Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go!

I thought a lot about closing up shop on this blog, since I rarely post anymore… the truth is, I’ve been happily caught up in my new job, without the time or energy to devote to writing.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead, I’m working, exploring my new town, working out, and spending more time with my family.  I’ve finally achieved the work-life balance (yes, that old cliche term!) that I’ve craved for years.  I have read entire books, just for fun.  I’ve started to get into better shape.  I’ve made new friends.  And it’s awesome!

So where does this leave From Camo to Corporate?  I’m not sure. Most of my peers that have left the military recently are in the same boat as me… one of them is even working at the same company!  They’re all busy starting new lives, and for the most part they’re really kicking some butt.  I have seen one or two who didn’t choose the right fit for work; those who took more time to prepare for their exit have had the best results.  But everyone’s personal lives are golden, and none of us have any regrets about leaving active duty.

I get weekly calls and e-mails from other officers considering leaving the military.  They ask me questions about health care, salary, moving, and more…  I’m not expert, I’ve just been through it, and I try to get them to see all of the pros and cons.  But in the end, it’s a personal decision.  Every individual will have a different story.

I do have a few ideas of things to write about…  signing up for health care is something I did recently, and I have my first doctor’s appointment next month!    So maybe I’ll post from time to time.  But at a minimum, this page will be here as a resource, hopefully something that people will find and use!

My First Days at Work

I’ve taken quite a bit of time off writing this blog!  Being in the midst of moving, taking some time off to spend with family, and starting a civilian career, it’s been an absolute whirlwind.  But now that I’ve been working for a little while now (and loving every minute of it!) I thought I’d compare/contrast my old vs. new workplace just a little.  Obviously every workplace is a little different, so my transition was mostly from a staff officer to a corporate workplace perspective.

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Civilian Job:

Hours:  There’s no PT, so you basically work from 8 am to 5 pm.  Sometimes more, sometimes less… it’s about getting your work done, not staying a certain amount of time.

Attire:  It is so weird to pick out an outfit every day and not throw on a uniform!  Seriously!  And since I have a casual workplace, I can wear jeans if I want to, or dress up/down depending on who I’m meeting with.  It’s really cool, actually… so long as I have an idea of what I want to wear.

Coworkers:  Everyone legitimately wants to help!  It’s an unselfish environment.  It’s not about rank structure, it’s about working together to achieve company goals.

Bosses:  It’s not a command presence.  First name basis, total accessibility, and we’re allowed a level of autonomy I’ve never experience before.  It’s really nice, actually… you always know where you stand.

Time Off:  Weekends don’t count against you for vacation, there are flex holidays, and you can work from home when you’re sick… without a note from the doctor or trip to ‘sick call’.  Amen!

Meetings:  We still have a lot of meetings, but it isn’t “death by PowerPoint” like I used to experience.  It’s an open forum, participative, and anyone can speak their opinion freely.

Needless to say, this is all a huge contrast to what I worked in before, and I can already tell this is much more “me” than the military ever was.  I really have no regrets about my choice to transition, and the only thing I miss about the military is my friends.  I’ve found Corporate America has the real mentorship I’ve craved, an opportunity to make an impact and participate even as someone new, and a more happy, balanced lifestyle.

There will be times I work late into the night, or feel stressed, or miss certain things about my military experience.  But I anticipate it will be nostalgia more than anything, not something I really want to go back to.

Writing Your Resume

A non-military friend recently asked me about writing a good resume.  He had seen that I’d accepted a job, and wanted my advice.  Well, I’m not an expert.  In fact, my resume was carefully proofread and edited by my recruiting firm.  I did most of the work, but in the end the final product was a team effort.

Szarkiewicz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That said, I CAN share what I learned from the experience, especially if you’re starting from scratch!

Resume Tips:

  • Think in terms of “achievements”.  These are your bullets underneath each job description.  The achievements are the meat of your resume, so focus on what you’ve accomplished at work.
  • Quantify your accomplishments, and provide the “so what?” answers.  You put out a fire.  So what?  Maybe it was just a little trashcan fire.  You put out a fire that nearly destroyed $2M in property and ensured the safety of over a dozen people who were successfully evacuated from the building.  BAM!  Don’t just list what you were responsible for, list what you DID, and how you made an impact.
  • Focus on your work experience, not your high school and college accomplishments.  If you’re right out of college, this is different, but for us military folks, you need to focus on your leadership and experience working.  You can touch on high school/college, especially if it establishes a track record of success and pursuing challenges and leadership positions.  But remember that work experience is more valuable than almost any degree!
  • Spellcheck.  Seems like a no-brainer, but you WILL find mistakes.  Have 2-3 people read it for you, such as your parent, spouse, career-minded friend.

My Success Story

Yes, you read that right…  I’ve found a job!  So since I’ve been sharing other folks’ success stories, I decided it was finally time to share mine.

