Introduction to Transition

What is Transition?

Transition is the period of reintegration from military to life after service and the corresponding process of change that a serving member, Veteran and their family go through when their service is completed.

The transition process encompasses much more than completing the administrative aspects of release and leaving the Forces, which is our current process. Transition requires thoughtful and thorough preparation and often social, emotional, and psychological adjustments as a person and as a family. It therefore takes time.

Every member of the CAF will undergo transition at some point and every member will experience transition differently. Furthermore, the families, who have been supporting these CAF members are also affected.

It is important to note that transition does not automatically mean leaving the Forces. The CAF is a strong community, and retaining our skilled, experienced and well-trained members is our first priority.

Your Transition Guide

This guide covers many transition-related topics that will help you and your family to develop a plan based on informed decisions. It will also assist you in navigating this process and highlight choices, support options, avenues and benefits that are available to you and your family through both the CAF and VAC seamless transition. The guide is organized in section that reflect the six domains of well-being and includes a family component to ensure that you are able to plan for your transition as seamlessly as possible by using all the information and tools included.

Your Transition Guide will be a valuable resource as you and your family embark on this new journey together.

In Concert with Chain of Command

Your CoC is here to support you in your transition. As a valued CAF member, possible retention within the CAF/DND or other Government of Canada (GOC) departments will be the first option explored. Throughout the transition process, your CoC can be counted on to offer valuable advice and will ensure that you are connected with the team at the local TC to support you and your family.

Thus, Director General Military Personnel (Strategic) has established the Adaptive Unit Retention Process (AURP). The "adaptive" in AURP reflects an evolving nature of the unit retention process based on CAF's needs (e.g., increasing representation of underrepresented populations, such as women, Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities). One aspect of the AURP is the Unit Retention Interview (URI), which will be, at first, administered to all Reg F voluntary releasing members before or upon submission of their voluntary release request. Once the transition process is created for the P Res, COATS, and Rangers, the Retention Program Office (RPO)-office created to monitor progress on retention-related initiatives--will implement a similar process for the P Res. In addition to the URI members and the CoC are expected to have retention-related discussions throughout a member's career which can be completed using existing systems, such as, but not limited to, the Performance and Competency Evaluation (PaCE) system. In other words, CoCs and members are encouraged to discuss retention even before a formal request for release is submitted.

As in the Military, You Need a Plan

While some members may have a solid plan in place and know exactly what they want to do next, many transitioning members may only have a general idea about their next mission in life. Many military members have focussed on their military careers and have never truly contemplated what they might do when the inevitable time comes to depart the CAF. It is highly encouraged that you consider eventual transition options for you and your family as you progress throughout your military service, and not just leave this critical planning to the time period at the end of your service.

Like any major life decision or shifts, transition is truly worth the time and effort to make informed decision that are unique to you and your family. While this can fell intimidating and complex, it can also be a very exciting and rewarding time in your life/career. Just as one prepare for operational deployments and postings, CAF TG encourages you to discuss transition options and plans with your family (see Your Transition Plan section and Annex B).

The Good News, You Have Developed Numerous Skills and Competencies

Since enrolling in the CAF, you have integrated into military culture and adopted its ethics and values. As you and your family open a new chapter in your lives, more adaptation will be required as you discover a new purpose, create new relationships, and potentially move to a new location.

Your military experiences have made you resilient, have armed you with a multitude of skills and competencies that will enable your transition and that are transferable to your new life as a Veteran.

You Have Already Experienced Transition in Your Career

You have already made many transitions in your military career and personal life, such as postings, promotions, and deployments. Many of the lessons that you and your family have learned from these experiences will likely trigger numerous questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask these questions, as they will assist in the development of a quality Transition Plan.

Based on your experience, here are some questions to consider:

  • Which transitions went well, and which ones did not? And why?

  • What did I learn from these experiences, both positive and negative?

  • Who were the people that helped or guided me?

  • How did our family handle these transitions? What can be done differently?

These experiences will also affect how you will make the psychological, emotional, and social changes required to successfully transition from military to civilian life.

Peer Support

Talk to Someone

If you are worried about making the transition, or need assistance with some of the practical aspects, talk to someone and seek advice, from a co-worker, friend, a family member, your local base chaplain, a psychologist, social worker, CAF Long Term Disability (LTD) Case Manager, CAF Vocational Rehabilitation Program (VRP) Counsellor, and/or a member of the Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) team or TC. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the CAF for help, a list of helplines and support resources can be found in the ongoing section.

Find a Mentor

Consider finding yourself a mentor – someone you respect and can call on for advice, and feel comfortable talking to. This may be someone you know who has already successfully made the transition from the CAF. They will be able to share some of the experiences they encountered and what was helpful. They may also have tips for things you can do to make your transition easier, based on their own experience, such as:

  • Plan ahead but take things one day at a time. Decision-making can be overwhelming; take it slow and don’t overlook the simple things. Break things down into manageable chunks.

  • Stay active: maintain a good diet, exercise regularly, sleep, nurture your social life, and enjoy hobbies and travel.

  • Be patient. The transition process can sometimes take several years.

  • Get involved with the civilian community, and your new work colleagues. Become one of them.

Psychological Aspects

Although everyone understands and accepts that eventually, we will all move on from the CAF, no amount of preparation can lessen the shock factor when we are approaching our own transition timelines either by personal choice or other reasons.

Any type of change can be exciting, as well as potentially stressful. Leaving the military is often accompanied by significant changes, especially if you have been with the CAF for a long time. These changes are not isolated to your employment; they can span many dimensions of your life including change of your employer, where you live, your social contacts and networks.

