Mar 20

Retired Army Colonel Brings Excellence to Nonprofit Sector

Retired Army Colonel Al FaberIn the current hyper-competitive job search environment, doing one’s homework takes on new meaning.  Retired Army Colonel Al Faber, currently President and CEO of The Partnership for Excellence, shares his perspectives on what it takes to stand out from the crowd and make a difference after separation from military service.

VSB: Many of your former military colleagues are now in their last months of military service. What do you consider to be the key missteps to avoid as they prepare for transition into the civilian workforce?


  • First, decide on what you really “want” to do, and don’t settle for simply “making-up” the difference in your military pay versus retirement pay. The more passionate you are in your search for a new career, the more successful you will be.
  • Don’t procrastinate, start now. Learn how to translate your military leadership assignments into comparable civilian experience. Read the resumes of those with similar positions you are looking for and adapt your military experience to their civilian experience. They parallel closer than you might think.
  • Focus on leading others and creating learning organizations that are agile, adaptable, flexible. The economy is just as dynamic as geopolitics, if not more so.


VSB: Would you have imagined yourself in your current role when you first left military service? Was it a direct path or more of a circuitous route?

Faber:  I don’t think any of us can see into the future and a particular role. However, knowing the “type” of position you are looking for is important. Some want to shed the responsibility of leading others and work independently, or from home. Others may want the excitement and fast days associated with staff work in government. For me, it was a direct path, knowing that I enjoyed people and leading organizations. I wanted a similar leadership role in the private sector and those are the positions I targeted and the networks I created.


VSB: You have served on several nonprofit boards over the past two decades. What have you gained from this experience?

 Faber: This is an insightful question.

  • Boards hire Presidents and CEOs, so it is important to learn how they work and what they are looking for in a chief executive.
  • The networking is invaluable to future relationships and opportunities.
  • Most board members sit on multiple boards and you learn quickly it’s a smaller world than you may have thought.
  • The discussions in board rooms also provide insights to the problems they face as an organization and the solutions they are looking for.
  • Nonprofits may give some the appearance they do not have to “be profitable” but nothing could be further from the truth. Every organization has bills to pay, and to remain in business, must show income that exceeds expenses.


VSB:  Based on your own transition experience, would you share any final words of advice with senior military leaders currently in transition to the civilian workforce?


First, learn the language. Learn to translate your military experience into something similar to:

  • Provided oversight for several organizational restructuring initiatives to meet the demand for greater efficiency and process optimization.
  • Institutionalized several supporting professional development programs to empower stakeholders, strengthen workforce engagement, and achieve unprecedented organizational alignment and commitment, while promoting diversity and inclusion to fully leverage human capital.

Second, network. Develop a personal business card and seek out those in a position to help. Get out of your “comfort zone” and confidently, and intentionally introduce yourself to others.

Third, once you make it into the interview you want, know more about them than anyone else. Do your homework, think strategically.

Last, be humble. They will know you just as well.

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Colonel Al Faber, USA (Ret) served as a Senior Army Aviator and Instructor Pilot in attack, reconnaissance, and transport combat helicopters. In addition to his current position as President and CEO of The Partnership for Excellence ( he is a member of the American Society for Quality and American Mensa.


Mar 14


success in your new mission

Most senior leaders separating from military service have not had to look for a job since their teenage years.  This group of senior executives may be unfamiliar with the complexities of the civilian job search and may underestimate what it takes to land and retain the right position.

SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION: A Guide for Senior Military Leaders in Transition goes beyond the basics to help senior enlisted and senior officers transition more smoothly into the civilian workforce. Here’s what retired senior leaders are saying about this new resource:

Terrific insight from those who have walked in your shoes. Read it.

        - Admiral Thad Allen, USCG (Ret), Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton


A great read for those senior leaders approaching military retirement who may feel somewhat unprepared for the next chapter. 

        - General Ann Dunwoody, USA (Ret), President, First 2 Four, LLC


Steiner Blore brings together her extensive professional background in a range of sectors, career transition expertise, and insights gleaned as a military spouse into a must-read book for any senior military leader in transition. From her cogent advice on networking and the use of social media to her insightful discussion of the cultural and psychological aspects of separating from military life, this valuable resource equips readers for success in today’s hyper-competitive employment environment.

       - VADM Norb Ryan, USN (Ret), Pres. & CEO, Military Officers Association of America


(S)ome of the best insights into the unique challenges and opportunities faced by senior military leaders making the transition from military to civilian work life. I wish I had this resource when I was leaving active service a few years ago!

