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Standing down: When it’s time to find a second career after 50

True retirement from the military isn’t financially realistic for many service members. If you’re like many prospective military retirees, you probably wonder if finding a meaningful job after a career in the service is possible. Like anything else, finding an encore career takes some time and effort, but it can be done.

At the end of the day, what you want is a job that helps smooth your transition, offers financial stability, and lets you continue to sharpen the skills and abilities you already have. At the risk of sugar-coating a bleak economic outlook, a candidate with the kind of work ethic, skillsets and experience that you get in the military has a solid chance of finding employment. You may have to be willing to accept a lower starting salary and rise quickly, but when thousands of people are simply giving up their job search, a job with potential is better than no job at all.

Aside from your experience, expertise and military know-how, one of the strongest qualities a soon-to-be military retiree can bring to the table is flexibility. This means you are able to look at your skills with a new perspective, and you’re open to repositioning yourself in a rewarding field you might not have considered. For example, if you trained squadrons on equipment, methods or procedures, you might be thinking of a second career in education – but you might also think about becoming a corporate trainer, technical writer, or human resources associate.

Before you start scouring the internet, take some time to write down your interests and do an inventory of your skills. When you do your job searches, use keywords related to your skills instead of job titles or industries. Keeping an open mind and exploring new opportunities might just bring you closer to the kind of smooth transition and stable employment you seek.

If you’ve tried completing skills inventories and have re-written your resume more times than you care to count, you might try picking other people’s brains for ideas. For example, several groups have published their top lists of jobs for veterans, military retirees and military spouses. If you can get past some of the stereotypes they employ, many of the opportunities they list are quite thoughtful.

Another option is pursuing an area of interest that you’ve never tried before. There are a number of online programs that let you take coursework on your own schedule. Many military retirees take advantage of their education benefits to help them launch a successful second career.

The bottom line is this: you’ve enjoyed one successful career, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have another if you want it. The current economy might make it more challenging to attain, but you have what it takes to meet the challenge head on.

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