Before I hung up my uniform and retired from the Army, I was once asked about the new civilian clothing policy that was implemented at Army Futures Command based on our interaction and co-location with the academic community. I answered that in or out of uniform we are all Soldiers. The officers and NCOs that needed to be in uniform and use rank to get things done are the same leaders that struggle in the commercial world. I still find that statement true to this day. It is the culture that you create or are raised in that will make transition from military to civilian life easy or difficult. My retirement from the Army was one of the scariest moments of my life as I left a “job” I’d known for almost 21 years to begin a new journey finding out where I fit in the world. Would I be as successful without having my identity as a Soldier? Would I fit within a corporate culture or always be the oddball within the group? Would I even be able to find a job? These were all very real fears that I had and struggled with during my transition.
As I began to submit applications, I consistently found myself being the runner up for several senior level positions. Often, feedback was that I was the person that their organization needed but not the stereotypical employee they were looking for. Whether that was an honest answer or just an easy way of keeping my ego intact, I did notice that many of the seniors getting hired were well known to the companies beforehand. The biggest lesson I learned during this stage of my transition was the importance of a network. Once I stopped going it alone and began reaching out to all my former friends, colleagues and supervisors, my interview opportunities doubled. In this world, I found, companies are more willing to take a chance on someone with a referral backing them than a good solid resume. The resume gets you in the door but having someone speak to your past performance is critical.
When the offers started to flow into my email and the recruiting calls started, I learned my second lesson of corporate America: Not all companies are the same! I quickly learned to conduct my own interviews and vet my potential employers as much as they were vetting me. Understanding their culture and value system, and how it aligns with yours is something that impacts your long-term happiness within these corporate organizations. I was lucky enough to have friends and mentors within the company that matched for me, Definitive Logic. DL offered many of the things that make what I’m doing now a career instead of a job. They offered me a purpose (continue to modernize and support the Army’s Financial Management Community), the ability to make real change (through the modernization of DoD Systems and processes), and lastly an ethical belief system that mirrored my own.
At DL, there is no cap on leave; instead, there is a message that the company will take care of you in your time of need, in return, you honor your commitments, coordinate work transfer, and meet deadlines. DL does not have a set daily calendar: you are expected to bill your hours as they are worked and deliver a product on time that is high quality. Finally! An organization that values individuals as well as their contribution to the corporate goal.
Everyone has different goals post Retirement/ETS from the military. Some want a paycheck and a cushy job; others want opportunity and purpose. As the great Simon Sinek says in his TED Talks, “you have to find your why”. For me I found an organization that treats me like an adult, that gives me purpose and the ability to continue to support DoD, and who hires long-term employees rather than “seat-fillers”.
Whatever your purpose or desire, make sure you do a few things before retirement:
- Build your network and update contact information, reach out, stay in touch.
- Know your why. Know what you are looking for in a company and do research.
- Maintain your Army discipline and drive but find a new identity.
You are no longer Sergeant Major ___. I was blessed that the stars aligned, and I found my way to Definitive Logic. I did none of the retirement steps noted above, yet I did build strong relationships and developed my brand while in service. For my friends and colleagues still serving and nearing retirement, make sure you plan your exit gracefully. I hope you all find an organization that supports your why the way Definitive Logic supports mine.
NSDQ, Send Me, Forge the Future!!