New Year’s Resolutions for Transition

New Year’s Resolutions for Transition

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


Yes, that annual tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is upon us, and it’s long been a part of the military community. Just like our counterparts in the general population, many of us have our sights set on bettering ourselves in this coming year: eating healthier, getting in better shape, taking college classes, and more. For those serving in the Armed Forces, however, sticking to our resolutions can be more than just the feel-good thing to do…meeting those New Year’s goals can help us pass (or max) the physical fitness test and/or nail that promotion.

Pick up the closest dictionary and you’ll see that a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or to not do something.” If you happen to have made your New Year’s resolutions revolve around the subject of your transition (as in, away from active military service), keeping them can have a tremendous impact on how prepared you are for the next chapter of your life. For the rest of this post, we’re going to drill down just a bit on eight of our favorite New Year’s resolutions – consolidated especially for those in transition.

#1. Work on your resume. Whether you’re retiring or simply separating after your first tour, most folks in transition wind up working for another employer. To do so, it’s likely you’ll need a resume of some sort, so you can communicate what you bring to the table and why you’d make a good hire. Whether you just need to polish the one you have or you need to start the one that you don’t, check out our post titled “Translating your Military Career into a Resume,” found at In it, we talk about taking your evaluations, awards, training certificates, assignment information, and education – and forming it into that awesome snapshot of who you are as a workforce professional. In similar fashion, you’ll want to translate your military skills into civilian-speak that connects with recruiters…we encourage you to connect with workforce pros that are local to you for help with that task.

#2. Take advantage of the credentialing process. In the military employment-assistance environment, the credentialing of Veterans and military Service Members is a complex issue, with partners and players at every level – national, state, and local. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer some kind of credentialing or certification program for its Service Members, and there may be options to pick those up on the military’s dime while you’re still serving or by using your GI Bill benefits. Not only do some civilian occupations require credentials to legally perform certain jobs, but they can also serve to ‘amp up’ your resume and communicate to prospective employers that you’re among the most qualified for the job. The US Coast Guard offers certification programs and the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines have a cool tool called COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line)…visit their sites at,, or

#3. Participate in TAP workshops. The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP for short, provides some great content for those heading off to civilian pastures. Much of it is driven by the US Department of Labor (such as resume building and info on USAJobs), but there are great optional tracks, as well. One of those is a course on entrepreneurship called Operation Boots to Business (B2B). Offered up by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), B2B introduces participants to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts and a business plan, and information on SBA resources available to help. SBA resource partners, like folks from the Veterans Business Outreach Centers, SCORE, Women’s Business Centers, and the Small Business Development Centers, lead different aspects of the workshop. For a bit more detail, see our post at

#4. Think critically about Small Business Ownership. If you find yourself seriously considering being a small business owner, whether to realize a lifelong dream or simply to put food on the table, you would be well-served to give it some critical thought and connect with subject-matter experts near you. Some other items of note that you’ll find online at include recommendations to define success, figure out your comfort level with risk, build your team, and manage your brand. Keep in mind that small business is risky, and try to enjoy the ride…

#5. Leverage technology in your job search. Technology, as in the ATS, or Applicant Tracking System. From the advent of the Web to social to mobile, technology has made quite the impact…and perhaps no more so than on the recruiting and selection process for today’s workforce. Back in the day, the explosion of online job boards created a global platform for advertising job openings and forced the recruiter to look to an electronic recruitment system to help automate the processing of all the candidates. While E-recruitment and Applicant Tracking Systems started off as clunky, bureaucratic processes that frustrated everyone, now they’re so much more. Those systems are integrated, cloud-based software suites that encompass the entire employee lifecycle. There are hundreds of Applicant Tracking Systems out there from which a company can choose, and in the employee selection ‘space’ an ATS enables users to manage hiring processes like job distribution, screening, interviewing, and sending out offers. I’ve said it before…there are certain things that you might just want to go ahead and embrace, rather than fight every step of the way. Applicant tracking systems are some of those things. Learn them, figure out how to use them to your advantage, and stay connected with folks in the employment assistance space that are there to help you do just that. For a more comprehensive article on the topic, check out