         - LT. General Guy Swann III, USA (Ret), Vice President, Association of the U.S. Army


…A succinct roadmap for the initial transition campaign…Read this book as soon as you are even contemplating leaving the military…

           – Brigadier General Eden Murrie, USAF (Ret)


Some may call SUCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION a guide; for me, it was like reading the bible on transition. I wish this book had been around when I began to think about, and plan for, life after the military.

            - Alford McMichael, 14th Command Sergeant Major of the United States Marines


SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION: A Guide for Senior Military Leaders in Transition by Vera Steiner Blore is available at:

Jan 23

Getting Hired in 2014

After a long career in military service, many transitioning senior leaders assume their credentials and talents speak for themselves and are enough to land a good job. Unfortunately, this is not always the case:

  • Companies may presume it will be harder for transitioning senior military leaders to adapt to a new workplace environment and that they will bring a know-it-all attitude. How can you demonstrate your willingness to learn, understand a different culture and ability to work successfully across generations in the civilian workforce, given that your prospective boss may be the same age as your son or daughter?
  • Potential employers will read your resume and assume you know how to lead. What they don’t know is HOW you will lead a team outside of the military establishment. There is often an assumption that military careerists come with an aggressive, overconfident attitude; they wonder if you will “browbeat a team into submission” or roll up your sleeves and lead by example.

There is often an assumption that military careerists come with an aggressive, overconfident attitude; they wonder if you will “browbeat a team into submission” or roll up your sleeves and lead by example.

There may be little doubt that you can do the job; the key to getting the job is your ability to articulate the specific skill set and leadership approach you will bring to the table and how you will make a difference to the company or agency bottom line.

Successful job search and on-boarding strategies are just some of the critical topics that will be addressed at upcoming Military Officers Association of America Military Executives in Transition workshops in Alexandria, VA on Tuesday, January 28 and in San Antonio, TX on Thursday, February 13. For more information and to register, be sure to visit:



Jan 07

Thinking About Transition into Federal Service?

salernoThe transition from the military into the federal government may be an easier career shift for many senior leaders than a move into the private sector. At the same time, there are a number of perceived and real differences that vary from agency to agency. I asked Brian Salerno, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, at the U.S. Department of Interior, to share his transition experience from senior military leader to the Senior Executive service.

VSB: What advice would you give to senior military leaders seeking a civilian position in the federal government in the current budget climate?

Salerno: First, ask yourself if you really want to ride the tiger. Although life as an SES is less intense than it is as a senior military leader, there are still many of the same pressures and frustrations (budget scarcity, congressional hearings, etc) that we all managed while in uniform.

By comparison, I spent a year as a private, independent consultant. I had a lot more flexibility in my schedule, was successful in attracting clients and I enjoyed the variety of jobs. I could easily have kept going. However, I found that I missed the sense of mission that comes with government service. I decided that the more restrictive schedule and the inevitable frustrations were worth the tradeoff!

Budget realities are of course having an effect on staff levels and hiring, although this is affecting different agencies in different ways. As a retired flag, your leadership and management skills will be highly regarded, making you very competitive. However, the military is generally not viewed as having to deal with the same budget hardships as civilian agencies (if they only knew!) so be prepared to show how you have enhanced efficiency in a time of increased scarcity.

…the military is generally not viewed as having to deal with the same budget hardships as civilian agencies (if they only knew!) so be prepared to show how you have enhanced efficiency in a time of increased scarcity.

VSB: What are the key similarities and differences you have found between your current federal position and your previous military service?

Salerno: Several of the processes on the civilian side are similar to those we experienced in the military (e,g,. budget build, rulemakings, OMB oversight), however, many civilian agencies are not as robust in their capabilities. The area where I have been most surprised by the absence of capability is with IT and knowledge management – military services are far ahead of the civilian agencies with which I now work. This is both a problem and a challenge.

Congressional relationships: Military services maintain Hill staff who can help explain initiatives and policies to committee staffs. In return, the services get a lot of insight into what Hill staffs are thinking. In contrast, most civilian agencies do not have Hill staffs, and therefore the intelligence is never quite as good.

As a senior civilian leader, I have spent time on the Hill meeting with staffs and members, but never with as much advance info as I had when in uniform. The uniform brings instant credibility, less so with a civilian suit. You will still find a great deal of respect for your past service, but staffs will likely be more skeptical of your new agency’s positions than what you may have encountered when representing a military service.

The uniform brings instant credibility, less so with a civilian suit.

