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Additional Advice From Transitioning Troops

  • “Don’t try to break any land speed records when transitioning out of the service. I loved my career, but I didn’t waste any time when I decided I was going to leave. I scoffed at those who took their time, but I now see the wisdom in those that took their time. Due to my haste, I experienced some false starts. I recommend that you take your time, slow down, don’t cut yourself short, and take advantage of whatever time that DoD can afford you. Do some introspection, network, have patience, and commit to landing on your feet. Although there are no guarantees, success has a lot to do with your own self-awareness and knowing what you want to do.”
    • Brian Hankinson
    • Former Army Lieutenant Colonel
  • “Be patient! It is truly difficult to go from serving in the military to working in the civilian world. Don’t rush into a job or a role if it does not seem to be a good fit for you.  As you’re preparing to leave the military, plan to save up a few months’ worth of pay to take the financial burden off yourself so that you can find a great job instead of just a good one.”
    • Julia Aldrich
    • Former Army Captain
  • “The most difficult part of the transition for me was disengaging from ongoing activities and responsibilities at my last duty station and focusing on my transition to civilian life. There was more to do than I realized, with medical appointments, moving, required transition workshops, finding a job, and more. It wasn't that I felt like I was indispensable in my last position, but I had projects that I wanted to see through to completion before leaving. Also, the Army was still providing my livelihood, so I felt it incumbent on me to continue to contribute.”
    • Dave Raymond
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “Figure out your to-be based on what you’ve done within the service. What was it that motivated you – beyond technical skills? Look for jobs outside the military that will get you the same motivation.”
    • Brian Dickinson
    • Former Air Force Colonel

 

  • “Discovering what I was qualified to do in the civilian world was equally challenging. While we do many things in the military, we become experts in very few things.  I considered myself an expert at managing people, a generalist in management and a novice in sales. The idea of selling something seemed far-fetched, but by the time I analyzed myself and learned corporate structure, Sales management was where I ended up.”
    • Kevin Berry
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “I had to write a friend of mine who worked in government and asked what he wore to work.  I didn’t own a suit or a pair of slacks. He sent me a list of things to buy at the PX: 3 shirts, 2 slacks, brown belt, etc.  It felt like a costume for 10 years.”
    • Perry Jefferies
    • Former Army First Sergeant
  • “My job opportunity emerged through a networking initiative started by a group of Tampa executives and senior business leaders called the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Transition Assistance Resource or STAR program.  Its mission is to pair retiring Special Operations Forces military personnel with one or more successful local civilians to assist with their transition to the civilian sector. These civilian partners range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 executives who all share a deep appreciation for our nation’s military. The vision is to start this program in other cities.”
    • Dan Hodne
    • Former Army Colonel

 

  • “Double-down on networking. Hit it hard! And in doing so, make sure you get the lexicon down. Use former peers to act as translators, bridges. Also, shadowing targets is a great idea. It helps you understand how companies operate.”
    • Former Army Colonel

 

  • “The best part of my transition was the opportunity to build my professional network. In the process of transitioning, I used multiple tools and resources including the West Point Alumni network and Linked In to find other veterans within the local area who had transitioned themselves into roles across different industries and companies.   In this process, I had the good fortune to meet both long lasting friends as well as get more involved in the community through the West Point Society and other veteran-connected activities. Furthermore, having a network lay the foundation to feel as if I was in a community that welcomed me the same way as I would have felt on a military base with an expanded ‘Army family.’ Don't be nervous or afraid to reach out to other veterans in the location you want to settle down in- without the support of a network it will be more challenging to find the right fit."
    • Malissa Gallini
    • Former Army Captain

 

  • “When you’re asking for help, it doesn’t feel like networking. It feels like you’re being a pain in the ass. But you’re still building relationships, whether you realize it or not.”
    • Dominic Lanzillotta
    • Former Army Captain

 

  • “Begin networking early. Use LinkedIn InMail. Use Hire Our Heroes, Hire Purpose, and Veterati. Research industries and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to cold-call companies. Tell them that you are interested in their company, that you’re just doing some research, and whether there is anyone with whom they could connect you.”
    • Dave Uslan
    • Former Air Force Senior Master Sergeant
  • “Interviewers that left the military in the ‘90s were warning me of entering a different environment for which I would not be prepared. Their ongoing assumption was that the military works a 9-to-5 job. The reality of today’s military couldn’t be further from the truth. Today’s military uses business processes as part of its military decision-making process.”
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “I initially shot-gunned my resume everywhere; sent it to 50-60 companies. That was a mistake, as this approach resulted in a lot of rejections. I got to the point where I started thinking that I just needed a job, not the job. So I saw the job I eventually landed as temporary; I figured I’d spend 6-8 months there and then move onto something that is more aligned with my interests. I finally got a mentor to walk me through career planning and eventually found my dream job.”
    • Travis Long
    • Former Navy Petty Officer