#6. Navigate Job Fairs like a pro. If you find yourself seeking out that ideal W-2 job, there’s a good chance you’ll have to endure, I mean embrace, job fairs. Yes, they often suck, but many consider them a necessary evil and a vital part of the job search. Some quick tips include doing your homework in advance, dressing professionally, accessorizing with a clean portfolio, bringing personal contact cards, smiling, putting the phone away, and selling yourself. Treat the job fair like an interview, or a whole fleet of mini-interviews, and you’ll be on the right track. Read more about my take on the subject at

#7. Create a top-shelf business plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘gig economy’, which is a great way to describe the workforce environment of side gigs, second jobs, and side hustles we’re in. If you find yourself already knee-deep in running your own business, or think you probably will at some point, you should get smarter on how to develop a plan to help you succeed. Will Katz, one of our guest contributors that has worked with over 1,500 small business clients, offers some very valuable and spot-on information in our blog entitled


#8. Participate in a transition training program. There are plenty of programs out there these days to help Troops and their families in transition. Some of these efforts are public and some are privately-led…one might be a newly formed not-for-profit organization and another might fall in the Department of Defense’s lane, like Troops to Teachers ( Troops to Teachers was established in 1993 to assist transitioning Service Members and Veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers in public, charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Some other transition training programs might include Veterans to Farmers (whose mission is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle;, Troops to Trades (started to honor the thousands of individuals transitioning into the civilian workforce by helping them find satisfying and successful careers in the trades;, and Helmets to Hardhats (a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty military with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry;

At the end of the day (or the year, I suppose), you can join the crowd of those making New Year’s resolutions that barely merit a second thought by early February – or you can choose from this list of transition resolutions to help propel you down your next path. Obviously, not all these are for ‘lottie, dottie, everybody’ – if you’re looking for that dream W-2 job you might care little about small business ownership, and if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you could probably care less about navigating a job fair. My New Year’s wish is that at least one of these tips for transition will resonate and prove useful to you or someone you care about.

Until next time…


The Holidays and Military Service

The Holidays and Military Service

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


As I write this piece for our blog, I feel a little bit of nostalgia coming on. We’re more than halfway through December, the snow has been falling for more than a day now, and the long-range forecast predicts that temperatures won’t be above freezing for the next few days. But after more than thirty years in uniform, my thoughts tend to drift, much like the snow. Drift, not so much to the days of my youth sledding on the hills of our farm, but to the holidays spent away from the ones I loved the most.

Like most of the old Soldiers I know, I have plenty of memories of time spent away from my family. Sometimes it was due to a field exercise or temporary duty somewhere, but the memories that really stick with you are those deployments that result in a family separation during the holidays.

For many, being apart during those holidays near the end of the year are the toughest. And while I’m a Christian, I’ve served with plenty of men and women of other faiths – and the separations as a result of military deployments are tough no matter what religious holidays you miss. For my family, the most special time of the year is Christmas…and I count my first and last deployments as my most memorable (and dreadful, and frightful) military experiences because of what I would rather have been doing during that time of year. I recently came upon a blog post on from Army wife Maria Cordova, where she shared survival tips from Military Spouses, tips for when loved ones are deployed during the holidays ( In that piece, she tells of a friend that was going to celebrate everything her Service Member was going to miss – celebrate those things before he deployed. And that’s exactly what my parents had planned for me, some 29 years ago.

My first family separation came as we were preparing to deploy in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in late 1990. I was a young Field Artillery officer with no wife and kids, but with parents and three sisters and an extended family that meant the world to me. From the time President Bush (the first) announced on TV what we were doing in response to the invasion of Kuwait, it was asses-to-elbows, with not much down time. We were painting vehicles, receiving pieces of equipment that had once been considered luxury items, and loading trains. After our equipment was headed to the port, we had a few days off…so I headed home to see my folks for what I thought would be the last time for a while.

As I said earlier, my parents wanted to celebrate everything I was going to miss, so on one night in early November 1990, we had a Thanksgiving feast in one room of our farmhouse, a Christmas tree loaded with presents in another, a New Year’s Eve party (complete with Father Time) in yet another, and several birthday cakes at the kitchen table. It seemed a bit unusual at the time, but it made for great memories that we still talk about today.