The majority of people adjust easily in term of gaining employment and settling into life after the CAF; however, some individuals may experience uncertainty and a loss of confidence. Insufficient preparedness to leave and lack of planning for the period ahead can lead to more difficulties adapting; failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

Regardless your circumstances, there is a significant amount of change associated with the transition experience.

Stages of Change

When confronted with a major change, like transition out of uniform, most people undergo a similar progression of stages. Having knowledge of these stages helps people better cope with the change process and provides reassurance when one feels “stuck”.

Major life changes are psychologically complex, and many people experience a range of emotions as they release from the military.

The first months post-release are often characterized by excitement and anticipation, but those who are not prepared for such a major change may begin to struggle after eighteen to twenty-four months. One way of mentally preparing for a change of this magnitude can be through understanding a model known as the Stages of Change.

This model is based on the idea that change does not happen in a single step but rather change occurs in six major stages that define and complete the process people experience. Many have found, it might be helpful to frame their transition in these stages shown below in Figure 1:

Figure 1:Stages of Change
Figure 1
Description of the figure

Stages of Change

Stage 1

Pre-contemplation - I am an actively serving member.

Stage 2

Contemplation - Do I want to leave the military? Am I ready?

Stage 3

Preparation - I have decided or my personal situation have me leaving, now I need to explore the next step.

Stage 4

Action - Working my way through each Domain of Well-Being to ensure I have a plan for seamless transition.

Stage 5

Maintenance - I am out of uniform and am contnuing to build my identity as a civilian.

Stage 6

Termination- I am now a veteran and firmly rooted in a community in Canadian civil society.

Think about which stage you are currently in, then look at the next stage to get an idea of what you should be working towards.

What Can I Expect?

Fully transitioning from the CAF may take some time. For many, transition is about more than leaving a job but leaving a way of life. The strong sense of purpose and belonging that comes from serving in the CAF can be greatly missed when beginning a new chapter in life. When you transition, there is typically a sense of losing a part of you, or of no longer belonging to something. Some liken it to the grieving or change process, where people can go through a period of shock and denial, before acceptance and adaptation. So, based on your experience in the CAF, how can you transition your strong sense of purpose to civilian life? Can you do anything right now to reduce the shock of change?


Your personal identity is shaped by many things, including your role as a member of the CAF. When we join the CAF, we join a military organization, a family, and begin to create our military identity. We learn the profession of arms, military language, military law, and may become disconnected from our civilian lives and friends. These are some of the realities, or sacrifices, that joining the military requires. We may see ourselves as military first and foremost. When you make the transition from the CAF, you may feel that an important part of your identity has been lost. Ask yourself, does the transition to “Civvy Street” trigger an identity crisis in me? Do I need to refine my identity for the future? Remember, no matter where you go or what you do in retirement, your ethos - developed during your military service – will serve you well as the basis of your identity in your civilian life.

Some of the most significant challenges people often face during the military to civilian transition are questions surrounding identity. After all, it is very common for active service members to strongly identify with the military, and even consider the military a part of their sense of self. This should come as no surprise, of course - the military deliberately establishes a collective identity in its members beginning with basic training. It has a good reason for doing this, too: people with strong military identities are much more likely to successfully integrate into their operational units, and a shared social identity tend to even enhance overall well-being.

However, an unfortunate consequence of this shared military identity is that everyone takes off the uniform someday, which means this identity does not last forever. Consequently, transitioning out of the CAF will involve a shift in your identity. This can be one of the most difficult parts of transition, especially for those who have had positive experiences in the CAF and who may not be releasing voluntarily. Fortunately, a better understanding of the mechanics behind your military identity will enable you to be more proactive during the transition from CAF member, retired CAF member or Veteran.

An identity is, fundamentally, the culmination of how someone sees themselves as a whole person. The component of identity that plays the biggest role in transition is known as social identity, which is how people see themselves as members of important groups. Social identities are formed by the groups people belong to, and grow deeper and more complex as they adopt the culture, norms, values, and beliefs of the groups in their lives. This means that our social identities change throughout our lives as we transition between groups, but that does not mean that change is always easy. Above all else, it is important that you are patient with yourself and accept that it takes time to adjust to new identities after taking off the uniform.

There are some challenges that you must be prepared to face when you are trying to adopt a civilian identity. Many civilians do not readily understand military identities; therefore, it is crucial to recognize that challenges will arise relating to civilians, and they will experience challenges relating to you. The stress of social identity challenges can lead to physical and mental health challenges, added stress in social relationships in your new career, community, and family.

To ensure that you remain positive throughout the experience, refrain from believing in and telling a negative story of your life. Avoid identifying with toxic social groups that promote false and negative stereotypes – especially ones about civilians – and try to embrace a new and healthy social identity as a Veteran. Reg F members can develop civilian identities by joining a community or volunteering. Reserve Force (Res F) members who serve part-time and have civilian jobs already have civilian identities, but they also need to mentally prepare for taking the uniform off, a symbol of the loss of military identity.

Some things you can do to help in adjusting to a new post-transition identity include:

  • Seeking out other transitioning members, or those who have already transitioned, and learn from their experiences. Ask them to be your mentor.

  • Finding new social groups, by joining new communities or engaging in volunteer work with other civilians. This can help you become accustomed to working with civilians and will help build the foundation of a new identity.

  • Planning a Departure with Dignity (DWD) event. These events can add a sense of closure to your lifetime in the military and are an enjoyable and meaningful way to publicly end this part of your journey, in order to embark on another.

  • Trying to build other parts of your identity beyond the CAF before you leave, as a parent, partner, hobby enthusiast, friend, and community member.

Having a broad identity enhances your self-esteem and mental health while serving. After you leave the CAF these hobbies, civilian friends, family, and passions are likely to help reduce the sense of loss. This does not mean you should cut yourself off from your existing friendships and networks within the CAF, as maintaining existing friendship is also important.

