Transition Articles

Transitioning from Defence?

Defence personnel transition from the ADF for a multitude of reasons, and few will spend an entire career (to retirement age) in uniform. At some point all veterans have had to, or will have to, look to a career outside of military service. When advising veterans who are looking to transition into the civilian workforce, we discuss three factors that should be considered, especially when looking for a new job.


Being paid for a day’s work is the cornerstone of the Australian labour market. Different jobs have different levels of salary, usually in response to the skills and experience required of that role, or because of the value that the market places on that profession. When leaving the military, veterans must remember that they were on a package when serving, which included not only their base salary, but various allowances, medical entitlements, as well as rental assistance. Transitioning veterans must work out what real time salary they are actually on – and essentially now giving up – when they leave Defence. Some research will need to be undertaken to determine the costs that becoming a civilian incur, such as health insurances, rental or mortgage costs, as well as the private costs of ancillary benefits such as gym membership. Speaking to DCO, as well as previously transitioned colleagues, is a good place to start.


Military service requires postings to various geographical locations, both domestically and sometimes abroad, throughout a career. This can cause massive interference to personal and family life. Desire for family stability is one of the main reasons I get when asking people why they are choosing to leave the ADF. Although allowances are paid for this disruption, it can be hard to put a financial price on the ability to settle into a permanent location in order to raise a family and pursue personal goals. A work/life balance is often the guiding factor when deciding on where you want to live post separation. Some veterans return to the town they enlisted in years earlier, others take their families to locations as far away from the military environment as possible, whilst some choose to settle in a location that provided good memories during a previous posting years earlier. Discussing with your family, or researching where the jobs you might want to do are located, will ensure that you don’t waste that discharge removal entitlement.

Professional satisfaction:

Some veterans leave Defence because the career they chose in uniform has natural extensions in the public service or private sector. The conclusion of frequent and wide spread operational deployments has meant that service personnel may spend years perfecting their trade, but never actually get to utilise these skills in an operational environment. This is particularly true of the combat corps, where the likelihood of undertaking warlike service has significantly diminished post Afghanistan and Iraq. Some veterans want to further enhance their skills through courses, work, and experiences that aren’t afforded in military service. For example, army engineers and intelligence soldiers, to name just two trades, can seek to further their careers in organisations that more frequently require real-time utilisation of their skills, rather than through the often-tedious routine of the unit’s annual training calendar. Some veterans look to do work that is as different to their military service as possible, and may seek a job that allows them to focus on personal pursuits because the work schedule is constant and without a requirement for frequent travel and out-of-hours work.

These three categories are typically the main motivators that veterans consider when leaving the ADF, and in-turn are the same ones that help them decide what sort of job they will look to do post transition. There are many other influencing factors that are involved, such as the job market or accommodation costs in particular locations, but veterans can still set themselves up for success by giving some consideration to the above when considering and undertaking transition.

Josh Francis is a former infantry and intelligence soldier, and now manages the professional services recruiting company Green Door.

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