My last deployment was a bit harder to tough out. A decade ago, I deployed with the Missouri National Guard to Kosovo for a nearly-year-long mission that found me serving at spots all around that country. While I wasn’t being shot at or fighting insurgents in the middle of Iraq or Afghanistan like many of my colleagues, I did find myself leading men and women over the Christmas holiday at a remote outpost in the northern reaches of Kosovo. A small desktop Christmas tree, a visit from Santa Claus (who arrived on an Army helicopter), and a short Skype call to my wife and young boys as they were opening up their presents at home – that was our holiday season in late 2008. And though it sucked being separated from family, being there with others in uniform – with men and women that I admired and respected – made it bearable, and memorable.

Those deployment experiences of mine, however memorable, stand in stark contrast to one another, but any time spent away from home and family is hard. And I know that the holidays aren’t so special for a lot of folks, but they were for me. Looking back, I feel fortunate that, for those holidays and for those ‘everydays’ during which I was called away from my family to serve, I was able to break bread and chew the fat with my other family, my brothers and sisters in arms.

Yes, I’m a bit older these days, and hopefully a little bit wiser. I retired from the US Army a couple of years ago and there’s a bit more gray in my beard than I would like. I consider myself lucky, I suppose – luckier than some of my comrades that didn’t return, and just plain lucky to have served in a career that I love. My youngest son just turned 18 years old and my oldest will turn 21 in just a few days…that in itself makes me feel my age. But when I think about all those special times with my wife and kids, I also think about those holidays when we were apart so many years ago. Those were tough times, but I’m thankful because we made it through them…and now they’re a part of who we are and where we’ve been. This holiday season, I ask you to remember that we still have thousands of Service Members deployed around the world, separated from their families. Keep them in your thoughts and say a short prayer for them every now and then.

Until next time…

Getting Trained for Your Next Career

Getting Trained for Your Next Career

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


So, the time has come for you to move on…to leave active duty and either retire, fully separate, or join the National Guard & Reserve. When it comes to transition, sometimes we get to make that decision and sometimes that decision gets made for us. Either way, when facing a change in our ‘day job’, it’s only natural for those of us in the military community (our spouses included, of course) to want to be counted among those best qualified. Getting qualified may take some time and extra work, but just as the military trained us for our next rank or our next position, there are a variety of ways to get trained for the next chapter of your life in the private sector. Such as…

Non-Traditional Workforce Training. Many community colleges have programs that offer accelerated training courses designed to help participants become qualified for and quickly enter in-demand jobs. Programs like Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College ( offer a variety of non-credit courses that provide concentrated opportunities to skill up – in anywhere from three to 23 weeks, depending on the program. A sampling of accelerated training opportunities at STLCC, for example, includes HVAC Operator, Environmental Remediation Tech, and Medical Assistant…be sure and check out accelerated options at educational institutions in your neck of the woods.

College. Whether you postponed your formal, post-high school education for a tour in the military or you’ve decided to go back for an advanced degree, your favorite college or university may be part of your plan. Not long ago, I wrote an article about one of our educational benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs that’s designed to complement the GI Bill. Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows colleges, universities, and other degree-granting schools in the United States to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Essentially, the Yellow Ribbon Program helps make up the difference when the GI Bill just isn’t enough. Read the original post here….

Transition Training Programs. We’re also getting ready to publish a piece on programs to help Troops and their families in transition. A few of these programs include Troops to Teachers (…helps participants meet education and licensing requirements to teach and subsequently helps them secure a teaching position); Veterans to Farmers’ (… their mission is to train veterans in agricultural systems, technologies, and business operations for a fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle); Boots to Business (…an entrepreneurial education and training program that provides an overview of business ownership fundamentals); Soldiers to Sidelines (www.soldierstosidelines.orgworks to place Soldier Coaches in local youth, high school or collegiate sports programs where they can connect to their communities and begin to inspire, motivate, and encourage young athletes); Troops to Trades (…started to honor the thousands of individuals transitioning into the civilian workforce by helping them find satisfying and successful careers in the trades); and Helmets to Hardhats (…connects National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active duty military with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry).

Of course, that’s not an all-inclusive list of solutions that can help you get trained. To be sure, there are more programs out there for those looking to blaze a trail towards a new career. To find the best training fit for your station in life, and where you find yourself at your time of transition, you’ll probably have to do some homework. You’ll weigh your options, evaluate costs, and get some advice from people you know and trust. Just know that, as with most things in life, there are likely several right answers…and at some point, you’ll just have to make a decision. Embrace it, and then go kick butt.