Military Culture

The CAF military culture is strong. Years of identification and bonding with military people can sometimes make it difficult for you to form new relationships and friendships in civilian life. You may feel you have less value in your civilian roles. Your experiences in our disciplined service environment may also lead you to feel impatient and frustrated with civilian attitudes and behaviours that may appear to lack structure, direction, and discipline. A strong mission orientation and a focus on achieving a task are not necessarily prevalent in all organizations. Softer skills are required to shape and influence. That said, like the Profession of Arms, many civilian professions also have a strong culture; they have specific terminology and they communicate in a manner that works for their profession. The professional culture of teachers, engineers, lawyers, chefs, physicians, scientists, etc., all have distinct cultures that work for them. Part of your mission-prep for civilian life is to gain an understanding of those cultures so that you can communicate and participate in civilian life.

Family Dynamics and Relationships

While the military lifestyle has built adaptability in military families, families are transitioning, too:

  • Transition may mean a new place to live, new responsibilities and changes to schools, jobs, and friends.

  • Families may have more experience with transition than you, the member. If your spouse has changed jobs and your kids have changed schools often, they have experienced big life changes and transitions outside the CAF. Be willing to learn from their experiences.

  • Families usually feel immense pride in their member’s service and may have even taken on some of the status of the military member. When a partner or other family member transitions from the CAF, families can feel a sense of loss.

  • Families may find relief in the decision, seeing opportunities for new beginnings and more time together now that the demanding military career has ended.

  • There may be a need to renegotiate shared responsibilities aligned to new roles.

  • Families may experience stress as they navigate the transition process and make decisions for their future.

Communication at this time is extremely important. It will help to be aware of some of the challenges that people commonly encounter and what you can do to help manage them.

Look After Your Health

The transition to civilian life can challenge our resilience and impact on our overall health. It is not always easy to recognize the signs that something is going wrong. The cumulative impact of events in our lives – our relationships, physical health, jobs, and family well-being – can be challenging, and can erode mental health, even in circumstances where we previously thrived.

The Mental Health Continuum (see Figure 2 below) is a useful tool for keeping an eye on how you are tracking and the potential impact transition may be having on your behaviour, what you are thinking, and how you are feeling. Common markers of mental health are grouped into themes: mood, performance, sleep patterns, physical health, social interaction, and activities. You can see how problems increase and functioning decreases as we move towards the right of the continuum. Just as health can deteriorate over time in response to changing life circumstances, it is also possible to return to full functioning, particularly when signs are recognized early and acted upon.

Figure 2 - Mental Health Continuum

Figure 2:Mental health continuum
Figure 2
Description of the figure

Mental health continuum


Normal mood fluctuations, calm and takes things in stride

Good sense of humour, performing well, in controll

Normal sleep patterns, few sleep difficulties

physically well, good energy level

Physically and socially active

no/limited alcoholuse/ gambling


Irritable/Impatient, Nervous, Sadness/Overwhelmed

Displaced sarcasm, procrastination, forgetfulness

Trouble sleeping, intrusive thoughts, nightmares

Muscle tension, headaches, low energy

decreased activity, reduced socializing

Regular but controlled alcohol use/gambling


Anger, anxiety, pervasiavely sad/hopeless

Negative attitude, poor performance/Workaholic, poor concentration, poor decision-making

Restless disturbed sleep, recurrent images, recurrent nightmares

Increased aches and pains, increased fatigue

avoidance, withdrawal

Increased alcohol use/gambling - hard to control


Angry outburts/aggression/excessive anxiety/Panic attacks, Depressed/suicidal thoughts

Overt insubordination, can't perform duties, control behaviour or concenrate

Can't fall asleep or stay asleep, sleeping too much or too little

Physical illnesses, constant fatigue

Not going out or answering phone

Alcohol or gambling addiction, other addictions

Sometimes you’ll make the transition more easily by asking for help. Doing so is not a sign of weakness, but rather a positive step towards regaining and maintaining a sense of control in life.

The key to adapting to change is focussing on what you have control over and not trying to influence things you can’t change. Don’t try to do everything on your own: ask for support and involve other people. The CFHS Intranet website also provides a range of information and tools for maintaining your health.

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Transition Model

Transition requires effort and work, but you do not have to do it alone. CAF TG has developed a model for transition with a five-step process. This model will help you understand the different phases of transition, and the various actions you should take during your career, to ensure you are “ready to transition” when the time comes.

Transition model
Description of the figure

Transition Model

Stage 1

Understand Transition

Stage 2

Plan for Transition (Throughout Career)

Stage 3

Train for Transition (In-Service and Release Phase)

Stage 4

Undergo a Personalized Transition Experience

Stage 5

Transition Successfully and Reintegrate into Civilian Life

The first three steps should be completed during your career. Thus, you will begin Step 4 when you decide to transition, which will empower you to complete Step 5 successfully.

Step 1 - Understand Transition

  • At the beginning of your career, be aware that you will eventually leave the CAF and that you need to prepare for your transition well in advance;

  • Explore and learn about the various retention and career options, or support available to you before you transition/release.

  • Register for MyVAC account;

  • Stay informed about the various benefits that the CAF and VAC have to support transitioning personnel and how you may qualify for benefits;

  • Have a financial plan that includes planning for the future; and

  • Complete a Long Term Planning (LTP) Seminar with your local Base/Wing or Formation Personnel Selection Officers (PSO) to understand what you need to think about.

