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Who Says “You Can’t Go Home”: Pitfalls of moving home after your service is up.

Over the last 5 years, I spoken to thousands of military service members from every service either on the telephone, at job fairs or while attending T-GPS and one of the recurring themes of our younger service members is that they are leaving the service to move back home.  The first question I always ask is, why are you wanting to move back home?  The answer I usually get is…girlfriend/boyfriend, fiancé, family or friends.  What I never get is, “I have a great job lined up.”  So let’s talk about the pitfalls of moving home after leaving the military.

  1. Things change over time and when you go home, they are not what you come to expect.  How do I know this, when I was in the service I went home while on leave to visit family and friends.  Things were great after the first few days, but when things got going, those who were my friends had grown up, started jobs, started families.  Life was evolving for them, just as they were evolving for me.  It was just not the same and they had moved on without me.
  2. If things haven’t changed there, you have.  Your experience in the service has given you a view of the world that your friends don’t have.  You’ve gained a job skill and been given responsibilities that most of your friends will never see, you’ve most likely been a supervisor or been in charge of teams to get things done, you’ve traveled to different parts of the country if not the world and experience life in a different way.  Your view of life has become much bigger than your friends and family. Once the joy of moving home is over, you will be a fish out of water because you have outgrown your hometown.  How do I know this?  I go back to my hometown and see the same people doing the same things and they’ve not done or accomplished anything near to what I have.  I can’t even image what life would be like if I would have moved home.
  3. Depending on where you live, most jobs/careers won’t equal out to the technology, responsibility and authority you have as a military member.  If your hometown is a major city, you may be able to find the same level of job but it is very rare.  I get calls all the time from former military members looking for new opportunities after they have moved home.  Most of the time it is because they can’t get hired in a similar position they had in the service or they are working for a friend, or at the local store or some other job that doesn’t pay the bills.

So, why am I writing this?  The main reason is, I see too many military service men and women who are leaving the service that don’t understand how important their first job after the service is in shaping the rest of their future.  Not finding the right opportunity can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.  If they move home and can’t find a job that is going to improve their lifestyle, give them opportunities for growth and make them happy in the first couple years after leaving the service, the likelihood of them having a promising career diminishes rapidly.

So what is the solution?  When talking with young men and women about their career goals, no matter where they want to go, I always suggest the interim step in their career search.  The interim step allows them to gain career experience in the job that they want and a better than minimum wage salary, while looking for an opportunity wherever it is they want to ultimately move.  It takes the pressure away that is put on them by the hard timeline of their end of service date and opens up a greater variety of opportunities that may not exist back in their home town.


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