Finally, relationships with your workforce will be different than when in the military. My experience is that civilian agencies are less formal in their interactions. You will still be respected as a leader and as the boss, but be prepared to be addressed in a less formal style. Many will instinctively address you by your first name, although this is less common with former military. Also, workers will pay attention to your opinions and direction, but be ready to “sell” new ideas in a way that you may not have had to do before.

Working with political appointees is something most in uniform have experienced to some degree. However, it was not until I took a senior civilian position did I interact with political appointees on an ongoing basis. Political appointees place great reliance on networks, and somewhat less emphasis on the organizational chain of command. This can be useful in getting things done, but is different from the way most of us operated in our military careers.

VSB: Based on your own transition experience, what are the top three things military leaders should consider as they prepare to step away from military service?


a. Making the mental shift: You have heard this before: not everyone in government, like society in general, understands military service. They may be intrigued by it and respect it, but they may not to know what to expect from you and what a military mindset will mean for the workforce. Most of what they think they know about the military they picked up from movies. I found people were worried that I might expect military-style discipline from the workforce (this came out in the interview,) and as much as they respected my background, it was clearly not what they wanted in their organization. So depending on the department or agency, be prepared to offer some reassurance that successful military officers are actually quite skilled and sophisticated at inspiring people to perform well in their mission.

Working in a civilian agency requires a mental transition. The Chain of Command is likely to be a lot looser. Many employees will feel free to communicate directly with you via e-mail. How you deal with that will set a tone. Personally, I have accepted such communications, because I want to know what people are really thinking. I miss having a Command Master Chief!

b. Know what you don’t know: When hired into a senior position, particularly into a non-military agency, a little humility goes a long way! You may or may not be seen as an expert in the agency’s procedures. It takes a lot of interaction with the workforce to convince them that you value their expertise, and that you will consider it before you begin to make significant changes.

c. Finally, salary and taxes…Consider your full tax burden taxes as you plan your finances. A safe assumption may be that you will pay a third of everything you make in federal taxes, factoring in your retired pay as well as your civilian salary. You might want to get a financial advisor to shelter as much as you can.

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Brian Salerno is a retired U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral.

Dec 30

Never Too Late for Career Reinvention

Marc-Miller-ConcreteRecently, I had the occasion to interview Marc Miller, consultant and author of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers. Having transitioned several times after a long career at IBM, Miller shared his perspective about switching professions later in life.

VSB: What do you believe are the most common challenges faced by senior executives trying to switch professional gears after a long career in one profession?

Miller: The biggest challenge senior executives and senior military have in switching professional gears is realizing that the culture and work environment in their new careers could be very different. For example, I have worked with a number of IBMers who have lived in a large monolithic entity for an entire career. Everyone they knew worked for IBM. Their vocabulary was IBMer. The culture of the work environment in which they had learned to work was dramatically different outside of IBM and they had to take steps to adapt to a new way of doing business. 

I have found this is the same for many senior military who retired and did not go into a government or defense related industry. The rules they followed throughout their military careers had changed or, more commonly, completely disappeared. They found themselves in a workforce environment in which there were no rules at all! This is really hard because all the assumptions they lived by for 20-30 years were no longer there.

The methods of finding employment also have changed dramatically in the last five years and are often ill-defined. This is stressful for those who have come to rely on a structured, predictable environment.

VSB: Is it ever “too late” for career reinvention?

Miller: In this day, you are never too old to reinvent yourself! Many of us will live to 100 and we will need to work into our 80s. I plan on reinventing myself again and again!

I am in my late 50′s and I am on my seventh career. Each of my career changes was what I refer to as a ”half-step” career change. I had one foot in the old world, one foot in the new world and there was a relationship with someone who helped me to “connect the dots.” That relationship knew my skills, values and ethics and helped facilitate the transition.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

VSB: What are the most important steps for transitioning senior leaders interested in stepping into a second career in which they have no direct experience?

Miller: The biggest challenge in switching careers when you have no direct experience in a particular field is learning to ask for help. Very likely, you will not be at the top of the food chain. The greater the transition, the more likely you will have to swallow some pride and ask for help. Yes, I am a guy and I do not like asking for directions. Asking for help is absolutely key! Finding mentors is equally important! I published an article in Forbes early in 2013 on this exact topic –>

VSB: How can senior leaders overcome the common misperception that they are “too old” to begin anew in the workforce?

