Posted on Nov 5, 2015
COL Mikel Burroughs
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GREAT Article for Transition - lost, but brought back from 2015 - check it out!

Can Leaving the military and moving onto civilian life be an incredibly exciting time?

Check out this article RP Members - Yes another article "pasted and copied" for those of you transitioning active duty members or you brand new veterans!

Some great advice and a military spouses perspective - hope it provides some good information! If you can't handle the copy and paste then move on!

SOLE-JUR! Most soldiers will find this haranguing, annoying scream from their commanding officer a thorn in their side. They’ve heard it day after day, year after year...for as long as they can remember. Leaving the military and moving on to civilian life is an incredibly exciting time. However, along with the excitement of new beginnings comes a huge dose of anxiety and uncertainty. Why? A soldier’s life is dictated to him or her while on active duty. They have regimens for everything including what time to get up in the morning, what time to start physical training, how many miles to run…the list goes on. It can be overwhelming to think about venturing out on your own, creating a résumé, building a professional network, and going through the arduous process of applying to, and interviewing for, jobs. It’s no wonder this is a serious bone of contention for many troops!

This piece is incredibly important to me, as I’ve been working with transitioning soldiers for years...and I’m married to a veteran. My hope is to shed light on the process, discuss some of the challenges, and provide not only a checklist for those men and women who are preparing to separate, but to hear firsthand from two brave men who gallantly fought and defended our country. They are: Sean Bode (U.S. Army) and Carl Soares, (U.S. Navy / U.S. Coast Guard.) I appreciate these gentlemen for their service and bravery…and for assisting me with this important career development piece that will no doubt benefit many transitioning soldiers.

The first stages of assimilation

Every soldier’s story is uniquely his or hers. Some were entrenched in bloody combat, others were not. Regardless, the psychological and emotional affects can take years to resolve -- if ever. When a soldier first returns home, it’s incredibly important to let him or her decompress. They may not feel like talking about “it” right now…or ever. Be respectful of their situation; offer your love, compassion and patience. Assimilation isn’t achieved overnight. It may take months -- even years. The process is different for everyone. Taking time to breathe, let go, and simply be is incredibly important. It’s great to have goals, but during the first few months, soldiers should simply work on getting back into some type of new routine. Your old normal will not be your new normal. It will take time and determination to realize and embrace your new life.

[“The transition for me was nerve wracking but I still had one foot in the door with the military as I currently serve in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. Having a good understanding of what you want, having a plan and executing it will make the transition much easier. Also, receiving the right support from groups and organizations will assist with the transition. The brotherhood and being part of an organization is an adjustment, but staying busy, going to school and utilizing the GI Bill helps because there is an end goal in sight. This is what I did -- and I had good friends and family support. In addition, I had my dogs. They were a critical component to my adjustment process.”] -- Carl Soares

The career planning process:

1) Realize that change is necessary and inevitable. The sooner you come to terms with this, the easier things will flow for you.

2) Reevaluate yourself and decide what you want to do. This is critically important -- self-awareness and self-evaluation!

3) Identify a list of options; don’t just settle on one industry. Be open to a variety of jobs and career fields.

4) Do your research; obtain information and fully understand the fields you’re interested in. Talk to individuals who work in the industries you're considering; network -- and seek advice from your mentors.

5) Assess your current education. Do you need to pursue additional degrees and/or certifications? This may be the perfect time to augment your résumé!

The importance of doing work you love

Working makes us feel useful and important. During tough times, it can serve as a diversion, and often helps us maintain our sanity. Simply working so that you can pay the bills each month isn’t very satisfying. Doing something you love, which you are truly passionate about, means everything. At the end of the day, you feel a sense of satisfaction and that, perhaps, you’ve made a small difference in the world. Those are the best careers to have. Understand that you may be forced to accept one or more positions before you reach your intended destination. It’s also about getting back to civilian life, meeting and networking with people, and applying the life and survival skills and experiences learned in the military to everyday situations. Returning to work and a daily routine are a huge part of the healing process. Granted, it takes some longer than others. It’s important not to compare yourself to others. Your experience is uniquely yours.

