Military Leaders

Take Time Now To Think About Your Transition

As a military leader, your primary focus while on active duty is to share your vision, lead your forces, and put your full energy into achieving the goals of your military service. While you are aware that, one day, your military service will come to an end, your inclination may be to think about transition “when the time comes.”  You may believe that you cannot think seriously about transition while you are leading others and still focused on advancement within the service.

While these are commonly held assumptions, there is good reason to begin to think about and prepare for transition at least a couple of years before your potential separation from service. Attending a service-provided transition course will give you the very basics of resume preparation, interviewing strategies and appropriate attire in the civilian workforce. However, transition to civilian life will require a much broader consideration of goals and desires for both you and your spouse as you consider next steps after leaving military service.

It’s About More Than a Solid Resume

There are many components to the transition from military to civilian life, far beyond a new resume void of military acronyms. Among the issues you will want to consider are questions such as these:


  1. What are your priorities in terms of work/life balance, financial needs, desired geographic location today? What will those priorities be five years from now?
  2. Do you plan to fully retire, work as a consultant, start your own business or become an employee?
  3. Have you and your spouse talked about your shared and individual personal aspirations and professional goals? Are you both on the same page about what’s next for you as individuals and as a couple?
  4. If you plan to seek employment after your separation from military service, how will you know where you will best find your next fit – in the private sector, in government, or in the nonprofit sector?
  5. What are the pros and cons of using a headhunter for your job search?
  6. What are your greatest strengths and the things you most enjoy doing in your current job?
  7. Where can you best apply those strengths when you take off the uniform?  How do you identify where you would best fit?


Transition is Not One Size Fits All

Transition will be different for everyone. Some are naturally more resilient and more willing to ask for input and guidance from others. Others view asking for help as a sign of weakness and may struggle internally with the sudden loss of identity when removing the military uniform and the recognition and instant credibility that comes with it.  Transition will also impact military spouses, whether or not they were active participants in military life.

The longer you have been on active duty, the greater the chance for a stressful transition as you leave your pay grade behind and restart your life as a civilian. The good news is that you are not alone at this key crossroads of your personal and professional life.  Talk with former military colleagues who have completed their own transitions either to a new career or into full retirement. They will be glad to share their own experiences. Ask them what worked well for them or what they wish they would have known at the start of their own transitions. Talk with your spouse or close friends as you make this journey.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shifting gears over the course of your transition. You may initially plan to fully retire from the workforce to spend every day on the golf course and then determine, after a month, that you miss being a member of the team in the workplace. Alternatively, you may think initially that you will seek out and find the one job that you will keep for the remainder of your professional life. It may take some time to find the right fit for you and the first pick may or may not be the one you keep. After having been with one organization for so long – your military service – it may surprise you to find that you might be moving from one company or government agency to another until “the shoe fits.”


Transition Takes Time

Remember that transition is not an overnight thing…it will take time to plan and experience; don’t be discouraged by the bumps along the way and prepare to be flexible and ready to adapt to a new culture. Transition is the doorway to new personal and professional opportunities, if you are well- prepared to grasp them.  Through this process, you will develop a new sense of purpose and apply your experience and skill set to gain a new identity, routine and place to

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