Military Transition – The Big Lifestyle Adjustment
After twenty or more years of service life – including numerous duty stations at different locations around the country and around the world – you may be eager to settle back in your home town and start a new career. Even if you’ve done just one tour, you’ve been gone a while. The problem is your home town has changed and so have you. Even if you’ve gotten back from time to time or even been stationed nearby it’s not going to be the same place you left. Chances are the job you seek or area of work you are most suited for may not align with what’s available in your home town. It could happen, but more than likely it won’t. Try not to force the issue of insisting on relocating to your home town only to face a problem in your career path.
In other words, be prepared to relocate one more time wherever your next career leads. Many military members have excellent logistics experience and find lucrative careers with large companies where discipline, leadership and troubleshooting are prized by employers. Large distribution facilities, warehouse operations and logistics companies are located around the county. There may even be one near your home town. Other career paths offer similar situations. Technology is a very robust job area for military folks and many superior companies are looking for your expertise. They may be located in parts of the country that you hadn’t even considered. Many military members elect to pursue federal employment, taking advantage of their credit for years of service, military preference in applying and security clearance status, which can be a real door-opener. Many of these jobs are located near Washington, D.C. but there are thousands of opportunities nationwide and worldwide.
So focus on the job you want, find the ideal company or agency and then decide if it’s a place you’d care to live for some time. You are in control now for a change. Make the most of this opportunity for career, lifestyle and location.
While you are adjusting to civilian life you need to adjust your attitude towards rank and position. It’s no longer necessary (and it can be awkward) to address everyone as “sir” and “ma’am”. At the same time if you are accustomed to people saluting you, standing at attention in your presence and all the associated etiquette, you need to put that aside as well. Keep the respectful attitude but ditch the protocol. Also be prepared to have to justify your decisions as never before. Not only your superiors but your subordinates as well are going to want to understand your decisions and justify them. While there will still be situations where “an order is an order” especially in emergency or life-threatening areas, be prepared to be sensitive to need-to-know and like-to-know situations and react to each appropriately.
Prepare for your new wardrobe as well. Don’t overdress for your job (and make everyone else look bad) but you want to consider the phrase, “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” That may mean a long-sleeve, button-down shirt when your peers are in short-sleeves. It may mean a more business-like tie if shirt and tie is the dress code. For women, it can be more meaningful to observe the culture and attire of the peer group and the promotion-level group and act accordingly in dress and demeanor. In the military it’s easy: put on the uniform of the day and keep an eye out for stripes, bars and stars. In civilian life it’s more subtle. You can hardly ever go wrong dressing up a bit more than the group but you can definitely go wrong showing up your boss on the one hand or being too casual on the other. Keep your eyes open, look and act like you belong; be the reliable, respectful leader you’ve always been and you’ll do just fine.