[“My advice to veterans would be to learn the KSE acronym: Knowledge, Strategy and Execute. Use this in making decisions about what you want to do in your career and life. Never stop learning...and keep up with technology. Understand cutting edge information about networking, mentorships -- and be social! Even for introverts…break out of your shell and get out there! Be practical in your decision-making process. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the first job, just learn from it and build on it. Become so good at interviewing that you enjoy it. Also, understand that just because you’re a veteran, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified. Sometimes you need to begin a new career path.”] -- Carl Soares

Shattered expectations and creating new goals

Leaving the military and trying to establish a civilian career is difficult and often demoralizing for some soldiers. Many leave with a lofty title and expect that their transition will naturally lead them to a parallel position. This isn’t always the case. You may have to accept one or more jobs until you find a new career that you find satisfying and fulfilling. There may be part-time positions, contract or freelance work, or positions that you feel don’t really allow you to shine and utilize your arsenal of skills.

There are many factors to consider...including your family members. What will my husband or wife do if we move? Where will our kids go to school? What is the job market like? Are there ample job opportunities? What about our aging parents? Can I afford the cost of living? Evaluate first.

New frontiers -- and striking out

[“When I decided to leave Active Duty it was not because of my dream within the civilian sector, it was purely because I did not want to raise my family in a cycle where I was home for a year, gone for a year, home for a year, gone...rinse and repeat with no end in sight (back in 2008.) The one thing I did to prepare was to engage a junior military officer recruiting company. The great benefit there was they taught me about how to translate my military experience, polished my professional look, honed my story for an interview and refined my résumé. For all of the great things they helped with, what I did not do was take the time to reflect on my "why". What did I love doing and how could I find a career doing it? Instead, I went with an operations and leadership role that paid the right salary and I was done. I found a job, not a profession and left that company three years later.”] -- Sean Bode

The often complicated transition process

When you’re first released, do you have a clear idea of what you want to do? Have you taken the time to assess your needs and the needs of your family members? Do you feel prepared to create a résumé, utilize your GI bill, create a LinkedIn account, network online and in groups, and interview for jobs? For those who are dealing with PTSD, depression, anxiety, nightmares, mental, emotional and physical scars -- and disabilities, the entire process can seem completely overwhelming.

[“Figure out what you want to do. As a soldier you are serving something bigger than yourself, and if you jump into a job you don't care about, the other burdens will be harder to deal with. Don't jump straight into work, if possible. I did not use my terminal leave but started a week after getting out in my civilian role, but that left little room for a family transition.”] -- Sean Bode

Dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of combat

As difficult as it may be for some individuals, reaching out for help is crucial, and in some cases, it may mean the difference between life and death. It’s a frightening, sensitive topic that we don’t necessarily wish to address, but it’s there. Many troops spiral into a dark, haunting depression that can mean feeling suicidal -- or even acting on those feelings. I cannot stress enough how incredibly important is it to reach out. Call a suicide hotline and vent your frustration, walk out your front door and go talk to a neighbor, distract yourself with a video game...anything to snap yourself out of that immediate wretched feeling. There are programs and services in place to help veterans. Please reach out and ask for help! People really do want to assist you. You will need support with so many things -- not only assimilation, but learning new software, updated mobile phones, career counseling and finding a new job, perhaps purchasing your first home -- the list goes on. VA benefits are there for a reason and you should make good use of the resources available to you and your family.

