For veterans who decide to leave the military and go right into the civilian workforce, securing a new source of income can be a giant stressor. Depending on what field they’re going into, the job market can be tight, and starting over from the bottom seems wholly unappealing.

It’s a huge relief to get a foot in the door, secure an interview and hear a potential new employer’s salary offer. But that begs the question: Should a veteran accept it or negotiate?

Starting Over?

Veterans leaving the military after an enlistment of four to six years should understand that — despite their years of experience, on-the-job training and possible education in the field — many employers don’t know what to do with such a candidate.

Separating veterans have too much experience for entry-level jobs and not enough to be an associate or manager. And that’s OK. Studies show that veterans get promoted 39% faster than nonveterans in similar careers. What you bring to the table will be revealed when the time comes.

Read: 6 Basic Things Veterans Need to Change When Starting Their Job Search

As long as a veteran’s resume has been translated for the civilian world, recruiters and hiring managers will be more apt to see a young vet as a potential employee akin to a recent college graduate. The knowledge is there; maturity may not be. Companies want vets to get out of the military and adapt to the way civilian workplaces operate.

If someone makes it to a potential salary offer, there’s a good chance the job is theirs for the taking. But there are a few factors to think about.

Some Important Considerations

Does the offer sound like a good one? Does it really fit your cost of living as a civilian? If it does, and it’s just a job to have a job, then that might be all you need to get started.

Then, there’s the candidate’s actual level of experience. Applying for a job in the financial services sector is great for someone who’s worked at the base finance office their entire military career, but does the candidate have all the experience necessary for the services a company offers? How much does the candidate have to learn versus the value they already bring?

Another important consideration is the field they’re trying to enter. Even when unemployment was at all-time lows, it was a lot easier to get a job as a nurse than it was to enter the civilian workforce as a staff photographer.

Having other job offers is another consideration. If companies are competing for talent, that gives job seekers with the proper qualifications leverage when negotiating for a higher salary.

What qualifications are necessary for the job? Health care workers and aircraft mechanics have an entirely different skill set than many other military-related careers and require different levels of education, training and certification that aren’t common in the civilian world. If a candidate’s resume shows that level of ability, the employer is likely prepared to pay a fair price for it.

Do Your Research

Employers want to hire the right candidate. That candidate should come to the table having researched a few key factors about salaries in their profession.

What is the average income for someone at that skill level? How big is the company? Where is the company located and how much is the cost of living in that area? A veteran who knows how much they need to make to live comfortably within their budget — along with an honest assessment of where they are in their career path — will know how much they are worth.

They will also be much better prepared to be assertive if and when they ask for an extra 5% to 10% on top of the offered salary.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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