Until next time…


What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


You don’t have to be in transition from active service to be thinking about where you might land your next civilian job, but many folks who are in the process of separating find that much of their time & energy is spent on exactly that: where will they spend the next chapter of their professional life, and will it be a good ‘fit’?

Many people who find themselves looking for work upon separation from active service, also find themselves in one of two camps…those that are planning to slide right into a civilian occupation or position doing exactly what they spent most of their time in uniform doing; or those that want nothing to do with their military skill sets, who seek something shiny and new.

Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve spoken to a whole lot of Troops in both camps…Service Members retiring after 20 or 30 years of active service, young men and women separating after their first enlistment, and Warriors whose careers were cut short due to medical discharge. Thinking about those conversations now, there’s no rhyme or reason about why folks choose to follow a certain path after military service, and how they (or you or me) define “best fit” is very subjective…for some, it’s simply an opportunity to do something new, a break from what they’ve been doing most of their adult life.

If you stay put in a career field where you’ve got history, you may find yourself among the most qualified job applicants out there. On the other hand, if you’re looking to change careers, you may find yourself looking at job offers at low rates of pay, given your experience…or no job offers at all. You may find yourself bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, and have a passion to be a small business owner (more about that at

Wherever you find yourself, take advantage of all the resources you can during your time on active duty: take personality quizzes, enroll in certification programs at local colleges, and get credentialed for your skill sets all throughout your military service. Sign up for aptitude tests, check out projected salary ranges, and participate in seminars and workshops. Check out skills translators like CareerOneStop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor ( Here you can use their Veterans Job Matcher to “find civilian careers that might be a good match for your military skills.”

I’m a firm believer that those of us in the Military community – which includes Spouses – are more likely to succeed at our vocational goals than our counterparts from the general population. That said, you probably shouldn’t wait until terminal leave starts to figure out what that next chapter might look like. How soon should you start, you ask? Well, an old crusty E-9 once told me that he encouraged Troops to start preparing for life ‘back on the block’ right after the Newcomer’s Brief at their first duty station. And there’s some wisdom to that, even though you might think you’re a lifer.

Prepare for that transition process early, prepare often…and all the while, take stock of where your head is, where your heart is, and what’s wise, regardless of what you think you’re owed.

Until next time…


Setting Yourself Up For Success As Your Military Duty Comes To An Ultimate End

There are many active service military members that cannot wait until they complete their
military service to go back to civilian life. The truth is that not all military personnel
appropriately plans and takes a course of action to allow themselves to adjust in a variety of
ways of being a civilian. These actions can be everything from saving up money instead of
splurging during each time you are on extended leave. Start practicing good habits like that of
good personal finance habits, healthy physical activity, a focus on mental health, and learning
new skills will pay off over time. The following are tips for those in the military that want to set
themselves up for success even if they are years away from the end of their military career.

Do Not Blow Money Each Time You Have A Few Days Leave

The trap that many young military members make is going crazy in terms of spending money
each time they have a few days or extended leave. This does not mean that you cannot have fun
while on leave but going out every single night can get expensive quickly. The last thing that you
want to do is to spend the majority of your time at home hungover when you could be getting
things done. Looking for jobs during this time can be a good idea or even setting up interviews
can be a huge opportunity. Interviewing well takes practice so getting in and doing well in an
interview can be a perfect practice run for your after-discharge job search. The opportunity to go
to college without incurring debt, free healthcare for life, and the ability to purchase a home due
to your service in the military would be a waste not to do these comfortably in terms of finances
if you have the chance.

Start Freelancing During Your Time Off From Military Related Activities

Freelancing during and after your time in the military is fine as long as it does not interfere with
your duties. Earning extra income monthly can be perfect to allow you to start saving for civilian
life. These freelance gigs can range in pay as well as difficulty with web developers or freelance
writers making healthy amounts. Jobs that might take less skill like a virtual assistant will pay
less but can be a perfect way to start a freelance career. The best aspect of working with clients
for an extended period is that many companies will hire freelancers full-time. Being able to
generate income after discharge while setting your own schedule can allow you to find the job of
your dreams instead of accepting a subpar job to pay for your life.