Miller: The senior leaders who perceive that they are too old just need to find mentors who have reinvented themselves. I worked with a West Point alumni earlier this year. I asked him if there were alumni who had already made the transition that he had planned. He said yes. I asked him if he thought they would be willing to help him. He said yes. All he had to do was ask.

Remember, you are not the first or the last person who will make this transition. You just need to connect with those who have gone before you and ask them to share their experience and advice with you!

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Prior to his current role as founder of Career Pivot, Marc Miller’s career journey included 22 years at IBM, work with several thriving tech startups, a stint as a high school teacher, and a job in fundraising. An active member of the Launch Pad Job Club, Marc found himself counseling friends and associates on their career journeys and finally realized he’d found his vocation. Marc uses his extensive training experience to help people find fulfilling and satisfying careers. He has taught in more than 35 countries and has helped individual clients from a variety of industries.


Oct 24

Retired MCPO: Hard Work and Adaptability Essential

VWPatton-Sep2013Some transitioning military leaders have greater clarity about the direction they wish to pursue after retiring from military service. Others leave the military with somewhat less certainty, at times ending up in positions and circumstances they never would have anticipated.

No matter which description fits your situation best, Vince Patton, retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, stresses the importance of hard work, adaptability and a commitment to move forward.

VSB: Vince, your transition from the Coast Guard to where you are today took many turns. Would you share some background about the paths you took along the way to your current position?

Patton: I had an interesting turn of events that took place during the course of my ‘after life’ from the Coast Guard when I retired in 2002.

Initially, I decided to take a few years to focus on an educational and spiritual enrichment journey by going to divinity school.  A year before my retirement, I had thought about going into community service ministry — chaplaincy work. I wasn’t as interested in becoming a church pastor, but instead wanted to be more actively involved with directly helping people, as I had done as a senior enlisted advisor, and then, as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.

While attending divinity school, I was also selected to serve as an adjunct professor at University of California Berkeley, teaching “Philosophy of Ethics.” This fit nicely with the skills and experience I developed during my military career, while building my academic credentials.  I guess you could say, I really had the best of both worlds in my first two years of retirement.

Just as I was completing my two-year divinity school program, becoming an ordained minister, I took a three-month summer missionary internship with the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernment organization focused on working with overseas missions and economically challenged countries. I was sent to Haiti, a country with which I was familiar from my time in the Coast Guard. There, I worked with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO.) to train mission leaders in organizational development and leadership — skills they needed to actively manage a multitude of UN programs in support of economically deprived communities in the northern province of Haiti. This experience, again, allowed me to apply skills I developed during my military career.

I strongly believe that once you identify the key components that help sustain your drive and determination, they can be your life’s guide in the military, in the civilian workforce, in your community service activities and in your own personal life.

As my internship came to an end, I received an email from an acquaintance asking if I would be interested in working with transitioning service members and military families to help them understand their benefits and provide resources to help them find employment. As a newly ordained minister, I wasn’t immediately interested in the offer; nonetheless, after careful consideration, I accepted the job since it gave me the opportunity to once again work with the military community. Thus began my seven great years as Director of Government Partnerships and Alliances with Military Advantage, also known as “,” a division of Monster Worldwide. In that job, I oversaw government projects involving the Military Spouse Career Center, development of the government-contracted online transition assistance program, known at that time as ‘TurboTap,’ and serving as a conduit between the company and the military services. It was a fun job and I found myself, yet again, in a position where I had the best of worlds, doing what I enjoy, and working closely with the military community at all levels, active, reserve/guard, retired, veterans and family members.

Not wanting to let wither my newly-acquired ministry credentials, I continued my community service ministry work as well, doing it on a volunteer basis. I continued on with my training to become a certified professional chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains, and served on my denomination’s trauma response ministry team. In fact, I’m still involved with this today as a community service chaplain.

In 2011, after seven years with, I was offered an opportunity to help stand up a new homeland security program for AFCEA International, a nonprofit professional development communications and information technology organization.  Without question, the path that brought me to where I am today has everything to do with the culmination of experiences and skills I obtained during my 30-year Coast Guard career.

VSB: What are some of the key ingredients you consider essential for success in the civilian workforce?

Patton: Well, you certainly can’t achieve success without the magic phrase that has been instilled in all of us through our years of life – HARD WORK!  I was brought up to understand that, if you want something badly enough, you have to work hard to obtain it.

  • You must find ways to build your self-confidence and sustain it.
  • Be committed to your goal, whatever it is, but also be able to make adjustments along the way.
  • Be adaptable to change and be able to move on. If something’s not working out, don’t dwell on it;  you’re just wasting valuable time. ADJUST, ADAPT, OVERCOME AND MOVE ON!

