Transitioning Out of Uniform Into a Civilian Role

Working as a police officer or being in the military can be extremely different compared to a civilian role. Every day comes with unique challenges and a driving force behind those occupations is to protect and serve your country. While both roles require a plethora of different skills and experiences, some people may find it difficult to transition out of their uniform and into a civilian role.

Whether it’s because you want a change of pace or due to personal circumstances, we’ve prepared some advice to help you make the switch.

Identifying the type of career that you want to pursue

One of the major challenges that people face after putting down their uniform is finding what they want to do. People are driven by the idea of protecting and serving their country and local community when they put on a uniform. It gives their career purpose and helps them make difficult decisions while also motivating them to perform their best every day.

When it comes to civilian roles, it can be a lot more difficult to find the drive and motivation to perform your best. As such, it’s important to try and identify what kind of job you’d like to do once you leave the police force or military. There are a number of things you can try in order to look for a position that resonates with you:

  • Consider trying something that you enjoyed in the past. For example, you could pursue a childhood dream that you had, or you could revisit a past profession that you learned about before you joined the police or military.
  • Think about positions that can take advantage of the skills you learned in the military. For instance, you could use your fitness knowledge to become a personal trainer, or you could join a security team that protects businesses and office buildings.
  • Do something completely different that has never occurred to you before. Look for inspiration on the internet or by speaking with friends and family members, and don’t be afraid to try something new–you might discover a completely new passion!

We understand that finding a new kind of career can be extremely challenging. With so much freedom, it can be daunting to look for something that really motivates you and gives you the drive that you may have felt when working as a police officer or in the military. This is an important step to take as it will dictate what skills you learn, where you study, and also how you go about finding a job.

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Showing that you have the necessary skills to do the job

Once you’ve decided on a type of career that you want to pursue, it’s time to find ways to showcase your knowledge and expertise in a subject. There are a number of ways to do this, but it’s important to get a few misconceptions out of the way first.

What marketable skills do you have?

Your time spent in the military or as a police officer will undoubtedly have taught you valuable skills. However, identifying these skills can be a little challenging. You won’t be offered many jobs by simply stating that you worked in a uniform–you have to show what exactly those skills are and how they can fit into a new workplace.

Consider what your position was in the military or in the police force. Try and identify the skills that you gained during your time in uniform and figure out how those skills can be applied to a civilian role. Perhaps your expertise in fitness can help you become a personal trainer, maybe your leadership experience can lead to a management role, or perhaps you would feel more comfortable as part of a security firm.

Some employers won’t care about your past in the police force or military

While serving your country in uniform is a valiant thing to do, many employers won’t take notice of your accomplishments or skills. In the past, veterans have been discriminated against by employers because of prejudices that exist about soldiers. There was a belief that returning from a conflict zone came with many difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or that any injuries they sustained would become a hindrance to their work duties.

While much of this prejudice has since disappeared, you may find that some employers will still be hesitant to hire you because of your past employment. While some work is being done to encourage businesses to hire veterans, you’ll ultimately have to focus on your marketable skills and find ways to transfer your experiences and knowledge into a civilian role.

You may need to study for various qualifications to show your skills

The civilian world is heavily reliant on qualifications and certifications to show somebody’s skill set. As such, you’ll need to sign up for various classes, earn licenses, and achieve qualifications to show that you’re capable of doing a job. Just showing that you were part of a regiment or that you worked in the police force usually isn’t enough to land a job. Instead, you’ll need proof that you can do those jobs if you want a higher chance of being hired.

With that said, your history as a police officer or in the military may give you an advantage over other recruits. Some employers will see the potential in you due to your past, but they will still need you to showcase your marketable skills that will help you fit into a civilian role.

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Getting used to the differences in a civilian role

There are a number of huge differences that might be a little unexpected or difficult to get used to once you transition out of uniform and into a civilian role.

The structure of the workplace is different

In the military or as part of the police force, the workplace structure is clearly defined. You know exactly what your position is, you know your rank, and you know who your juniors and seniors are. Civilian workplaces are a little more flexible and it can often be a problem for someone who has previously worked with a uniform. This can often be caused by poor management, lazy leadership, or just a completely different take on how a team should be operating.

You may find that people don’t have the same sense of camaraderie that you once felt in uniform, and you may find that there is a lot more tension between people that often makes it difficult to work. Instead of everyone pitching in and helping out with various tasks, each person has their specific role or position in the workplace and they stick to it. Of course, not every business is like this, but you’ll find that it can be hard to adjust once you’ve grown used to a rigid workplace structure.

Budgeting may be a little different

Another challenge comes in the form of financial considerations. Your wage will likely become hourly, meaning that you need to work a set amount of time in order to pay the bills. There may be times where you’re given fewer hours than the previous week, and you may have the opportunity to work more hours to cover someone else’s shifts. If possible, you might need to take every opportunity to work extra hours just to build an initial emergency fund should your wages become inconsistent.

Civilian roles don’t always have to be as an employee either. You can work as a freelancer or contractor which means irregular hours and thus irregular income. In short, you’ll need to be much more careful about how you budget, and you should aim to build an emergency fund should your financial situation become dire.

You can question authority in a civilian workplace

One of the benefits of having a more flexible workplace in a civilian role is being able to question authority. There may be times where you disagree with a decision that your manager has made and you might be able to change things with enough support or if your idea makes more sense. While some workplaces may frown upon this and some managers may be frustrated that you disagree with them, you at least have the freedom to make a suggestion.

This is a little different from the military or police force where you may feel less comfortable talking back to your seniors. In general, you’re allowed to express your opinion a bit more in a civilian workplace and you’ll often be asked for your input.


Transitioning out of uniform into a civilian role can be stressful and a completely new change of pace. It may be overwhelming at first, but we hope this advice has made it seem more approachable.

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