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Civilian Packing List: Everything you need for a successful transition out of the military

Here are some essentials to pack with you that will make sure you are prepared for your new assignment as a civilian.

With every change of duty station, training event, or field exercise, a packing list is provided and required. Having a packing list ensures that you’re prepared for any and everything you may encounter. So why should your civilian life be any different? 

Here are some essentials to pack with you that will make sure you are prepared for your new assignment as a civilian.


What are your ambitions after the military? Do you want to work right away, stay home with family, travel, or start a business of your own? Do you need more education or training to get where you want to go? There are a lot of important questions to ask yourself to make sure you start heading in the right direction to accomplish your goals. 

It’s ok if you don’t figure it out right away. Thankfully, most jobs don’t come with a three-year contract, unlike the military, so if you launch into a career field that you end up not liking, you have the option to walk away and do something else. There are many veteran career assistance organizations, like Hirepurpose and Hire Heroes USA, that can help you get on the right path.


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to resumes on job applications. Having your qualifications in multiple formats will give you flexibility when you start applying for jobs.

  • Chronological resume. This type of resume lists your work experience in order, from most recent to oldest. Chronological resumes are the most popular for job applications and are the best option if you’ve been working in your desired career field for a while. If you’re breaking into a new career field or are lacking experience for your desired job, you’ll want to create a functional resume.
  • Functional resume. This type of resume highlights your skills and abilities, rather than relying on work experience to make you a good candidate for a job. If your education matches your career interest, make sure to highlight it here.
  • Federal resume. The federal job website relies heavily on automated filtering systems for portions of the hiring process and has specific requirements for your resume. The FAQ page of USA jobs and the website FedsHireVets can help decipher this process so you have your best chance at securing an interview. The website FASClass – which stands for Fully Automated System for Classification – gives you the full job description for each federal position and will be key to helping you nail your federal resume.


After years of not having to put any thought into what you wear to work, it can be particularly overwhelming to have to dress for a professional setting, whether interviewing or going to work. You may have to build a professional wardrobe from scratch or develop your personal style for the first time. 

From our first days in the military, we are taught to take pride in our appearance and bearing, and most of us have experienced the agony of making sure our ribbons and insignia are perfectly measured down to the millimeter on our dress uniforms time after time. 

Translating that level of pride and care with you into your civilian dress will set you apart from your peers.

Battle buddy

We don’t always talk about how hard it can be to leave the military and take on civilian life. Whether it’s a loss of identity, getting used to a much slower pace of life, or finding a job you love, there are a variety of obstacles we can encounter along the way. 

Connecting with someone who has made a successful transition out of the military can be incredibly helpful when the question, “is it just me?” pops up. Chances are someone has experienced what you’re going through and can provide some much-needed insight or encouragement. 

Never underestimate the power of asking for a little help.

Planning tools 

Major life events like leaving the military are prime opportunities to reassess key things like long-term finances and life insurance coverage. Once your Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) goes away, how will you make sure you are covered? 

Navy Mutual, America’s oldest federally recognized veterans service organization, not only has life insurance options to fit every life stage and budget, but they have a team of advisors available to help you plan for your future. Their online tools can also help you navigate critical planning scenarios no matter your need or situation.


Your DD214, which has your entire military career, including awards, highest rank achieved, and your discharge status is a key document you’ll want to keep an electronic copy of. Many jobs, particularly in the state and federal realms, offer Veterans Preference if you’re disabled, have a Purple Heart, served in a combat theater, or are married to a 100% disabled service member. 

You’ll want to create a redacted electronic copy of your DD214 by removing sensitive information like your birthday and social security number. You aren’t guaranteed a job or interview this way, but based on your qualifications, you can see if you qualify for Veterans Preference here.

Leaving the military for civilian life is exciting and life-altering. Being prepared with the right tools will help you navigate the transition without fear. Trust your training – the things that made you a good service member can make you a great civilian employee. Take the best of it with you and leave the rest behind.

This article is sponsored by Navy Mutual.