Design your exit strategy, or should I say your transition strategy, from the military to the civilian world. This is advice from someone who has discovered that the transition from the military to entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging and difficult journeys one can take, especially if there is lack of research, lack of knowledge and just a misplaced cocky attitude.
An exit plan should be addressed as early as possible, because transitioning from a military career to the civilian world is not as easy as most people imagine. For example, I left the military in 1983 as a young Airborne Ranger Infantry Captain and thought that I would be welcomed with open arms and have the civilian world in the palm of my hands.
There were many opportunities that I chose not to take. One of which was to enter the shadow world of the State Department and some of its subsidiary companies, i.e. their semi-civilian corporations. I did not reach out to the Military Industrial Sector, nor did I choose to go back home to become a fireman or a police officer. These were all good choices and opportunities that I did not pursue. Keep in mind that once you close these doors, there are no second chances.
Instead I went to a high-powered New York City recruiter for one of the largest head hunter companies of the time. He, in turn, looked at my resume and said that Infantry Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Acting Company Commander, and Brigade Headquarters’ Commandant for an Infantry Brigade were all very impressive milestones that I had achieved. Then he suggested that I join one of the high-powered companies in the medical, biotech, or financial fields and become a sales trainee. He had high hopes that with my drive, I would succeed. I, on the other hand, was hoping to be a Senior Manager or a Company CEO. He smiled and said, “You are not a retiring General with connections. You need to start at the bottom and work your way up.”
The military taught me to set goals, design a road map and work at it until it was achieved. The road has been colorful at best. I left behind a steady paycheck, retirement options, potential retirement benefits, health care benefits, etc. Just to keep it simple: there are no vacations or sick days and you are working 24/7 if you want to succeed.
I, instead, took the road less traveled. The road lead me to Contract Security Management and ultimately real estate for the past 20+ years in the Boston, MA and the Greater Los Angeles, CA real estate market. The competition is high and the opportunities are higher, but you can never take your eye off the goal.
This is universal to all businesses and particularly to the sales field. With true passion, perseverance, and focus, you will succeed. When you interview for a position, make sure that you get this point across and at the same time remember the interview is a two way street. Get to know the organization’s climate and see if it is a good fit for you. Do not focus on just getting the job, but rather focus on whether or not you can stay the course for years to come.
If this idea is too challenging, then you might consider staying the course and serving until retirement. Enjoy the camaraderie that is not as prevalent in the civilian world as it is in the military. Either way, best wishes for success in all your endeavors!
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