Learn Skills That Can Be Applicable To Civilian Jobs As There Is Plenty Of

Finding that job that will allow you to thrive after you are discharged will take initiative. You
will be put on a certain path whether it is to be a welder, electrician, mechanic, or work with
computers in some capacity. All of these skills can help you find a job so it is important to take
pride in your work rather than simply do high enough quality of work so you avoid reprimand
from a superior. Private security jobs can be very profitable as a side gig for former military
wanting to supplement their income on weekends. which provides tactical gear that
is up to military specifications notes “Part of working private security details is looking the part
which adds a sense of comfort to those that have hired the detail.”

Take Time To Set Up A Detailed Plan Of What You Are Going To Do In
Civilian Life

Creating a plan can allow for a person that might be flustered during their first few weeks or
months after their honorable discharge. This should include a proposed budget that keeps in
mind the money that you will have saved up by this time. Taking on a job that you might think is
below you can be done simply to keep yourself above water financially. Setting a schedule even
before you have gotten a job is essential as finding a healthy source of employment is a full-time
job in today’s world. There are times when a veteran after discharge doesn’t have a plan or even
an idea of where they will settle down. Drifting will drain that financial nest egg you have built
up so try to write out the direction that you want your life to take after your discharge.
Lessons like consistent effort and routine learned in the military have taught military personnel
that they can accomplish nearly anything with focused work. Finding a routine that makes you
happy, allows you to manage your stress in a healthy manner, keeps you professionally engaged,
and everything in between might take time. Figure out a portion of your life at a time as trying to
figure it all out at once can be overwhelming for almost anyone.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


The “yellow ribbon” has been symbolic among Americans for many years. We displayed those ribbons everywhere in support of Americans being held hostage in Iran and the Persian Gulf War inspired countless numbers of our loved ones (my own parents included) to decorate clothing, trees, and even county courthouse columns with yellow ribbons to demonstrate support of those deployed.

More recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen to leverage that highly positive symbolism when naming a key benefit for military Veterans and their families. Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows colleges, universities, and other degree-granting schools in the United States to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In short, the Yellow Ribbon Program helps make up the difference when the GI Bill just isn’t enough … degree-granting institutions of higher learning that participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program agree to make additional funds available for your education without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement.

Here are some key highlights of the program, straight from the VA. Of course, in the realm of benefits things are always subject to change; in order to nail down the most current information, visit

The Yellow Ribbon Program. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay all resident tuition & fees for a public school or the lower of the actual tuition & fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school. Your actual tuition & fees costs may exceed these amounts if you’re attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. In order to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement, these institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution.

Available Benefits and Eligibility. To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This includes:

…Those who served 36 months (may be aggregate) on active duty

…Purple Heart recipients with an Honorable discharge and any amount of service

…Those discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability and served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001

…Children using transferred benefits if their Service Member transferor is at the 100 percent level (36 months served)

…Effective August 1, 2022, Service Members at the 100 percent level and transferee spouses whose transferor is at the 100 percent level

…Active duty Service Members or their spouses are not eligible


Additionally, your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program; your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals, as stated in their participation agreement; and your school must certify your enrollment to the VA and provide them Yellow Ribbon Program information.

Of course, not every institution of higher learning is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. For a listing of schools that are participating in the 2019-20 school year, visit In addition, participating schools have the flexibility to designate the number of students they will assist and the amount of contributions based on student status (as in undergrad, grad, or doctoral) and college or professional school. It might be good to touch base with your school’s certifying official, as well, for details on how they fit into the program.

Finally, the Yellow Ribbon Program received some enhancements as part of the Forever GI Bill (aka The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017). Just to reiterate what I mentioned above, effective August 1, 2018 Fry Scholarship and Purple Heart recipients became eligible for the Yellow Ribbon benefits and on August 1, 2022 certain members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty will eligible.

The application process isn’t too complicated…if you submit an application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the VA and are eligible at the 100% benefit level, the VA will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility advising that you are potentially eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. They say that you should provide your Certificate of Eligibility to the school which, in turn, will determine if there are slots available for the Yellow Ribbon Program (based on its agreement with the VA).

Once the Department of Veterans Affairs started redesigning the current-era array of educational benefits (beginning with the Post-9/11 package), many among us have decided to give ‘higher ed’ the ol’ college try. And the way the Yellow Ribbon Program has helped bridge the gap for many Veterans, especially with the recent enhancements I just mentioned, has made a tremendous impact for many of our Brothers and Sisters.


 Until next time…