 

  • “It was difficult for me to hear ‘no’ and experience rejection. I got very frustrated with the process and had a chip on my shoulder as a result. I thought I could influence things, but I ultimately realized that I can’t control when an employer calls you back, who was going to interview me, etc. There are a lot of uncontrolled variables, which was different from my military experience.”
    • Dominic Lanzillotta
    • Former Army Captain

 

  • “I was surprised at how disinterested many of the organizations I interviewed with were in my military education and career, in spite of it representing almost the entirety of my professional experience.  I found it disheartening that the tremendous responsibility (personnel, equipment, budget, training, etc.) I held in the Army seemingly carried little weight or importance. This was a low point in my search.  I aspired to use my engineering education, but it was evident that the organizations and positions I was interviewing for placed a higher value on technical engineering skills and experience than leadership and the less-tangible (and less-quantifiable) skills I learned in my military career.  I changed my search vector toward positions and opportunities that played more to my strengths and was rewarded with greater interest - and in most cases, overall better compensation.”
    • Grant Heslin
    • Former Army Captain
  • “The most difficult part of my transition was learning how to translate my resume - to verbalize it, justify it, and explain it to others without using military jargon.”
    • Dominic Lanzillotta
    • Former Army Captain

 

  • “The most difficult part of my transition was the anxiety of having the skills needed to be successful in the civilian sector. My entire adult life was focused on military leadership and skills without formal business training. The confidence that was instilled in the military to overcome all obstacles provided me with the grit to push forward.”
    • Former Army Captain
  • “I think it's very important to have realistic job expectations.  CEO isn't a realistic expectation for a retiring LTC or Colonel. It's hard to gauge, but don't expect to initially make as much in the corporate world as you do in the military.  You have to do research and set realistic expectations.”
    • Kevin Berry
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “Take a good amount of permissive leave and terminal leave. You will need to relax, network, and transition. But you’ll also need time to decompress psychologically.”
  • “There is so much going on in the final six months that there is not a lot of time to deal with things outside of the retirement process.”
    • Dave Uslan
    • Former Air Force Senior Master Sergeant

 

  • “You’ve got to trust the military system of leadership development.  Your organization will not falter when you retire; its remaining leaders (and your replacement) will ensure that it doesn’t.   You only have one approach to retirement; use the time wisely and do it correctly. No one else will do it for you.
  • “I have told other service members to take TAP seriously and take notes!  There is no excuse for failing to follow the steps of the process. There is too much at stake, particularly when it entails ensuring that you and your family have covered all of the administrative bases before you are no longer on active duty.  
  • “Make a transition calendar and stick to it.  From the notes taken in TAP, mark all of the key actions and milestones that require action and backwards plan to hit them.   Permissive TDY and transition leave will arrive before you know it. If you’re not paying attention, you could find yourself scrambling.  The Retirement Date will not change.
  • “Finally, plan a spectacular, special, and meaningful retirement ceremony.  You owe it to your family. Your success in your military career also came as of result of the sacrifices, support and accomplishments of your wife and children.  It was a true team effort. Go out on a high note, as a team, celebrating and reflecting upon your military story together. It’s a big day; you all deserve to bask in it.  You only retire from the military once.”
    • Dan Hodne
    • Former Army Colonel

 

  • “Leaving the Army was scary!  For 26 years I never had to worry about receiving a pay check.  I was paid like clockwork on the 1st and the 15th of every month.  Jumping from the security of Uncle Sam to the volatility of Corporate America was frightening.  But, leaving the security of the military also brought great freedom. During my first vacation out of the country, I had a weird feeling when the plane took off.  For the very first time in my adult life, I was able to leave my location without signing out on a sheet of paper or asking permission. I felt a sense of freedom I had never experienced in my life. Traveling without telling someone seems so simple, but to me it represented a lot.  I was out of the Army's reach and their care.”
    • Kevin Berry
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “Coming out of uniform gives you a unique status – once. However, military status, while unique, does not necessarily translate to value. You must convey to others the value that you add.”
    • Dan Hodne
    • Former Army Colonel
  • “Find a trained, non-VA veteran service officer to go through your medical records and document your health conditions, even if you receive 0% ratings. As you age and new information comes to light, you will kick yourself if you deny yourself a health care opportunity or your family those benefits. There is a time limit on the applications. Don’t tough it out. One day you’ll wake up and think to yourself, ‘I should have told somebody about that pain, creak, sore, whatever.’”
    • Perry Jefferies
    • Former Army First Sergeant

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