Upskilling: What Veterans in the Civilian World Need to Know

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jasmine M. Barnes)

A career in the civilian sector can be filled with mysteries, uncertainties, surprises and thrills. One challenge: When you realize your skills and experience are lacking. This is when upskilling becomes critical.

In the military, you received training and education when your duties or job shifted. As a civilian, you still need this – you just have to identify your own upskilling needs yourself. Often, you must be the one to seek out training to ensure your performance meets the standards of your job, company and industry.

When Upskilling Is Needed

While you might have a solid background in some skills, if your work, the customers’ needs or the industry shifts, it’s important to stay relevant.

Let’s say you’re working on a new task that requires more advanced project-management skills. You may consider an online course to get up to speed.

To give another example, you may be asked to take the lead on a social media initiative for your company, leveraging your background in communications as a public affairs officer. But if your experience is mostly in the military, you may need to attend conferences or get certifications or advanced training to become comfortable with new trends, metrics and communication styles.

When To Ask For Support From the Company

Ask if your employer will reimburse you for tuition or other job-related training. This could be a great way to not only receive support, but to show initiative.

Even if not, it could be worth it to you to invest in retraining yourself. Even if your job clearly matches up with your existing skills, the business environment is constantly evolving.

You may also consider using GI Bill funds to grow your skills.

How Often Should You Upskill?

Professionals who keep learning throughout their careers tend to experience greater job satisfaction and performance, plus they can help boost overall team morale.

As the private sector continues to innovate, professionals must adapt to remain relevant and feel connected to their work. Upskilling is a great way to sharpen your skills and grow your career.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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