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 “Military.com,” 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 Military.com, 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 Monster.com 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  ( www.afcea.org )      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.


1 comment

  1. Curt Haggard

    I ‘Transitioned’ 11 years ago, and part of my ‘Pre-Deployment Training’ was developing / publishing a web site — CPOs: Careers and the Transition to the Private Sector —

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