The transition from military to civilian life can seem like stepping into a different world. If you've been a service member for decades, leaving the Armed Forces may raise a lot of questions - especially when it comes to your career.

I know exactly how you're feeling - I felt the same way when I decided to retire from the Navy. Hanging up my uniform may have been tough, but preparing well before my separation date made the transition easier.

Here is my advice for a successful transition:

  • Start working on your civilian plan no less than 18 months before your retirement date.
  • Make sure you've completed 100% of your paperwork before you leave. From your DD-214 to your medical records, it's absolutely necessary to obtain all of your important documents. Additionally, all of your VA appointments need to be complete and your package It may not seem important now, but it can be huge later.
  • Before you officially retire from the service, drop the military jargon. There are a number of resources out there to help you with this.
  • Many employers have veterans initiatives, whether it's a concerted effort to hire those with military experience or large organizations that have internal veterans groups. This is a key networking opportunity for you. Seek them out on LinkedIn or Glassdoor and set up informational interviews. Not only is this a great chance to learn from experience, but an instant connection is built through your shared experiences in the military.
  • Reach out to recruiters, especially those who have experience working with veterans. Some recommendations are Bradley Morris, ZipRecruiter, Orion, and the Lucas Group.
  • Learn how your experience applies in a corporate setting. Your military experience is valuable, and you should understand how to communicate that to future managers, co-workers, and most importantly, human resource professionals.

Since this last point is particularly important to the success of your career, let's discuss how you can effectively communicate the benefits of your military experiences to corporate employers.

Here are some examples:

  • You regularly trained over 150 people in your division to get ready for deployments. Training is a highly desired skill in the corporate world, something that is considered a "transferable skill." If you've excelled at training in the service, then this is something you'll be able to leverage after retirement.
  • Are you good with numbers and do you have budgeting and finance experience in the military? While there are some key differences in the civilian world, knowing your way around a spreadsheet - and knowing how to save your employer some money will get you noticed.

You have many skills and strengths that you need to highlight - don't forget that. While transitioning out of the military may seem daunting, trust me, we've all been through much worse. With the right preparation, you'll be able to successfully transition from a military leader to a corporate leader.

Emanuel "Manny" Sepulveda is the Manager of Trident's Center for Career Planning and Workforce Strategies and is a veteran of the United States Navy.