fly a 40 year-old, 5,000-pound single-engine helicopter? 

Do you want to fly utility or become an aerial firefighter? You may find yourself building experience toward that dream job by flying a single-engine rotorcraft and learning how to long line. Flying those ‘little’ helicopters is actually more difficult, and it is customarily the route to building key skills that lead you to larger helicopters.

4. It’s a steep learning curve, and civilians are often more prepared.
You have an overabundance of military experience, but civilian aviation professionals have been out there working, learning, and building exceptional skills too – largely as a single pilot. 

It takes preparation to fly single-pilot IFR missions with barely a few minutes of planning time to land unaided into a dark landing zone. When you do fly aided, it’s often done single pilot – with no one to back you up.
It’s all on you; you’re the sole decision-maker. 

5. It can be humbling.
You are a confident, disciplined, self-starter with an impressive set of skills. Even so, the civil aviation industry can seem very foreign, until you learn the language and become proficient in the skills they need you to learn. 

After retiring from the military, a good friend of mine never imagined he’d be flying and learning new skills from his civilian-trained 25-year-old pilot in command. Go into this assuming you have a lot to learn – because you do. 

6. We didn’t realize how much we needed to network.
All those relationships you made in the military are significant – as are the relationships essential to forge in the civil aviation industry. With 200 applicants submitting resumes for a job, having a contact at the company can compel an employer to give your resume a second look. Being a known entity can get you an interview (even when you don’t meet all the requirements for the job). Don’t underestimate how small the aviation industry is, and how vital it is to attend conferences, conventions, and events in person. Make friends – you’ll need them.

About the author: Stacy Sheard’s career began as a U.S. Army Huey and Black Hawk pilot until leaving the military to pursue a commercial flying career. She has civil experience in charter, tour, ENG, EMS, corporate aviation, and as a Sikorsky production test pilot.  She is currently a corporate pilot with EJM flying the AW139. She is an HAI board member.