07 May 2014

3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life | RallyPoint.com

Since RallyPoint.com's launch in 2012, I've learned about the experiences that countless military personnel had during their transition to civilian careers and life outside the military bubble.  One critical theme I'm sure to explore in each interaction is -- what mistakes do you think you made (and why), and what would you have done differently if you could go back?

I've begun noticing patterns in the 'mistakes' veterans say they made, which compels me to highlight these issues for the larger RallyPoint community -- because mistakes should be learned from, not repeated.

In this multi-part blog series, I'll dig deep into each 'mistake' and recommend best practices to ensure you're on the right track when you're planning your transition out of the military.

Mistake #1: Having an "it will all take care of itself" attitude

Do many employers like the idea of hiring a military veteran?  Yes, we know this well.  Initiatives for helping veterans span a wide, disparate, and sometimes confusing spectrum: from the Boston Red Sox's Home Base Program (sorry, Yankees fans) to the White House's own Joining Forces Initiative, which effectively aggregates other aggregators of career resources for veterans.

In Spring 2014, the Boston Red Sox announced their Home Base Program

These programs do have admirable intentions: trying to help transitioning veterans understand civilian companies, and trying to help civilian companies understand veterans.  "It is simply unacceptable," said First Lady Michelle Obama in a statement to Army Times, "that men and women who serve this country so bravely abroad often struggle to find a good job once they return home. Our veterans are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees around."

Companies of all sizes across the US, including those with global footprints, have taken notice -- whether for tax incentive reasons, or out of genuine enthusiasm for hiring the skills sets that some veterans bring to the table.  Regardless of motive, this is generally positive for service members seeking civilian careers as the military rapidly downsizes.

But does this make you a shoe-in for the type of civilian career you may be interested in?  No, absolutely not.  This is called being foolish and reckless, and we all learned better than that in the military.  This logic is as flawed as thinking, "Well, since I deployed to Iraq, I should be able to secure a position in any military unit that I want."  Wrong.  Not everyone can get assigned to a unit in Hawaii.  Not every veteran can get a civilian job at the company they want.  Good news: we can help!

Fact: In many cases, military cultural norms are different than the norms you experience in civilian organizations. Expect it, embrace it, and keep a positive attitude.

Embrace these differences for what they are, and conquer the challenges they create for you.  In the military, you're expected to arrive early for scheduled events, show up to PT ready to push yourself hard, maintain a professional appearance, and so much more.  These are all part of military culture, and they've become so natural to you that doing them is second nature.  In fact, you scoff at the idea that organizations can be successful if they don't espouse these basic principles.

But for many civilian industries, these principles are not at all core to the organization's culture.  And suddenly finding yourself in these circumstances can be troubling and frustrating, even for former service members who were high performers and succeeded under a lot of pressure in the military.  The clip below shows you one such example.  Much respect to this veteran for being open and honest.

Fact: Being a military veteran isn't a guarantee of any level of success as a civilian.  Keep an attitude of hard work and commitment.

To achieve your goals in the military, you had to take ownership-- REAL ownership -- of your career progression.  For many successful service members, this means finding the right mentors, working hard to prepare for promotion boards and evaluations, training long hours to become a master of your specialty, and staying committed to overall excellence as a professional.

You succeeded in the military because you lived these professional traits, not because you could simply recite them from memory.  You will succeed as a civilian if you live these same professional traits and others like them.  You will NOT succeed as a civilian simply due to the fact that you are a veteran, have 'veteran status' written next to your name on an application, or can say all the right things in job interviews.

Fact: Veterans who have already become successful in civilian life aren't just any resource...they may be your BEST resource.

In the military, when you were getting ready to attend Airborne School (for example), you were well served to talk with your peers or seniors who had already successfully completed the school, and do your own reading on how to prepare and succeed while there.  Searching for the right civilian career for you is no different!

Let's say that you're interested in working in the Internet industry -- so, for companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.  The best way to learn real, actionable info about these companies -- and best practices for getting hired there -- is to connect with the veterans who are ALREADY working there.

Military veterans in the Internet industry

Referencing the image shown above, if you want to learn more about working at Amazon, you should connect with COL(R) David Lee, CDR(R) John Morrison, and MAJ(R) Kevin Bates.  These are just three of many of Amazon's military veterans on RallyPoint.  These should be your points of contact, as they understand you and relate to you well since you all share the common bond of military values and service.

It's your future.  As your fellow veterans, we're proud of you and honor your military service.  But be sure to keep the right proactive attitude, and be mindful to not make the same mistakes described above.

Tune in next week for Mistake #2 in this multi-part blog series.  Until then, get engaged and start connecting with successful veterans on the military's largest professional network.


About RallyPoint
RallyPoint is a venture-backed professional social network for current and former members of the US military. Forbes calls RallyPoint 'LinkedIn on steroids for the military.' The company has raised $6.6M in funding since 2012 and is rapidly consolidating one of the hardest-to-penetrate verticals in the US: the Department of Defense.

RallyPoint was founded by two military veterans who first met at a combat outpost near Baghdad, Iraq and later reunited at Harvard Business School. RallyPoint first launched in Nov 2012, the same year it won runner-up at the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition and won top prize at MassChallenge. RallyPoint initially grew out of the Harvard Innovation Lab and is now headquartered in Watertown, MA.

About the author
Aaron Kletzing, one of RallyPoint’s founders, wrote this piece.  Check out Aaron's military veteran profile on RallyPoint, and then invite him to connect with you!

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