Step 2 - Plan for Transition (Throughout Career)

  • Understand the domains of well-being, and build your own (and also your family’s) resilience by managing your well-being as you progress through your career (consider conducting personal well-being checks annually);

  • Receive transition briefs at key points during your career linked to your Terms of Service (TOS) to learn what they are and how is this managed;

  • Learn about the GOC/CAF/VAC tools and portals that can assist in your transition, specifically MyVAC account;

  • At least five to ten years prior to intended release, attend a Second Career Assistance Network (SCAN) seminar or equivalent; and

  • Start exploring SCAN Online.

Step 3 - Train for Transition (In-Service and Release Phase)

  • Attend a General SCAN seminar, as well as a Medical SCAN seminar if you are likely to be released medically;

  • Familiarize yourself and your spouse/partner with SCAN Online;

  • Attend a Career Transition Workshop (CTW);

  • Access VAC Career Transition Services (CTS);

  • Build a network of support and resources from former CAF members that have transitioned successfully;

  • If medically releasing, explore Vocational Rehabilitation Program for Serving Members (VRPSM) and CAF VRP;

  • Consider your skills, competencies, and interests for future projects;

  • Learn about and develop your cover letters and resumés;

  • Discuss post-military career options with your family; and

  • Involve your family in discussing where you might settle post release.

Step 4 - Undergo a Personalized Transition Experience

The personalized transition process is in development and will be available at your local CAF TC in 2024. In the meantime, you could contact your local Formation/Base/Wing PSO for an appointment for career/education/second career counselling and your local TC for transition support.

Utilizing the existing Op TRANSITION 12-Step process (see Annex A) as the model for all transitioning members:

  • You can visit a TC for information and connection to a Transition Advisor (TA) (where available) who will assist you to navigate the 12-Step process.

  • TCs are deliberately expanding capabilities, once a TA is connected to a member, they will:

    • Act as an “advocate” for you throughout the 12-Step process;

    • Guide you and track your progress throughout the 12-Step process;

    • Become the liaison between you and your parent unit; and

    • Refer you to other supporting organizations, where possible.

Step 5 - Transition Successfully and Reintegrate into Civilian Life

  • Remember that transition is not a finite period of time, it is an ongoing life process;

  • Find ways to stay connected to your military friends;

  • Embrace the changes within your new environment; and

  • Reach back to the CAF and/or VAC for assistance if required (visit a CAF TU or CAF TC at any time).

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Initial Transition Process

The Chain of Command

If you are not posted to the CAF TC during your transition period, your parent unit will still remain your home unit and responsible to support your transition. You should inform your immediate supervisor of your intention to release from CAF and to transition to civilian life through formal submission of Notice of Intent (NOI) to Release. This NOI is usually provided as a memorandum to your immediate supervisor, completion of the voluntary release application form, or in some units both are required. In the near future this process will be simplified through the provision of digitized voluntary release and Component Transfer (CT) applications that will be linked to the new CAFRA tool. The CAF TG mechanisms and services are there to assist both of you and your CoC.

For all voluntary releases, you must submit your intent of release through your immediate supervisor to your Commanding Officer (CO). However, members contemplating requesting a voluntary release from the CAF are encouraged to discuss retention options either with their CoC or other subject matter experts, such as a Base Personnel Selection Officer (BPSO), Career Manager, or a TA, before submitting a formal request for release. Discussing reasons for which you are considering or intending to transition out of the CAF may highlight options that could be considered to keep you in uniform, if desired. Additionally, discussing dissatisfiers will provide the CAF with information that could, in turn, be used to make positive changes. The CAF is making concerted efforts to change the culture and ensure our workplace is inclusive, diverse, and professional. Additionally, our efforts to retain our talented members highlight the importance of considering members' dissatisfiers and addressing them, when feasible.

Your CO, or the CO's designate, will review your personnel file and meet with you to:

  • Clarify your personal information;

  • Clarify your reasons for requesting a voluntary release;

  • Clarify your expectations from the CoC;

  • Conduct the URI (conducted with voluntary releasing members only;

  • Discuss options for retention (such as what are your needs that the CAF are not providing currently and that, if provided, would your decision to leave change?); and

  • Assess your willingness to meet with specialist(s) to assess other options.

If suitable to your circumstances, your CoC will investigate the possibilities for retention by contacting your career manager or any other stakeholder as appropriate (this may include specialists, such as a Medical Officer (MO), Social Worker or PSO to clarify possible or suitable courses of action.

Your CO, or the CO's designate, will meet with you to discuss your request for voluntary release and take appropriate action to implement the selected course of action (retention or transition).

If voluntary release is the desired option, the CoC will support and facilitate your transition experience.

If it has been determined that retention in the CAF is possible, your CoC will direct the necessary action to proceed successfully to your new career aspiration.

For compulsory release, your CoC will be informed of the release date and will ensure that the transition process starts as soon as possible, to best facilitate a successful transition.

For medical release, your CoC will ensure that all the supports are in place to support your transition. If you have questions, contact your local TC.

Your CoC and CO are responsible to ensure that all the components of the transition process are available and they are required to confirm/authorize various steps of your transition from military to civilian life (See Annex A for the Commanding Officer Aide Memoire).

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In-Service Transition Options

Not all transitions need to involve leaving the CAF/DND. You can explore other options for both full-time and part-time work.

