Frontline Podcast: The transition from military to civilian life – it’s not always easy

Transition is always a difficult situation in anything you do whether it’s from the military to civilian life or  even in the military from one job posting to another.

Eventually everyone has to exit the military. Sometimes sooner then expected. Before it actually happens, anxiety levels start to go up.

You start looking at what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing for your entire career and it’s like, “oh, you know I’m going to go back into the civilian life where I came from initially,” but it’s different. 20 years ago it was different from what I am doing now. Those are always some anxiety points that you might have to get past.

When it comes to transition, your rank in the military does not matter

Infantry and combat arms type folks have just as difficult a time transitioning out as that of a supply clerk or admin specialist or others.

You’ve been doing something a certain way, you’ve developed a culture throughout an entire military career that is not like that when you step out of your uniform. It’s different. So that anxiety, some people take it better than others. That’s just a fact of life but everybody goes through some level of anxiety and everybody handles it in a different way – in their own way.

Preparing for transition

Everybody is different, but, let me tell you what I did. When I was getting close to exit from active duty I had about 15 years of active duty under my belt and I was going leave the military. We were in a draw down, this was after the 1st Gulf War. I wanted to get into the reserves to try and finish out my 20 years. But beyond that I knew I was going to be getting out going back into civilian life. Meaning that I’d have to be getting a job so I could start creating some revenue so that I can live and eat, you know take care of my family. What I started doing and what I did was took an inventory of what I wanted to do. What I needed to do so I could earn some revenues and be able to afford a house and all the things that’s required. I had to figure out what I needed to do to feed myself but I also wanted to find out what I wanted to do. What kind of things drove me. What are my desires and what I liked to do.

So for me I just kind of had to figure it out. It’s not something that you’re taught. I’m kind of a basic kind of guy so I got a piece of paper starting writing down things like dreams and goals that I wanted to achieve. I knew I wanted to finish school. I wanted to go back to school. I had been to quite a few college and university courses throughout my military career and a little here and a little bit everywhere I was stationed. Like many solders and airmen, and sailors, you go to college where ever you’re stationed and whatever you could pick up you pick up. Well, doing an inventory of what I had over the 15 years of active duty time, I had mixed mash of all kinds of different courses and none of them really fit together other than a quite a few things that I liked doing.

Leadership, I liked doing leadership type courses. I liked studying history. So, I started putting those things together and I tried to start building a puzzle of what I knew and what my skill sets were. That’s what I started doing and that helped me identify what I needed to do and what I wanted to do. What I needed to do was earn some revenue for my family and a good living so I could afford my family and make sure I had a house, a roof, and all that sort of stuff.

I knew what I was capable of do thee because I was transitioning to the family business that I owned with my family. That was the easy part. The hard part was saying what I really wanted to do with my life. What’s the meaning of my life and what I want to do with it. That was the hard part. I mean I have all these dreams and aspirations and stuff, really I’ve never really put anything on paper. So, that’s the exercise I went through putting down things that I wanted to do to make a difference not just for my family but a difference in society. That’s what I want to do.

Survival mode – how to integrate from the military lifestyle into a civilian job

Think of field expediency – You’re given a mission when you’re assigned somewhere. You’re given certain parameters, these are the tasks that you have to do or these are the things that have to do while you do this assignment. But really they don’t go down into the weeds and tell you how to do it. You are expected to lead and you are expected to identify ways to do the work. No one is going to be there micromanaging you. That’s just not the way the military is set up. The military’s got a mission, that’s all you do there. Take that hill. They’re not going to tell how to take the hill, you need to go and do it. That works on the outside too.

You need to first do an inventory of all your skill sets and when you’re getting out of the military unless you have a situation where you are going to walk into a job like I did or walk into a business like I did, you got to do like everybody else and find a job. But ultimately, you need to know what your skill sets are so you can find a job.

You got to feed yourself and your family. So, you may have to take a job really don’t want right now but that’s just a placeholder until you actually set yourself up, get your head above the ground, look around and identify what is it you really want to do.

That’s how I did it to work for me. But, I tell you sometimes if you don’t take an inventory of what your skill sets are, how to do something it may be difficult for you.

Believe in coaches and mentors

You have to actively seek out somebody that you want to emulate or a type of person you want to emulate. Mentor-ship and identifying somebody that you would like to learn form is like any other relationship. You have to introduce yourself, you have to have some kind of chemistry between you and that person. You really want to identify what interest they have, what skills that they have that they can in part that to you. And second, are they willing to do so.

Typically, folks that you want to learn from probably pretty successful and don’t have a lot of extra time. So, identifying how you can get in there and find that mentor is a critical step. When you develop a relationship like that it’s a quid pro quo. I mean you have to give some to get some. So, you’ve got to be able to bring value to that relationship as well.

Stay focused

It’s not easy. You don’t just walk in here and everything is peachy king on Monday. You show up there and you get a paycheck.

Everything has it’s own special task that you have to do to be successful. In running a business it doesn’t matter what business, if you’re going to be a dog walker or you’re going to be window washer or you’re going to be a high-rise building builder, everything has it’s specific requirements and steps. This is how you do it. So, you just need to learn those things. You just got to go out and do it relying on your skill sets that you have.

The most important thing is having the drive and energy to go out and do it. I mean you’re just going to have to want to do it. Then, you’re going to make a mistake, you’re going to lose. There’s going to be times when you’re going to lose a lot. There’s going to be times you’re going to be winning a lot.

Roll with the punches – I guess is the best way to say it.

What do you think about the transition period? Leave a comment below.