I also credit my own personal core values of “People, Passion & Performance,” as my guiding principles that kept me focused on my goals, and help me remain positive and proactive. These are words that mean a lot to me and have helped define what I want my life to be about. I strongly believe that once you identify the key components that help sustain your drive and determination, they can be your life’s guide in the military, in the civilian workforce, in your community service activities and in your own personal life.

VSB: Hindsight is 20-20. What advice would you share with those currently in the transition pipeline to help avoid common pitfalls as they shift into civilian mode?

Patton: First, I would strongly recommend that just as you prepare to keep track all of your medical documentation for veterans disability evaluation, there are a number of documents we have accumulated throughout our military careers that are equally important. These include letters of appreciation, personal and unit award citations, and performance evaluations; each of these contains narrative information that can be useful as you begin to build a civilian resume. You should also keep those documents on ‘stand by’ to validate your work experience, since you will need to be able to cite factual information regarding your past assignments.

Also, I would recommend that transitioning servicemembers conduct an extensive web search to capture the written position descriptions for jobs of interest to them.  Use several of the online job search sites like or Career Builder and simply type in the kinds of jobs you are targeting. Pay no attention to where the location of the job is located; all you’re looking for is the written position description. This is one of the best ways to ensure that your resume has captured the key words and phrases that are used in civilian employment. When resumes are posted online through these job sites, the hiring manager is doing keyword searches, and you want to make sure that you have as many of those words and phrases that match the job you are seeking. A large number of transitioning servicemembers, both officer and enlisted are unaware of this process.

VSB: Any other advice you’d like to share?

Patton: Never underestimate the power of networking! As I look back at my own post-military employment experience, everything seemed to have fallen in place for me. Truth is, I had to rely on networking to get there. Keep in touch with colleagues and acquaintances; this can be very valuable. While online job searches and headhunters are part of the job search mix, networking is the number one method that helps people find jobs.

Social media is indeed important, and ties in with networking as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from people who have used Facebook and LinkedIn as a valuable resource for potential employment opportunities.

Think about volunteering — it matters! Don’t leave it off either the resume, cover letter, or forget to bring it up during a job interview. Volunteer experience can develop leadership skills that hiring managers might consider an additional asset to your application.

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Dr. Vince Patton currently serves as Vice President, Homeland Security Programs at AFCEA. International  ( )      In that capacity, he oversees the organization’s outreach to homeland security professionals in government, industry and academia, and also is responsible for the management and oversight of the organization’s Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Committees. Patton holds several degrees, including a doctorate of education from American University, a masters degree in counseling psychology from Loyola University and a masters of theology in applied religious studies from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He also is an ordained minister. Dr. Patton sits on the boards of the Northeast Maritime Institute, the National Coast Guard Museum and the U.S. Naval Institute.


Oct 17

Retired Navy Admiral at Full Throttle in Civilian Life

john harveyTransitioning senior military leaders have the extraordinary opportunity to redefine themselves in their post-military lives. Retired Navy Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. who retired from military service in October, 2012 after serving as Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, embodies that philosophy and was kind enough to share his transition insights and experience with Military Leaders in Transition:

VSB: John, it has been a year since you retired as Admiral. When you left active duty, did you have firm ideas about what you planned to do in this next phase of your personal and professional life?

Harvey: I had some firm ideas, but they were very broad. For example: 1) I wanted to become involved in Executive Education programs (see my profile on LinkedIn); 2) I wanted to stay engaged, in an appropriate manner, in the debate that was sure to accompany the coming significant decline in the defense budget regarding our national defense strategy and force structure; 3) I wanted to do some value-added pro-bono work and; 4) I wanted to find rewarding ways to augment my retired pay.

VSB: It takes years of training to become a senior military leader. What more can be done to better prepare senior military leaders for successful transition into the civilian workforce?

Harvey: I think that once an individual advances to Flag rank, preparation needs to begin at that time for the inevitable retirement.  The key ingredient in this preparation is mentoring from senior Flag officers, active and retired; that helps get the thought processes flowing.

Early participation in the various transition-assistance programs is a smart way to go; I waited too long (I took mine as a 4-Star) and lost valuable time where I could have been talking with my wife about our future and developing better ideas about how to approach this next phase of our life together.

The most important thing for current service leaders to do is to encourage the 1, 2 and 3 star officers to think about “life after Navy” earlier in the Flag career.