You don’t have to “get out” of the CAF/DND to change your employment

  • Modification of your Operational Tempo
  • Modification of your tasks/duties
  • Modification of your work settings/arrangements
  • Job sharing or internal role change within unit
  • Leadership opportunities
  • OUTCAN opportunities or exchange programs
  • Career-related training
  • Deployments
  • Mentorship/Coaching
  • Leave Without Pay (LWOP)
  • Formal Flexible Working Arrangements
  • Planned Working Time (Part-Time)
  • Talk to your CoC about posting possibilities
  • Parental Leave
  • Learning or professional development opportunities
  • Education Leave
  • Voluntary Occupation Transfer
  • Commissioning
  • Subsidized or paid education
  • Component Transfer (CT)
    • Reg F to Res F
    • Res F to Reg F
    • COATS or Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC)
    • Canadian Rangers
    • Sup Res
  • DND Civilian Employment (Release required but it may be possible to reactivate your security clearance; see section on the Security Clearance Retention in the chapter on Purpose)
  • Other Federal Public Service opportunities (Release required but you can keep your security clearance; see section on the Security Clearance Retention in the chapter on Purpose)

Component Transfers

Have you considered joining the Res F or, if you are in the Reserves, considered joining the Reg F? Have you considered a sub-component of the Reserves?

Continuing service in the Reserves can provide you with a sense of connection, financial security, and can reduce the loss of camaraderie and shared history.

The Res F consists of enthusiastic part-time professionals who train during their spare time, mainly on weekends, and get the best of both civilian and military life. You could be a valuable addition to these units and would be able to keep the best aspects of the military as you transition into civilian life – as well as bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to these units.

Res F deploy and contribute to large-scale exercises around the world, so by remaining a part of the Reserves after your Reg F service, you too may get the same exciting opportunities. Reserves also have the opportunity for full-time engagements to further their careers.

Certain Sub components of the Reserves, such as Canadian Rangers, COATS, or the Sup Res, can continue to give you a sense of connection and belonging as well as increase your opportunity to transfer back to the P Res or the Reg F.

The Reg F is also a good option for those Reservists who want to continue their service full-time. Remember that the CAF has invested in your training, and you may still be able to contribute to the CAF mission.

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Well-being Framework

Every CAF member is different and their transition can be either a positive or a negative experience. One unifying experience is the major life change that results from the journey to life after service. The model of well-being adopted by CAF/VAC (see Figure 3 see below) considers seven domains: Purpose, Finances, Health, Life Skills, Social Integration, Housing/Physical Environment, and Cultural and Social Environment. These domains are the key criteria (or planning factors) to consider when thinking about or planning for a successful transition.

Figure 3:Well-Being Framework
Figure 3
Description of the figure

Well-Being Framework


Social Integration

Life Skills

Housing and Physical Environment

Culture and Social Environment



Each of these seven domains of well-being are defined as the following:

1. Purpose

It is widely agreed that suitable employment or other meaningful activity, and the resulting sense of purpose, are critical factors establishing one’s well-being. Most CAF members do not transition from long service to full retirement. Since the average age of release from military service is 40 years of age or less, post-release civilian employment is critical to transition success, although some CAF members over the age of 50 transition into retirement or semi-retirement from the workforce. Employment has multiple advantages in areas of income, health, sense of meaning, and purpose in life, and in establishing a civilian identity. Unemployment is linked with a wide range of negative outcomes including difficult adjustment to civilian life, and health and social difficulties.

2. Finances

Personal financial status is widely recognized as a key factor in well-being. Military members undergoing transition experience changes in sources of income and can have temporary or long-term reduction in income levels post release. Sufficient finances are associated with a host of positive outcomes, including: independence, healthy lifestyle choices, access to health services, quality of housing, family stability, and avoidance of debt.

CAF members may face many challenges in this domain. Examples of some of the financial challenges associated with transition include finding steady and sufficient employment income, additional funds needed for relocation moves, housing, vehicles, family and child care expenses, health care expenses, and costs of living in a new community.

Some will benefit from the support of financial planning services and self-skills to plan and manage finances. These challenges may be tougher if some cost of living expenses such as health care, housing, and leisure activities were provided free of charge, or subsidized on military bases or installations during service. Some CAF members will face financial emergencies during transition that can cause distress for them and their families.

The key to being successful in the financial domain is to start earlier build good financial habits early in your career. It is never too late to focus on your financial well-being but it will take time to improve.


“Health” has been, and will remain, a predominant domain of CAF members’ well-being. Health can be viewed as the physical, social, mental, and spiritual ability of an individual to function well. This includes the ability to adapt, based on one’s internal physical and mental resources, as opposed to external resources (such as having a job, having money, having good life skills, having good relationships, living in a good house, or living in a well-governed community that understands them).

The health domain includes measures of subjective well-being, such as life satisfaction and happiness, but also the notion of mental health, which can coexist with the presence of diagnosed mental or physical conditions. The health domain includes disability, the sense of health-related restrictions in participation in family, work, and community life roles, rather than presence of health conditions and associated impairments.

4.Life Skills

The “life skills” domain deals with skills, knowledge, and insights that prepare military members for transition and enables them to navigate the process of living in civilian life. This domain includes personal health practices and healthy lifestyles, education and job training.

Some life skills acquired by military members during service can serve them well during the transition: resilience training for dealing with stress, organized and disciplined management of personal clothing and equipment, establishing daily routines, and executing plans to solve problems.

Military members who encounter difficulties in transition often have insufficient skills for managing in civilian life: planning for release, personal financial management, job searching, house-hunting and integration into a civilian workplace environment. A key challenge in transition is negotiating the shift in personal identity, from military to post-military, a life skill that is not familiar to many people who find themselves in a major life transition.

5.Social Integration

There is wide consensus that social networks and social relationships play a key roles in well-being, and that a key challenge in transition is adapting to new ones. Well-being in many of the domains is a function of the degree and effectiveness of a person’s social integration at home, at work, and in their community. CAF members’ social networks are built across an entire lifetime, from pre-service (likely, mostly civilians), to active duty (mostly service members), and finally post-service (mixture of civilians, service members, and Veterans).