I served for five years in the Army, including two tours to Iraq.  I entered service bright-eyed and optimistic, but soon found myself disappointed.  While I made some lasting friendships, it always felt like a job for me, not something I wanted to do for any longer than I had to.  I was frustrated that no matter how hard I worked, I was promoted based on time in service, at the same rate as guys who failed to perform.  I didn’t feel valued, and I never had a choice in where I went or what I did.  So when the opportunity came to tender my resignation, I did so without hesitation.

That said, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I took the GMAT, figuring I could get my MBA to make myself a bit more ‘relevant’ in the business world.  But then a recruiting company called me after my friend gave them my number, and I started to research business careers.  I liked the development program and interview preparation the recruiter offered, and soon had a professional resume built.  Discovering that I didn’t need an MBA to get “post-MBA” positions, I decided to pursue a business career.

I attended a career conference, interviewing with a dozen companies.  I was so impressed by the quality of the companies and positions I was considered for!  I couldn’t have been more pleased by the results.  I was offered a number of followups, and received multiple offers.  In the end, I chose a company that offered me a position higher than what I’d initially interviewed for!  My Army leadership and experience had really helped me shine, and I’m ready to make the leap to the civilian world.  I credit the recruiter for linking me up with such great opportunities, but also my own diligent preparation and research for getting me the job.

My advice?  Figure out what you want to do, and don’t compromise your non-negotiables.  I learned to pursue your dream from Brian, to figure out what I wanted in a job from a friend, and the value of recruiting firms from Troy.  Basically, all of the lessons I’ve been writing about in this blog were directly taken from my experience as I went through this process.

I will continue to write here, about my move, first days on the job, and more lessons learned along the way.  I have lots of friends asking questions, and I’ll be sure to answer them here.  So keep on visiting, and I’ll keep on writing!

Thanks for being along for the ride.

This Week’s Reads (including @Magoosh #GRE!)

In addition to this week’s online reads, our friends at Magoosh have just released a FREE eBook to help you prepare for the GRE!  Check it out; it’s a great resource to introduce you to the exam.

“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves — to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”

– Stewart B. Johnson –

A cost of war: Soaring disability benefits for veterans – CNN Money

Want a promotion? Make friends at work – Fortune

Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love – Harvard Business Review

Do My Savings Have to Last Until I’m 100? – Money

11 Things Hiring Managers Won’t Tell You – LearnVest

8 E-mail Etiquette Rules You Must Follow as a Job Seeker – Grindstone

Don’t panic. You’re not going to fail.

The other day, as I was nervously preparing for interviews, I had a friend give me some career advice that really upset me.  In her opinion, some of the career fields I was considering did not fit my personality traits and qualities.  I was truly taken aback!

My friend is very successful, careerwise and financially.  She is a few years older than me, a diehard, analytical, competitive person.  I’ve always looked to her for advice, especially career advice, and I’d never received this kind of feedback from her before.

But then I calmed down, and asked her to clarify her message.  I realized that from her viewpoint, I wasn’t thinking about where my strengths were, but listening to everyone (recruiters, employers, even family) tell me how I’d be good at something I didn’t know anything about.  She was worried I would choose a career based on that feedback, from people who may not know me well or have my best interests at heart.  From the “Yes” Men.

“You’re going about it backwards,” she said, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you would be good at.  That’s how people end up in the wrong job. Look at you, good and bad, and take those traits, the ones you cannot change, and make sure they line up in your career.”  (Sounds like Brian’s advice, huh?)

She named off a few careers that she would personally be terrible at, which made me laugh.  She had a point… while she could succeed at those jobs, she would hate and resent them.  I’d been building myself up with the feedback others were giving me, not really taking into account what I wanted.

I told her I found this whole transition prospect a bit terrifying.  It was then that she gave me the best advice I’ve received in a while.

“What’s terrifying about it?” she said, “It’s not like you are going to fail. You will succeed at whatever you choose – it’s whether you are happy in what you do that makes all the difference.”

I’ve received a ton of unsolicited advice from people about my career transition.  And I take it all with a grain of salt, even from people I love.  But I listen.  I listen because other people have experience that I don’t, good and bad.  Then I see what good I can glean from it to help me along the way.

I’m starting job interviews, and I’m nervous.  I’ve been told to answer questions in different ways, to look at jobs in different fields, that I’d be good at this/that/the other.   But I know I’m not going to fail.  I don’t need to be afraid.  I have the ability to adapt and overcome, to be successful at whatever I choose.  I just need to choose what will make me happy, what I want to succeed at, what I believe I will be good at.  I’m not going to take a job because someone else says I’ll be good at it.  I’m going to take a job that I WANT.  I’m going to take a job that INSPIRES me.  I’m going to take a job that makes me EXCITED.

Wish me luck!