3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Transitioning into The Civilian Workforce

By Kinexus on 18 October 2018

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Transitioning Into The Civilian Workforce

After 20 years of US Navy service in the Submarine Force as an Electrician, including four different submarines, two tours as a recruiter and 12 deployments; in January of 2018, I retired.

There are many differences between work in, and out of the Forces. There are three things, in particular, I have found completely different and should be considered if transitioning out of the military.



Anyone who has served in uniform knows there is a definite rank structure.

You know exactly where you stand, whether you are junior or senior, and the mission is quite clear.

When you walk into the civilian workforce, it isn’t really like that.

Yes, there are managers and supervisors, as well as the rank and file, however how many times as a junior member did you just do something because it needed to happen? That normally doesn’t happen outside the military. Everyone tends to have their own job and sticks to it, to a fault in most cases.

I worked for a bit as a maintenance technician immediately after retiring from the US Navy. The maintenance team was, for the most part, great, but we were tasked with doing all the work that people didn’t think they had to do. There were jobs that we needed assistance with, and for the most part, no one would pitch in. Needless to say, with the regimented lifestyle I was used to, I didn’t work at the job for very long before I moved on to a role at a defence company where I felt like I was a better fit.



Anyone who has worn a uniform has pulled long, late hours. It’s a fact of service time. There is no compensation for it other than your normal pay and benefits.

Once in the civilian world, you are generally only expected to work a 38 or 40 hour week.

However; if you take your devoted work ethic into the civilian world, your commitment will quickly be recognised. This may be as simple as recognition in front of your peers, but will likely result in promotions, pay raises or other recognition a lot faster than in service life.



We all grow used to the paychecks in the military. No matter if we complete our initial tours or a full career in the service. Every couple of weeks a set amount of money is deposited, we pay our bills, do whatever we need to do and move on with life… Pretty simple.

No need for healthcare budgeting, dental care is covered, days off are paid, unlimited sick time (if you can validate it to the doc) and if you get injured; yup, that’s covered too.

All of that comes to a screeching halt once you take off the uniform. You get paid a salary or hourly rate that may at – first glance – look like more than you made in uniform, however, take out taxes and add health cover (or even life insurance), rent/mortgage/utility payments as well and your bottom line might look a little different.

A good rule of thumb is to budget six months’ worth of salary to ensure you can survive if something changes.


Transitioning from the military can be a very stressful change depending on the circumstances. As someone who has transitioned, moved overseas and done a complete lifestyle change, I can tell you that once you are settled into the workforce, it has its own rewards that are totally different than the rewards being in uniform brings.

Defence Sector Blog

Sign up to get your monthly dose of industry updates sent straight to your inbox.

From workforce strategy to sector overviews, we aim to advise and equip industry with the intel that helps individuals and business alike make better, more informed decisions. 


Defence Sector Blog Sign up