It’s been almost five years since I left active duty and I’m still wrapping my head around the differences between military and civilian life. For the most part, I had a soft landing for the first few years. Most of the jobs I’ve had, post-Army, have been with various defense contractors. Essentially, I remained in military environments because the nature of the contracts had me working side by side with service members and other veterans daily. Within the last year, I started working for a large company in the private sector and am really starting to notice the differences between the military and the civilian workplace. One thing that has become apparent is the difference in culture between the military and private companies. My advice is to take company culture into consideration when looking for that post-military dream job.

What is Company Culture?

Every company has a culture. It’s the personality of the organization, and includes the people, environment and goals of the company. In most cases, senior level management drives the direction of a company’s culture but everything from the company’s employees to the core mission can have an impact. What you should be looking for is a company culture that matches your own personality. As we enter into a new decade, we’re seeing more variations of company cultures across most industries.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Some companies have a very relaxed or flat structure, where employees are empowered to make a difference and engage with senior leadership. You won’t find people referring to each other as Mr. or Mrs. in these workplaces, but instead using first names when working together. Everyone is usually approachable and open to collaboration. Increasingly, more organizations are adopting this culture because workplace demographics are changing. Baby Boomers are retiring, most of Generation X is generally cool enough to be flexible with the times and Millennials, along with Generation Z, are seeking companies that don’t follow more traditional ways of conducting business. Even the physical workspaces at these companies are becoming more collaborative with wide open offices instead of “cubicle cities.” The use of technologies like video-calling applications and teleconferencing software also plays into the collaborative nature of a more relaxed company culture. Remote work options, on-site food trucks and flexible work schedules don’t hurt either. Don’t assume that it’s all play at these companies, because these employees definitely perform effectively and efficiently. They just may be wearing jeans and sneakers when they do it.




Some Traditions Remain

If you search hard enough, you’ll find some companies are not so quick to make culture changes. In these organizations, younger employees are still outnumbered or the nature of the company’s work doesn’t allow for changes to a more casual environment. Suits and blouses are still part of the preferred dress code and managers are more reluctant to include subordinates in the decision-making process. Collaboration is usually not as important in these conventional workplaces and more formal business practices are intertwined in the day-to-day operations. However, one element that is slowly, but surely making its way into these companies is the increased use of newer technologies. This is mainly due to younger generations climbing the corporate ladder and entering senior levels of influence.

Location-based Culture

While not as well-known, it’s not completely unheard for a company to have multiple cultures, depending on location. My company has two offices in Texas and one in New York, each with its own distinct culture. While the company, as a whole, is fairly relaxed, some locations are more casual than others. This could be due to the fact that most of the very senior executives of my company sit in New York, while more mid-to-high level personnel sit in Texas. Yet and still, all locations are working together for the common goal of our company’s success.

The Choice Is Yours

So, as you hone in on those organizations that look appealing for that post-military dream job, be sure to thoroughly research company culture. You may not fit in well with a more traditional environment, which is not always dependent on age. Maybe you’re the type of person who wants to steer clear of a company that requires business attire because you’ve been wearing the same uniform for years. Perhaps you’re seeking a company culture where your team has an ongoing Nerf War with another group in the office. There are several factors to consider when figuring out what company culture best fits your personality, but take stock in knowing that regardless of your preferred company culture, there’s a place out there for you.



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