Social networks may be informal (friends and family) or formal (peer support or agency staff). This is a challenge many members as they transition, shifting from a primarily military social network to building a new civilian network. Following release, some members will continue to engage in military social networks through direct contact and these networks may help with finding employment or integrating in a new community that includes civilians. The act of building new and civilian social networks play an important role in finding and receiving needed supports, and in reshaping a military identity to a civilian one.

6.Housing and Physical Environment

The domain of housing considers the physical structure of the home as well as the social and physical environment in which it is situated. The physical structure of the home includes such things as the state of its repair, accessibility, safe drinking water, and so on. The social dimensions of housing include housing security, and one’s sense of belonging and safety. The environment surrounding a home considers proximity of services such as schools, recreation areas, health care, and shopping.

The physical environment is also an important determinant of health. Contaminants in our air, water, food, and soil can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including cancer, birth defects, respiratory illness, and gastrointestinal ailments. Moreover, factors related to housing, indoor air quality, and the design of communities and transportation systems can significantly influence your physical and psychological well-being.

After their release, some CAF members have unfortunately needed to resort to accessing temporary accommodation, leading them to a downward spiral that ends with them living in shelters and on the street. The presence of a comprehensive net of services across all the well-being domains can prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place.

7.Cultural and Social Environment

The preceding six domains of well-being are the main focus of My Transition Guide as they are the most dominant as one considers and navigates their transition from service. However, the seventh domain is equally important, but in a different context. Culture and Social Environment focuses on how transitioning members and Veterans are perceived and accepted by civilian society. You may think this is out of your control, but the opposite is in fact true. As CAF members and Veterans, we all have a continuous role to play in shaping the perceptions and knowledge of our civilian counterparts and private sector entities. Whether you know it or not, you will become an influencer through your actions and attitudes as you integrate into your new civilian life. This may be as simple as bringing your incredible skills and talent from military service and impressing your new employer and colleagues; or can be more deliberate if you choose to become an active mentor or advocate for Veterans. Regardless of your path through transition and beyond, you can have a positive influence that can improve the landscape of Veteran support across the country.

To contribute to positive influencing effects, here are some considerations as you transition and become a veteran in civilian society:

  • Become a mentor to other transitioning members as they navigate their experience.

  • Join a Veteran networking group to assist in connecting Veterans and promoting awareness of veteran capabilities in the private sector.

  • Find ways to educate your new employer and colleagues on the capabilities of Veterans.

  • Advocate for Veteran talent within your new workplace.

  • If your new employer permits, volunteer to lead a veteran recruitment and/or mentorship program internal to your new workplace.

  • Participate in Veteran-focused charitable events and other activities that showcase the value of veterans in society.

  • Engage in a positive way on social media platforms to promote Veteran talent, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship.

  • Join your relevant service branch/regimental association to stay connected and leverage the power of these organizations in civilian life.

  • Consider joining national Veterans support organizations, such as the Legion and/or the Army, Navy, Air Force (ANAF) to provide opportunities to connect to civilian influencers.

  • Participate and help promote Remembrance Day activities in your community.

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Your Decision to Transition

Ask Yourself if You Are Ready to Transition

Step back and ask yourself if you are truly ready to transition out of the CAF. In many situations, people think that because they found a potential second career, or because they reached 25 years of service, they are ready to transition. This approach, however, means that you are considering your transition decision along only one or two domains of well-being. A better approach would be to examine your transition decision from these six domains of well-being: Purpose, Finances, Health, Life Skills, Social Integration, Housing/Physical Environment.

To help you view your transition decision holistically, you can complete this self-reflection questionnaire called Decision to Transition (D2T). The intent of this questionnaire is to help you consider some key factors when making your decision to transition.

For each question posed, check the box closest to the statement that you most agree with. For an example, in Question 1, you will be asked to consider these two statements: “My career prospects in the CAF are excellent and motivating” and “I am convinced I will have better and more exciting career prospects in the civilian workforce”. If you agree more with the first statement, you would check the box under “1”. If you agree more with the second statement, you would check the box under “3”. If you were unsure, or equally in agreement with both statements, you would check the box under “2”.

Decision to Transition (D2T)
Decision to transition
Description of figure

Decision to Transition (D2T) is a self-reflection questionnaire intended to help you consider some key factors when making the decision to transition.

For each question, you will be asked to check the box closest to the statement they most agree with. For example, in Question 1, you will be asked to consider these two statements: “My career prospects in the CAF are excellent and motivating” and “I am convinced I will have better and more exciting career prospects in the civilian workforce”. If you agree more with the first statement, you would check the box under “1”. If you agree more with the second statement, you would check the box under “3”. If you were unsure, or equally in agreement with both statements, you would check the box under “2”.

This questionnaire is found on page 28 of My Transition Guide.

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There are no right or wrong answers, and there is no formal score assigned. These questions are designed to start you thinking about whether transition is the right decision for you or conversely, if there might be other options inside the military that work for you. You may revisit your answer to the questionnaire in the future, as necessary.

Your Transition Readiness Check

Determine Transition Readiness

Once you have considered your situation carefully, and have decided that transition out of the military is right for you, the next step is to determine your transition readiness status. You need to examine where you stand with respect to the six domains of well-being: Purpose, Finances, Health, Life Skills, Social Integration, and Housing/Physical Environment.

The Road to Civilian Life (R2CL) Transition Checklist (see below) is a self-assessment tool that helps transitioning CAF members and their families to begin thinking about whether they should seek additional assistance. The intent is to help you and your family think through six key intersecting areas of life as you prepare for your transition. Early planning leads to better well-being in life after service.

Take the time to carefully respond to each question. The checklist contains 12 questions about your readiness for all the main aspects of civilian life. Each pair of questions deals with one of the six domains of well-being. The intent of this transition self-reflection tool is to ensure that no major red flags are missed on any of the domains of well-being as you prepare for your transition.