The most important thing for current service leaders to do is to encourage the 1, 2 and 3 star officers to think about “life after Navy” earlier in the Flag career.

VSB:  You have highlighted the importance of building business skills while still on active duty. Outside of taking online or night classes, how might senior military leaders increase their business acumen while still advancing their military careers?

Harvey: There is absolutely no substitute for an active reading program that encompasses a wide range of subjects. It doesn’t take a formal class to get educated – you don’t have to be in an MBA program to learn.

You have to have a desire to do the best job you possibly can and then act on that desire.  There are an infinite number of ways to increase your knowledge, either on your own or by bringing that knowledge to you.

For example, let’s say you want to learn more about supply-chain management and how it may apply to your mission. If your command is near a large college or university, reach out to the appropriate department (commerce or business school) and talk with the Dean. You’d be absolutely amazed at how many will be willing to provide the expert help you need at little or no cost.  This nation is filled with patriots who are looking for the opportunity to make a contribution.

You can also reach into the local community through the chamber of commerce and find an expert in just about any field who will be willing to help.

The military is certainly very unique in many ways, but there are certain things common to any large organization that has to allocate scarce resources in the most efficient and effective way possible in order to accomplish the assigned mission.

IT-related issues, human resources questions, managing complex development projects, whatever – there is someone close-by who is an acknowledged expert in what you are trying to do or in what you need to learn. Reach out and ask; it doesn’t cost a dime and the rewards can be immense.

VSB:  What have you learned so far from sitting as a board member on a number of nonprofit boards and advisory councils? Do you see these positions as a good fit for transitioning senior military leaders and, if so, why?

Harvey: I’ve learned a great deal from my non-profit board experience and advisory board experiences and I think this knowledge will help me grow in potential to serve on other boards in the future:

  • First, I chose non-profits I believe in and am willing to support with time, money and effort.
  • Second, the most of the mechanics of a non-profit board are common to other types of boards. So you’re learning about things that will likely bear fruit for you in the future.
  • You need to learn the “language,” how to read and understand a revenue statement and learn the functions of a board. A board is about effective governance, not day-to-day, month-to-month management.
  • Your service on a non-profit board will also help develop your professional reputation as someone who can work effectively outside the uniformed military environment – an important issue.

VSB:  What other advice would you give to those senior military leaders currently planning for their own transition into civilian life?


  • Start thinking about it early, learn from those who have gone before, keep expectations in check and talk with your spouse – often and honestly.
  • You don’t have to rush into a job once you retire.  Take the time to “decompress” and get your bearings once your daily life is outside the support structure of the military.
  • Little things matter.  It took me a while to get used to NOT living on a base. I really, really enjoyed the sights, sounds and patterns of everyday life on Naval Station Norfolk – ships getting underway, helo operations near my “front yard”, Sailors all around doing me what Sailors do and the “sound of freedom” from Chambers Field at 0300!
  • Now it’s time to treasure what was and look forward to what will be.

The great thing about retirement is I get to redefine myself outside the military environment that helped define me for the previous 39 and 1/2 years.

The great thing about retirement is I get to redefine myself outside the military environment that helped define me for the previous 39 and 1/2 years.

It’s different, it’s exciting and it’s filled with potential.


In his 39-year Navy career, Admiral Harvey specialized in naval nuclear propulsion, surface ship and carrier-strike group operations and Navy-wide manpower management/personnel policy development.  Since his retirement in October 2012, Admiral Harvey has joined the board of directors of the Navy Memorial Foundation  and the Armed Services YMCA  He is a visiting lecturer in Executive Education programs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and is a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University. Admiral Harvey is also a member of the Board of Advisors for Huntington-Ingalls Industries, the Board of Advisors for Rally Point and the Strategic Advisory Group for Boeing Network and Defense Systems. In March, 2013, Admiral Harvey was appointed by Virginia’s Governor to serve as the Chairman of the state’s Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities. 







Oct 09

Gaining Clarity About Your Next Career

One of the most challenging aspects of the military-to-civilian transition process is figuring out the “right” civilian career path for you.  How can you begin to sort out the many vague, undefined possibilities into more specific choices that can be evaluated?

