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Jan 24

LEADERSHIP IN TRANSITION

Change in leadership can feel quite abrupt and jarring, for both incoming and outgoing leaders. Working up until the last moment, outgoing leaders are often fueled by a sense of responsibility to give 150% until they walk out the door, a natural inclination to hang on to what may have been the best job of their military career, and by the desire to stave off the unknown of what comes next.

The presidential transition may be far grander in impact and scope, yet it reminds me of the stark contrast that so many military leaders face the day after the pomp and circumstance of the change in command ceremony takes place and the uniform comes off. The disconnect is palpable.

Transition does not happen overnight, nor is it completed when you are hired for your first civilian job. Finding your place, both personally and professionally, once you are out of uniform, is likely to take some time.

Those who weather these major life transitions best are committed to think about change well before it happens. Transition does not happen overnight, nor is it completed when you are hired for your first civilian job. Finding your place, both personally and professionally, once you are out of uniform, is likely to take some time.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind, whether your transition is still three years away or if you are already separated from military service:

Don’t let the length of the process derail you; it is quite common, even for the most senior leaders in transition, to take a few detours before you land where you’d like to be.

Don’t be shocked that it may take you six – 18 months to land a job, not because you are unqualified, but because a) employers don’t know you b) you are not marketing yourself because you think your reputation and leadership speak for themselves c) you are still speaking in terms more relevant to the military community rather than articulating how your talents meet the specific needs of each civilian employer d) you are sitting at home online more than you are out of the house building your network, one person at a time and/or; e) the more senior the position you are seeking, the longer it can take to land the job.

Don’t hesitate to ask someone else for help or guidance. That might be a former colleague, a career consultant, your spouse, or a medical professional. While the onus remains on you to figure out what comes next, there are many who have either walked in your shoes or understand the unique challenges of this major transition who can provide insight and guidance, if you are willing to ask.

Don’t be cavalier during the networking process. No one owes you a job and you will need to demonstrate your market value, no matter your last title or former rank. Remember to treat each person you meet with humility and respect, regardless of their title or position within a company or organization. This begins with looking them in the eye as they speak with you, holding their business card out and looking at it to acknowledge it was handed to you and taking the time to say and remember their name, rather than immediately cramming the card into your wallet or pocket as your mind races off to who you will meet next.

No one owes you a job and you will need to demonstrate your market value, no matter your last title or former rank.

Do start as early as possible to begin to wrap your head around life after the military. While employers may not want to hear from you two years out, it is never too early to begin talking with your family, former service colleagues and other mentors about possible career pathways.

Do commit to stepping outside your comfort zone in the civilian community. If your only conversations each day are with people in the service, it is time to begin growing a broader network and finding mentors willing and able to provide some guidance navigating new terrain.

Do resolve to keep learning. As you consider possible second career pathways, recognize that, in spite of your tremendous military experience, civilian employers may be in need of someone who understands profit and loss statements or has other credentials which you may not currently have, but could potentially pursue before you leave active duty.

Do make LinkedIn your friend in an active, but strategic way. Recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, recruiters and employers are, nonetheless, making active use of this social media tool and if you are not present, they will have a harder time finding you. To be clear, this is not about cutting and pasting your resume into LinkedIn and waiting for something to happen. It is a powerful tool but requires a more proactive and thoughtful strategy if you want to stand out from the crowd.

 

 

 

 

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