NEWPORT, R.I. - The Center for Service Support’s (CSS) Senior Civilian of the Quarter, retired Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) John M. Smith, talked about his keys to a successful transition from sailor to civilian employee Oct. 31.
Smith, who served 21 years in the Navy, said that many people don’t realize the enormous pressure Sailors and their families endure as they prepare to separate or retire.
“Transition from military to civilian life can be a daunting task, and for many people it’s a confusing time,” said Smith who serves as an instructional systems analyst at CSS headquarters. “For many sailors, separation from the military can be an overwhelming personal experience, create financial hardship, and contribute to the already challenged family system. A successful transition can be accomplished by helping sailors clarify their personal and professional goals as well as identify their plans for a successful life after the Navy.”
Smith said discovering new interests, tapping into old interests, learning new things, and even joining a community group can be very beneficial in your transition to civilian life.
“These activities not only get the sailor involved in the community, but the activities also serve as a way to bring more meaning in a person’s life,” said Smith.
Smith said to improve the transition process from active duty service member to civilian employment, there are several steps transitioning service members should consider:
- Sailors should start planning for separation or retirement a year before transition process.
- Seeking out the services of agencies such as Veterans Affairs, state-operated veteran services, and traditional veteran’s service organizations can be very helpful to those veterans who are seeking to transition from the military.
- Research key certifications and go after them while still in the service and strive to earn a bachelor’s degree. Get all the education you can. Your Navy skills may not be translatable to the civilian job you are striving to obtain.
- Find a sponsor, mentor, or a job coach who is adept on translating military skills into civilian language and terminology is extremely helpful.
- Attend career fairs for military veterans and seek out recruiting firms that specialize in placing veterans is also recommended. Additionally exploring all employment options, such as federal, state, and civilian opportunities is a good idea; this includes not settling for the first job that comes along. Those jobs may not be a good fit in the long run.
“Going into the education field was a natural fit for me,” said Smith. “I conducted two separate instructor tours and taught in traditional school houses following my retirement in August 2000. When I taught in the civilian classrooms, I really liked being involved in education and training people.”
“You must be passionate about the career field you enter following your transition,” said Smith. “You won’t be happy if you work in a career field you hate. I didn’t enjoy my first post-Navy job and that’s why I transitioned back to my roots in education. It’s what I enjoy and what I love to do.”
Smith encourages separating or retiring sailors to use the many resources provided by the Navy.
“Active duty sailors have numerous resources to point you in the right direction,” said Smith. “Use all of them and it will set you up for success in the future. Take advantage of them and it will make your transition much smoother. Sailors must approach the job finding process as a job itself.”
CSS and its learning sites provide sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the fleet's warfighting mission. More than 300 staff and faculty work hand-in-hand with the fleet and are dedicated to ensure training is current and well executed on behalf of 10,000 sailors who graduate from CSS courses annually in the administration, logistics and media communities.