Here are some useful things to keep in mind:

  • Many career assessments encourage you to look inward. While internal reflection is important, avoid using it as a barrier to actually experiencing specific career-connected activities.  In other words, explore ways in which you can actively get a feel for a specific career path or work environment on a trial or temporary basis. Consider short-term pro bono projects or volunteering for a limited time to see what it’s really like “behind the curtain” of an organization.
  • Join professional associations in the field of greatest interest to you. Read their newsletters, attend their conferences and do your homework to build your understanding of the industry/field. Cultivate your network in the industry through conversations at events, informational interviews, active participation in related LinkedIn groups and ongoing communication with those you’ve met.
  • Talk with former colleagues who have pursued the career path you are considering. Ask them what additional skills or qualifications they would recommend for those interested in the field.  What minefields did they encounter as they entered the industry?  What do they see as the most critical factors to consider before pursuing the specific career path? For example, if you are thinking about starting your own consulting firm within your areas of expertise, you will want to know who else is doing similar work, the market demand, and how you will stack up against your competition. You also will want to consider the up-and-down nature of the consulting business, the number of hours and dollars you will need to invest to achieve sustainable success/ a reliable source of income, and other unforeseen  factors that could impact your chances for success.

Remember that changing careers is not typically a straightforward process; more often, it is an ongoing exploration, filled with bumps, detours and small achievements along the way.

Remember that changing careers is not typically a straightforward process; more often, it is an ongoing exploration, filled with bumps, detours and small achievements along the way. In many cases, the first job you accept in your new field is not always the best fit, for any number of reasons. If things don’t work out, don’t second-guess your decision to have taken the job or view your departure from the company or organization as a personal failure. Instead, think about it as an opportunity to better understand what to avoid next time around and the steps that are within your control to help you achieve a better outcome.

Sep 13

Current and Former Military Execs Go Beyond ETAP

Senior military leaders often don’t realize how much more there is to know about a successful military-to-civilian transition until they have actually separated from military service. For many, what seemed self-evident before, now appears to be far more complex than simply having a solid resume and an updated business wardrobe.

The Military Officers Association of America is holding its third Military Executives in Transition workshop for those senior military leaders ready to go beyond the traditional ETAP course to increase their competitiveness in the current market. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 in Alexandria, VA.

This one-day workshop provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of the transition process; first-hand advice from a panel of successful military-to-civilian executives; strategies on working with executive recruiters; tips on negotiating your salary and benefit package; an excellent networking opportunity and much more.

Your registration fee also includes several follow-on benefits including personalized career transition assistance, additional social media training, online interview preparation and other opportunities outlined below.

There are still a few slots open for this session. To register: or call 800.234.6622.

Hope to see you there!


Sep 11

Thinking About Teaching as a Post-Military Career?

Wolgast_Kelly-photoHave you considered teaching as a post-military career? How do you know if you have the academic credentials needed to be competitive?

I asked Dr. Kelly Wolgast to share her perspectives on this issue. Dr. Wolgast is a retired Army Colonel currently serving as Program Director and Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the Health Systems Management program.

VSB: How did you decide to go into teaching following your military career?

Wolgast: The decision to transition into teaching emerged from a networking opportunity while I was still on Active Duty. I was fortunate to have established and maintained communication over the past 20 years with leaders of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN). As a VUSN master of science program graduate, I joined the Alumni Association and kept in contact with my academic advisor as well as the Dean and Associate Dean. When several of the VUSN leaders were visiting my duty location in the spring of 2011, we reconnected and discussed opportunities in nursing education and my future plans. I was enticed by their offer to visit Nashville and Vanderbilt again and to explore the opportunity of a faculty role. After those meetings, my transition plan began to take shape. It was great timing for me to make a change, both personally and professionally. Now I am here in Nashville in a role that I love because of the relationships that I established and nurtured over the past 20 years with nursing colleagues and friends at Vanderbilt.

VSB: What advice would you give to senior leaders contemplating a teaching career following retirement from military service?


  • Focus on the talents (knowledge, skills and abilities) you believe you bring to an academic environment.
  • Do some research on programs that may be a good match to your talents.
  • It is imperative that you have a current curriculum vitae (CV) prepared and ready to share. While a resume is good, the CV is the document of choice in academia, as it contains more extensive history of your accomplishments. It is a portfolio of your work and contributions.
  • If you are not connected with your various alma maters, then reconnecting is also a good strategy in order to explore opportunities. When was the last time you contacted your former Dean or attended an Alumni event?
  • Consider becoming adjunct faculty, a guest lecturer, or a visiting professor. These are academic arrangements that are generally established for a limited period of time, but offer you an opportunity to enter the academic environment in order to see how well you fit and enjoy academia. If this would be of interest to you, then you would need to contact the academic institution directly.