You or a family member or friend can use the checklist to help you think about whether you are ready for transition (green), whether you need to think about getting some assistance (yellow), or whether you should strongly consider getting some assistance (red) with one or more of the domains. For example, on Question 1, you will be asked to consider “I know what steps to take to secure a good job”. If you feel that you do, then you would check under the green “yes” box; if you were not sure, then you would check under the yellow “to some extent” box; and, if you felt you do not, then you would check under the red “no” box.

There are no right or wrong answers, and there is no overall score. These questions are designed to help you look at your transition readiness in different areas of your life. Your answers will help you to identify transition needs, and lay the foundation for transition goals, that will assist in developing your Transition Plan. You may revisit your answer to the checklist in the future, as necessary.

Road to Civilian Life (R2CL) Transition Checklist
Description of the figureThe Road to Civilian Life (R2CL) Transition Checklist is a self-assessment tool that helps transitioning CAF members and their families to begin thinking about whether they should seek additional assistance. The checklist include aspects of employment/education/retirement, financial preparedness, physical and metal health, support from friends and family, housing and general adjustment to civilian life.

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Your Transition Plan

Creating a Transition Plan

Your Transition Plan is the guiding document that will help you prepare and navigate the transition process. By developing and following a personalized Transition Plan, you will set yourself up for success after your military career. To develop your Transition Plan, reflect on the results of your Decision to Transition and Transition Readiness self-assessments. Also think about your personal ideas about where you want to be after your military life. Using all of that information, the next step is to develop some concrete, personalized, transition goals for each domain of well-being. The resulting Transition Plan will be custom made for you, so that you are pursuing goals that line up with your vision of a successful military to civilian transition.

Transition Goals

At this point it is useful to distinguish between tasks and goals. Tasks are a series of simple action points that you need to complete, which usually lead towards a goal. Refer to Annex C and you will see a list of key Transition Tasks that you need to complete to make sure that you reach the goal of being ‘administratively ready’ to leave the military. Completing the applicable tasks from Annex C is essential for all transitioning personnel; however, that alone does not constitute a Transition Plan.

A Transition Plan must also contain goals. Goals are your personal aims, what you want to achieve, as part of your military transition. For example, obtaining an undergraduate degree may be a goal for someone who has always wanted to get a university education. When you construct your Transition Plan, make sure that you reflect on where you want to see yourself in each domain of well-being. Remember that a holistic Transition Plan contains concrete goals for each domain of well-being: purpose, financial, health, social, housing, and life skills.

Another important point to consider is that many people assume that if they have no risk in an area, then they do not need to worry about having any goals or setting a plan in place for that area. For instance, you might think that because you are getting a pension, and have no major debts of financial pressures, that you are going to be financially secure and therefore do not really need to consider the financial domain of well-being. While it may be true that you have access to money, the question is: do you have a plan as to what you are going to do with it? Have you consulted with an investment advisor or wealth management advisor about how you will manage the income you get from your pension, in addition to your savings and any income you may be getting from other sources, such as a second career or consultant business? This example illustrates the requirement for you not just to focus on setting goals to correct ‘problem areas’ or ‘weaknesses’, but also to look at how you will set goals to manage your strengths.

When reflecting on what you want to achieve in each domain of well-being, make sure that you don’t just create abstract goals. Your goals should follow the S.M.A.R.T. format.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific - Ask the 5 Ws: what you are trying to achieve, which is involved in helping you achieve it, why is this goal important for you, where you will achieve your goal, etc. Try to be as specific as possible.

  • Measurable - You need to be able to measure your progress towards your goal. That can be by time periods, milestones, metrics, etc. Decide how you will measure the status of your progression towards your goals.

  • Achievable - Ensure that the goal you set is realistic. It’s alright to have a lofty goal as your ultimate end-state, but what you need to do is break that lofty goal down into smaller, more attainable goals. Use the smaller goals as stepping stones to get to your ultimate goal. For example, if your goal is to own an architecture firm, you might start by upgrading your academics to get into an undergraduate degree in architecture.

  • Relevant - Ensuring that your transition goals are relevant is especially important. You want to develop a Transition Plan that is personalized for you, not a generic one. Therefore, each goal that you set should have some personal relevance to help you attain the transition outcomes you are aiming for, on each of the domains of well-being.

  • Time-bound - There needs to be an end-date by which you aim to achieve your goal. This can help motivate you to complete your goals, prevent you from stalling, and enable you to complete other goals. Try to be specific in your deadlines (e.g., six months from now, I will complete two academic math courses).

You can see an example that demonstrates how to turn, general goal into a full SMART goal.

Goal I want to have a meaningful second career after my military service

Specific: I have a few ideas about a second career, but do not really know which one appeals the most. I need help figuring out what careers are the right fit for me. I would like to learn which careers are a good fit for my interests, skills, and abilities.

Measurable: By my date of release, I should have at least two second career options that are a good fit for my interests, skills, and abilities. I should devote at least one day a week to exploring second careers with specialists or peers to help narrow down my options.

Achievable: I can set aside time each week to meet with career counselling specialist to undertake assessment inventories, and to explore the different career avenues that fit my interests, skills, and abilities. I can also talk with peers who have transitioned into civilian careers that I might find interesting, to gain greater perspective.

Relevant: Identifying a second career path that is a good fit for my interests, skills, and abilities is instrumental in helping me continue to have a sense of purpose after my military life. I have done limited exploration in this area, but know that during my last six months of service, these needs to become a higher priority for me, as I will soon be in the civilian world. I want to continue serving Canada in another capacity, and believe I offer excellent skills and experience.

