Every year, thousands of people take on one of the most challenging assignments of their lives -- making the transition from the military to a civilian job.
Finding work after a stint in the armed forces can be an imposing task. But dozens of Web sites, job fairs and other programs have cropped up to help departees cope with the process. Their mission is to convince service members to start mulling over a career change at least a year before they exit.
"Planning for your next career is more important than any project you might take on and should be treated as such," said Marv Harris, a retired Air Force officer and spokesman for the Retired Officers Association, whose staffers travel around the world to advise service members about their job options.
The military operates its own transition program, which hosts workshops on writing résumés and gaining practice with job interviews, among other things. The Defense Department has put a wealth of information online about leaving its employ. Topics including medical benefits for retirees and moving assistance are available at www.dodtransportal.org.
A Defense Department spokesman said the agency has provided transition help since 1992 to retirees and others who leave the military. The program is available to people who are within two years of retirement or people who are within one year of departing the military for other reasons. From 230,000 to 250,000 people leave the service annually, the spokesman said.
People can send out résumés or interview for jobs before they have formally left the service, but they must first submit their separation papers to the military. They also need to tell prospective employers of their actual departure date, according to the Defense Department.
Groups not connected to the government also are active sources of help for departing service members.
The Retired Officers Association will host a job fair on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center. More than 120 businesses will appear at the fair. The event is open to active duty, former and retired servicemen and women of all grades, including the Reserves and the National Guard, as well as spouses of current and former service members.
Another resource for people thinking about departing the military is Corporate Gray, a Web site (www.corporategray.com) that contains links to various information about private sector and government jobs. Competitive Edge Services, the company that runs Corporate Gray, also puts on free job fairs in the Washington metropolitan area. The next event is scheduled for June 14.
Carl Savino, the firm's chief operating officer and a West Point graduate, said the discipline and motivation in former military candidates appeals to many businesses.