[“Coming home, it was hard to transition…and realize that crowds or traffic were not a physical threat. I struggled with depression and PTSD. I finally took medical leave from work to go through intense counseling and deal with the demons of war.”] -- Sean Bode

A military wife’s perspective

As a military wife, I had first-hand experience with the transition process. When my husband and I first met, he was a completely different person than he is today. It took him a long time to shift gears and go from that constant “amped up” state of mind to a more relaxed way of interacting. Soldiers are always on high alert. They are surrounded by explosives, gunfire, screaming, and other noises that have an impact on your psyche because it’s constantly around you -- day and night. Returning to civilian life poses challenges because there are many triggers that can cause flashbacks...including noisy traffic, bustling crowds, and the pop! pop! pop! of fireworks. Adjusting your mental state is critical to a successful transition. This is tricky and you must give yourself permission to adjust -- taking all the time you need. Develop a constant, reliable support system comprised not only of family members and friends, but mentors, physicians, psychiatrists, and peers.

Military to Civilian Transition Checklist:

1) Do you know what you want to pursue and why you want to pursue it?

2) Do you have a solid transition plan? Are you being realistic? If you have a plan, do you also have a 'Plan B'? It’s important to hope for the best and be prepared in the event 'Plan A' doesn’t work out immediately.

3) Do you have a professional résumé? If so, have you had several individuals review it for content, grammar and flow? Do you have several versions for different industries?

4) Do you have a civilian presence on LinkedIn with a professional photo of yourself in business attire -- collared shirt and tie? *Note: no selfies, no sunglasses, no fatigues, no uniforms -- and no guns, please! This is part of adapting!

5) Are you utilizing your GI Bill while you’re searching for employment?

6) Are you networking professionally, not just online via social media, but in person in specialty-specific groups, for example, project management or human resources?

7) Are you a lifelong learner? Are you continuing to educate yourself and enhance your skills? Use your transition time to earn certifications, example: Project Management, Supply Chain, and Human Resources Professional.

8) Have you practiced your interviewing skills to become more comfortable with your responses?

9) Have you considered joining professional groups, such as Toastmasters, to refine your professional speaking skills and increase your confidence?

10) Have you posted your professional résumé on Monster.com, Indeed.com, CareerPark.com, CareerBuilder.com, MilitaryHire.com -- and many others?

11) Are you monitoring your digital footprint? Make sure there aren't photos or comments on the web that you don't want anyone to see. Clean up your act now! Make sure your online presence is squeaky clean!

12) Do you have professional business cards to carry with you and distribute at impromptu events?

13) Do you have professional mentors to help guide you with your professional endeavors? (*Tip: It’s a good idea to have several mentors from a variety of professions for maximum impact.)

14) Be aware of your military job codes and titles -- most employers won’t understand them. You must list job titles and responsibilities that explain what you did, and were responsible for. If they don't understand what you did, they may not talk to you or hire you. It's your responsibility to make sure your jobs, responsibilities, and achievements are universally understandable.

15) Are you pursuing volunteer opportunities, apprenticeships or internships to gain knowledge and expand your current skills set?

Final thoughts

We all experience pain, sadness and loss in different ways. The important thing is to take small steps that lead to big successes. Even if it means only doing a couple of seemingly minor tasks during the course of the day -- just get it done. Nobody is judging you…make sure you’re not judging yourself. Take as much time as you need, but continue to propel yourself forward. A soldier who makes a concerted effort to transition back into civilian living should be successful, even if it seems like it's taking forever. Surround yourself with positive people who love and care about you, get help when necessary, and allow the transition to develop with as much patience and persistence as possible. Know in your heart how much everything you did...and everything you sacrificed...means to us, as a country. Please be kind to yourself. You matter.

