The best way to plan and to prepare for a military-to-civilian career transition is to plan your transition like you prepared for a combat deployment. Preparing for a combat deployment is an all-consuming, definitely nerve wracking, and intense period of military duty where you focus on performing at your professional best, planning contingencies, conserving resources, and ensuring that you will be successful under the most demanding conditions.
Plan Your Transition a Year Out Starting the Day Your Terminal Leave Ends. Most military personnel start planning their transition planning three to six months from when they leave the military. In my opinion, you should plan your transition from when your terminal leave ends, which, best case, means that you have had a job while on terminal leave. The best case for departing the military is to have 30-60 days of terminal leave when you depart the military. That is hard, but it can be done. Your transition planning also needs to include job search, moving, packing household goods, unpacking, selecting a school system, finding an affordable place to live, networking, and all the other items that go with a Permanent Change of Station (PCS ). Finally, like a deployment, plan that things will take twice as long to complete.
Plan Your Transition to Find 6-8 Different Career Tracks. Finding a civilian job is one career track. On a deployment, your strategic track is to accomplish your assigned missions with minimal casualties, conserving the number of personnel required, and ensuring as little as possible risk to civilians living in your area of responsibility. To accomplish these military missions on deployment, you often plan 5-6 separate ways to achieve mission success. On a deployment, you lose promised resources, the enemy changes tactics, and your mission timeline accelerates. During a military-to-civilian transition, these same changes happen. By having multiple (6-8) career tracks, you help ensure yourself a job and a career by creating and finding may ways to be successful. Create multiple options to ensure success!
Plan Your Transition to Expect Consistent Disappointments. On a combat deployment, the enemy fails to show up, changes tactics, and does the unexpected. These enemy changes create frustration and disappointment to accomplish missions. During your military to civilian transition, you cannot make a company have job openings, you cannot make a job you want pay more, and you cannot make a company speed up the job hiring process. The best way to contend with disappointment is to create, to find, and to discover multiple options, multiple companies, and multiple mentors that will overcome disappointments. Disappointment happens when we run out of options – in career transition, like combat, you must constantly create options to be successful.
Plan Your Transition to Create Purpose & Structure from Several Different Areas. Why am I doing this? No one wants to help? No one wants what I have to offer? These questions go through your mind in both combat and in a military to civilian career transition. In both instances, you must personally create a plan for yourself that builds and reinforces your own sense of purpose. Purpose comes from helping others, proving what we can do, and showing how we have been and will be successful in the future often when the audience is skeptical. Creating personal purpose in the military comes from the passionate sense of mission especially in combat. During civilian transition, we must recreate that military sense of purpose in the design and structure of our daily lives. Teaching, volunteering, exercising, learning new things, being an entrepreneur, and under taking new challenges are all ways to inject purpose and structure in transition.
Plan Your Transition to Expect Financial Difficulties. The military provides a financial safety net that is not present in transition and it is largely not present in the civilian world. Savings, minimizing expenses, and having a realistic budget that is strictly followed are all ways to reduce the likelihood of financial difficulties during civilian transition. The clear majority of financial difficulties in transition happen because the departing service members savings are not large enough and their spending is too high. Saving more, spending less, and finding other, even small, revenue sources during transition are essential.
Plan your military to civilian transition with the lessons from a combat deployment. Do not be sacred. Instead be prepared, expect disappointment, save more, spend less, and create lots of career options to help have a successful transition. The career transition from the military to the civilian world is one that millions of service members have done before you and one that millions of service members will do after you – you will be successful!
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About the blogger: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 250 articles in over 150 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.
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