Time-Bound: In six months, I should have at least two career options that I am motivated to pursue.

Note: Try to be as specific as possible, the more details a plan has the easier it is to navigate and complete.

Transition Plan Development

Establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals is the cornerstone of your Transition Plan; however, a collection of goals does not constitute a plan. Once you have thoroughly explored and identified S.M.A.R.T. goals for each domain of well-being, the next step is to organize those goals into an actual Transition Plan.

At first glance, all of your personal transition goals might seem important, and it might seem daunting to try and accomplish them all. You might feel like there is not enough time in the day or enough energy and resources to reach the goals you have set out for yourself. A key step here is to prioritize your goals so that you know where to focus your efforts, and in what order. To prioritize your efforts, examine your goals from these three perspectives: deadlines, level of urgency, and true importance.

Time Estimation

Some of your goals will have specific deadlines that need to be met. For example, if your goal is to complete a one-year college certificate program in small engine mechanics, then likely the application needs to be in by a certain date. Similarly, if you choose to use the VAC Education Training benefit to fund that program, you will likely need to be enrolled with proof of acceptance by a certain date. Another example is that the goal of completing your release administration must be met before your date of release. Rank ordering your goals in each domain of well-being from least amount of time to most amount of time available is a useful first step.

Level of Urgency

To further refine the priority of your goals, using the Eisenhower Method is an effective way to help identify which goals are more urgent than others. Use the quadrants below to group the goals you have into four categories, and then approach your goals accordingly.

Important and Not Urgent

These are things you need to complete but have time to schedule. For instance, making sure that you submit your application to a job advertisement on time.

Not Important and Not Urgent

These are goals that you can complete at your leisure, but will not seriously impact your transition one way or another if you do not attain them. Focus on these only when you have completed the all the others.

Urgent and Important

These are things that you need to complete ASAP. For instance, if you have only 30 days left before your date of release, completing all of your transition/release administration will fall into this category.

Urgent and Not Important

These are things that you can either have someone help you with or do when you have free time. An example might be the act of scheduling an investment counselling session to manage wealth after you leave the military.

True Importance

The Ivy Lee Method is a way to further refine the actual importance of goals, while at the same time focusing your efforts and time management. Essentially, these are the steps you should follow:

1. Make a list of 6 goals you need to get done. Do not write more than 6 goals.

2. Rank order the goals in order of importance, based on your judgment.

3. Work your way down the list one at a time, not deviating until the first goal is complete.

4. Continue attacking your list in similar manner, one goal at a time.

5. Repeat this process the next day.

This will help you identify which goals are truly important to you, and also focus your efforts. In tandem, it can be a useful exercise to group your goals into the domains of well-being. This is effective in avoiding one long massive ‘to do’ list and will help you refine what is most important for you in each domain.

Once you have identified, defined, organized, and prioritized your personal transition goals, the next step will be to identify which supporting resources or organizations can help you attain your goals. For example, if one of your goals is to explore potential internal transition options within the military, a PSO would be a key supporting resource. Beside your goal, you would list “PSO” as an enabler for you to connect with as you strive to realize that goal.

Transition Plan Template

To assist you in pulling this all together and constructing your Transition Plan, you will find a Transition Plan template in Annex B.You can use this template to document, organize, prioritize, and track your goals throughout your transition journey.

The Transition Plan template contains a Summary Sheet on the front page, where high level goals in each domain of well-being are summarized. On this page, you can list your most important goals for each domain of well-being. There is even a place where you can sign your Transition Plan, so that you can hold yourself accountable for reaching your transition goals.

In addition to the Summary Sheet, the Transition Plan is composed of individual tabs that correspond to each domain of well-being (i.e., Purpose, Finances, Health, Life Skills, Social Integration, and Housing/Physical Environment). To help you draft you goals in S.M.A.R.T. format, on each tab there are places to write in specific goals, timelines, priority levels, responsible persons, and outcome measures. When you fill in your Transition Plan, try to make sure that you include as much detail as you can for each goal.

Transition Plan Example

A Transition Plan example can be found in Appendix 1 of the Annex B. This will help you visualize what your Transition Plan could look like. Remember that on this sample, the goals listed on this example Transition Plan for each domain are personalized to one person, and not meant to be goals for everyone. This means that you will have goals that are custom tailored to you on your own Transition Plan.

Living Document

The Transition Plan is a living document. This means that as you achieve each goal on your Transition Plan, more goals may be developed over time. For example, if your goal is to become a counsellor, your first goal may be to get into a counselling program. After you attain that one, your next goal may be to pass all your courses. After that goal, your next one might be to decide where to practise and pass the provincial counselling licensing exams, and so on.

The Transition Plan does not end once you reach your date of release, it will continue to guide you throughout your journey into the civilian world.

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Member Transition Task List

To ease your transition experience, a Member Transition Task List (see Annex C) has been designed to help you transition into civilian life in a seamless manner. This self-guided tool will help you track your progress during your transition. The list identifies items that are CAF and VAC related along with important personal items that a member may want/need to complete dependent on their situation.

The list is broken down into six domains of well-being. This ensures all indicators are covered to better prepare you in your transition process. The domains and proposed activities are not in order of priority, since the importance of each will vary among individuals and over time. However they should be followed in chronological order. At the end of each activity, a checkbox helps you identify which ones you have either achieved, completed, or require assistance with.

Each activity applies to all CAF members, regardless of rank and time served, who are transitioning from the military to civilian life. Activities specifically related to medically releasing members are highlighted in purple on the left side of the page.

It is important to use the Member Transition Task List to facilitate your seamless and personalized transition experience. In order to help you build your Transition Plan through the recognized domains of well-being, additional information is provided on each in the subsequent sections.

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