The role of professor generally will require additional education at the doctoral level. While this may seem daunting, it is very doable once you consider how many hours you will have available for schooling after you depart your very rigorous military job. The return to academia to obtain your doctorate degree is a tremendous way to gain timely and relevant knowledge in your field of interest; it also allows you to compare and contrast the information you currently know, based on what you learned in the military, to what is currently happening in the civilian world. I believe that going back to school can help ease your transition and provide time for self-reflection and improvement.

VSB: How would you describe your transition into academia after a long career in the military? What do you see as the greatest cultural challenges?

Wolgast: Transitioning after a long career is difficult, but does not have to be debilitating. The process involves planning and decision-making that must be done while you are still wrapping up your extensive responsibilities in the military. That duality implies that you dedicate a portion of your planning to the details of leaving the military and that can be difficult.

  • The essentials include ensuring that your healthcare (to include your entry into the VA system), dental care, financial portfolio, and administrative portfolio, are all up to date.
  • I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to attend your transition briefings, even if you can only get to a few of them.
  • It is also important to remember that you don’t take along your administrative assistants or aide-de-camps with you when you retire. It will be up to you to track your calendar and your paperwork.
  • The greatest cultural challenges are varied, but those that jump out include the change in pace after the military and the fact that you will very likely not be the boss of everyone and everything in your new role.
  • If you truly exit the military/government culture, there will be differences in how business is conducted, how meetings are held, how emails are addressed and answered, how people communicate with each other, and how work is done.
  • You may enter into a setting in which the pace is much slower than you are used to or an organizational setting that flies at warp speed. One way or the other, the pace will not be like the one you kept in the military.
  • Organizational behaviors are different and it will take time to grow accustomed to those differences. One of the challenges for those of us who are used to leading is that not all opportunities in the civilian world require you to jump out in front to lead. It is our natural tendency to take charge, so learning how to assess the situation and ease into the team is a cultural challenge.
  • It is equally important to understand and take into account that your family is also transitioning with you. They will each have different reactions to transition. In my case, my high school aged children were sad that I was going to leave the military because they had grown accustomed to the lifestyle and to moving to exciting places every one to two years. That was their identity and it was changing. I needed to take that into consideration, so I tried very hard to welcome their opinions into the decision-making process. Giving choices to family members helped ease their transition. I am happy to report that both are thriving post-military and that they still keep in contact with their military friends through social media. We make it part of our vacation plans to meet up with military friends whenever possible.

VSB: In addition to teaching, I understand you are also serving as a mentor and coach to veterans and military spouses pursuing advanced degrees at Vanderbilt University. Are there common misperceptions you encounter in your work with members of the military community?

Wolgast: I have not found that veterans or military members have many misperceptions about going back to school. From my experience, I have found that current and former members of the military and family members have very distinct plans for their future education and understand the commitment required. When they contact me about Vanderbilt, they demonstrate a focused desire to attend Nursing school and to become an Advanced Practice Nurse. Some have questions about how their GI Bill benefits apply at Vanderbilt and how our Yellow Ribbon program works. Some also want to discuss previous college work and how that may transition to academic credit at Vanderbilt. Most also inquire about admissions requirements and program start dates. Some simply want to know that there is someone at Vanderbilt that understands what they have gone through and can be a resource for them during school.

As a veteran myself, I am honored and pleased to serve in this role. We tailored our Vanderbilt School of Nursing website ( ) for our prospective veteran and military students; we want to attract this talented group to Vanderbilt. Without exception, students with a military background excel in our programs and are tremendous ambassadors for Vanderbilt after graduation.

VSB: Any other advice you’d like to offer to senior military leaders approaching career transition?

Wolgast: If at all possible, please try to take time off after you retire to reconnect with your family, travel, attend to your health and wellness, rediscover your hobbies, and simply have unscheduled time. I was not able to take time off due to my circumstances, but would have certainly liked that operational pause.

It is a reality that, when you slow down after the military, you then realize just how hard you have been working. Your mind, body, and spirit need rest and relaxation. Once you have that time away from the structure and high op-tempo, you will notice that your calendar will begin to fill up again with your new life choices. With rest, I am certain you will have the energy, strength and desire to climb that next mountain.


Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt University in 2011, Dr. Wolgast served 26 years on active duty as a U.S. Army Nurse. She earned the Bronze Star for combat experience as Deputy Commander and Chief Nurse in Afghanistan. Dr. Wolgast also deployed in support of Hurricane Katrina relief operations, serving as a Hospital Commander and as Senior Nurse Executive of the U.S. Army Medical Command.

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