One of the concepts I struggled mightily with for years after leaving ‘the service’ was the concept of transition itself. I thought there was a finish line I’d cross someday, a threshold to step across to become a civilian again. After all, I was out of the service right.
But there isn’t.
We will forever be Veterans. We’re not active duty, or reservists, or guardsmen, or civilians. We’ll always be Veterans. Our DNA is changed. So are our thought patterns, our heart patterns, and our language.
Civilians can spot many of us from several feet away. Maybe it’s our posture; our gestures. The knife hand looks intimidating, especially when coupled with feet shoulder width apart, out at 45 degrees, erect spine, and chest out. You take up space, you look authoritative; it can be imposing.
Or maybe it’s our language, and often times it is. If retired, our introduction is “Hi, I’m MSgt. So-and-so, Service Branch retired”. If served, it might simply be ‘mikes’ for minutes, maybe a phonetic drop here or there, or what we think is a well-placed acronym/title, like SNCOIC, or CO, or Chief. Civilians don’t know what any of that means, so they’re unimpressed at best, and confused at worst.
However, what they do immediately know is that they probably can’t relate to you. So many won’t even try. Or can’t try; they don’t know where to start. So, the drapes drop down in their minds, and your act is over before the show (your interview), even began.
So how do we correct this?
One proven way is to learn, speak, and validate your command of a language they understand.
Step 1. Figure out what you want to do post-service. Do you want to be a business analyst, identifying problems and potential solutions? How about a project manager, delivering solutions to problems identified. Or, how about the finance guy or gal funding the organization’s project solutions? Or the human resource professional that fills all of these roles with qualified talent. Find the correlates between what you’ve done, what you want to do, and which profession or industry ‘vertical’ that career sits in.
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Step 2. Step 1 helps you identify which professional body of knowledge, or BOK, you need to learn to translate your military experience into and learn to speak in. It’s easy for a civilian to relate to you when you sound like a business analyst, or a project manager, or a financial manager, or a human resources professional. Those people are running around all over their organization! You’re familiar to them now!
3. Step 2 helps you determine which professional certification or credential you should go after. Obtaining the BOK-associated credential validates your resume full of the familiar language. The hiring manager knows the certifying governing body looked at your experience before you tested. Since a third party verified your background and experience, you must be whatever they see on the paper! You are familiar to them now!
Once you are familiar to them, doors can fling open so hard they fly off their hinges! The civilian hiring manager knows exactly where to place accountants! They know exactly how much to pay a business analyst! They understand exactly what value a project manager delivers and how it helps the company! They know which professional development track to put you on as a newly hired financial manager!
You’re still you, the Veteran; but now you’re stealth! Now you’re like them too! They ‘recognize’ you and can relate to you! Mission Transition accomplished. At least from the professional perspective.
Eric Wright is a two-service, two-era Military Veteran; Co-Founder and CEO of Vets2PM; an experienced, credentialed project manager and mentor; and an entertaining instructor/public speaker on project management, PMI’s PMP and CAPM exams, and on project manager development. He helps Military Veterans become Project Managers through inspiration, training, preparation, and presentation to the PM hiring community. For more information, please visit www.vets2pm.com.
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