Crawling out of the foxhole and
walking into the boardroom isn't
easy for any soldier.
Edited 7 mo ago
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Responses: 57
SSG Audwin Scott
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More like a scary and fearful time, especially if you spent most of your adult life in service.
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COL Mikel Burroughs
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Lt Col John (Jack) Christensen
Lt Col John (Jack) Christensen
>1 y
Absolutely! I'd put it up there with such life experiences such as first day of high school/college, first marriage, first home, etc. You're excited but not really sure what to expect. Over time you figure it out and realize all the apprehension was for nothing.
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MSG Pat Colby
27
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When I decided to retire it was a 2 year process.
~ I bought a fixer-upper house with the intention of flipping it. That plan worked. I walked out of the closing with a check for $34,000. (Just prior to the housing bubble bust.)
~ I purchased a used school bus and gutted most of the seats. It served as my personal storage unit and DITY Household goods transportation plan. Worked GREAT!
~ Did not want to be anywhere near a large city. Also wanted an acreage for critters.
~ Did some soul searching and realized we wanted to be close enough to Family that we could make visits but far enough away to make them think twice about just showing up for supper.
~ A year out, I took a 4 day road trip through Southern Minnesota and grabbed every newspaper and real estate brochure I could get my hands on. Also intensely checked out some preferred areas.
~ Happened upon an old Farm that was owned by a prior Army guy. During purchase negotiations I contacted him directly several times and smoozed over a Contract for Deed. A sizable down payment (the sale of my flip-house plus several Grand more) and $500 a month payments for 10 years.
~ My decision to fully retire at the age of 42 was made when I received notification of my 50% VA rating. That check along with my pension doesn't allow me to eat Steak every night, but I don't want to eat Steak every night.

I now base my life actions by the Seasons. I raise and personally butcher my own chickens and hogs every year. I have a garden the size of a city lot. We have 12 laying hens. I built a 20'x70' fully functional greenhouse. In the Summer I work on outdoor projects. In the Winter I work on indoor projects. My property value has increased by about 40% in the past 14 years due to all of the improvements. I'm surrounded by corn and bean fields and my nearest neighbor is a 1/4 mile away. I can (and have) dance naked on my barn roof because FREEDOM!

My biggest setback was not under my control when my Wife was diagnosed with cancer. Financially it set us back by 20 years. I had to sell a lot of stuff and re-finance (READ: Re-Purchase) my farm. She's fine now.

The only down side to my retirement is that I have no Peer groups. I don't mean that in an arrogant way. There aren't a lot of retired Military in the area. Many have served a few years but the handful of actual Military retirees are aged well in their 80's. I have no "sounding boards" nor can I offer support to anyone. (Besides internet groups like RP) I'm too young to hang out at the Senior Center in town. I'm too old to do the bar scene. I have many acquaintances but few true friends in the area. I think that's the biggest thing people retiring don't plan for. Replacing your Military Social Groups is tough as hell.
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PO3 Craig Phillips
PO3 Craig Phillips
7 mo
SSG Herman Bauman - I hope that you did not scare any of the livestock, SSG Bauman.
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SSG Herman Bauman
SSG Herman Bauman
7 mo
PO3 Craig Phillips - No livestock around but I do have a groundhog you can have.
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PO3 Craig Phillips
PO3 Craig Phillips
7 mo
SSG Herman Bauman - Well I hope he wasn't offended by your fruit of the looms. ;-0)
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SFC Kenneth G.
SFC Kenneth G.
7 mo
Life is not always easy after service, as you found. It sounds like you got what you were looking for and you improved upon it. Sorry about your wife's condition but I hope you and she will get through it OK. God Bless you and thank you for your service.
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LTC Jason Mackay
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Edited >1 y ago
I final-outed earlier to day, like the Hollow Men by TS Elliot, it ends with a whimper.
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LTC Jason Mackay
LTC Jason Mackay
>1 y
COL Mikel Burroughs - yes, staying in the Springs.
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COL Mikel Burroughs
COL Mikel Burroughs
>1 y
LTC Jason Mackay If your not opposed to the idea, I'll look you up when I get into town!
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Sgt Joy Bedford
Sgt Joy Bedford
7 mo
LTC Mackay, you are always welcome to visit/join the New Heisley American Legion Post #38 in Fountain Colorado. We are always looking for new members. If you ride a motorcycle we have a fantastic American Legion Riders program that we are very proud of. Come on down, and check us out, I will personally buy you a beer. I am the Service Officer for ALP#38, and my husband is the Chaplain.
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LTC Jason Mackay
LTC Jason Mackay
7 mo
Sgt Joy Bedford I appreciate the invite. I found Scottish American Military Society SAMS Post 1806 and am very happy there. LTC John Russell
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