Why are you getting out?

“Why are you getting out?”  This has got to be the number one question people have for transitioning officers… whether it’s your chain of command, peers, or potential employers, inquiring minds want to know!

When talking to your boss, I’d recommend honesty, with social tact.  With your peers, you can be more candid.  But with potential employers, tread carefully.  Don’t take it as an opportunity to slam the military.  Express gratitude for the opportunities and what you’ve learned, but focus on why a post-military career truly interests you, will fulfill you, and meets your needs better than the military could.

Officers are leaving the military at a high rate for a number of reasons.  In one poll, 82% of veterans said they left the military because of “frustration with military bureaucracy.”  But there are even more stated reasons to list…

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The Value of Your Military Experience

The other day, I had a friend tell me on Facebook that it was exciting that I was going civilian, but that he felt like he didn’t have any valuable “civilian-world” skills other than leadership.  I couldn’t believe he was selling himself so short; he’d attended a service academy, one of the country’s premier leadership institutions, and served successfully as an Army officer.  If he wanted to get out, I’m sure he’d succeed!

I think it’s common for veterans to sell themselves short in this regard.  It’s hard to get civilians with no military experience to relate to us, so we assume it will be hard for us to relate to a civilian career.  After all this time in uniform, a business suit seems uncomfortable in more ways than one.  But while the jargon/environment may be different, the skills we’ve acquired during our military service are actually invaluable.

Some of the things we have to offer:

  • grassroots leadership
  • ability to make decisions under pressure
  • ability to adapt
  • ability to prioritize
  • risk management skills
  • discipline and work ethic
  • integrity
  • understand technology in the workplace
  • cultural inclusion and teamwork
  • ability to delegate responsibility
  • confidence
  • real-world experience
  • security clearances

It seems like Corporate America has already figured out that the military is a great place to find leadership and experience when they need to fill job openings… give yourself the credit you deserve!  If you want to be a leader in the military, you can do it.  If you want to be a leader in the corporate world, you can do that too.

Articles I read:

“Battle-tested: From soldier to business leader”, Fortune Magazine, March 2010

“Military vets: MBA job recruiter’s dream candidates?”, Fortune Magazine, July 2011

“How Military Veterans Are Finding Success in Small Business”, Entrepreneur, February 2012

“A vanishing breed: CEOs seasoned by military combat”, USA Today, January 2005

“Do Officers Make the Best CEOs?”, Military.com

“The Value of Veterans”, Military.com

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’m my own worst critic.  I beat myself up more than anyone else ever could.  On self-assessments, this is easy to see; I’m the one giving myself C’s when my bosses are giving me A’s.  Is it a lack of self-confidence?  Or do I not understand the questions?

Recently, it became a requirement in the Army for officers to complete a Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback module before an evaluation.  (You need to be in the Army with an AKO e-mail and CAC capabilities to complete the module.)  Within the MSAF, you do a self-assessment of your performance based on different categories, then ask a required number of Superiors, Peers, and Subordinates to complete the same assessment of you.  The categories are:

  • Prepare Self to Lead
  • Overall Leadership
  • Lead Others
  • Lead by Example
  • Get Results
  • Extend Influence Beyond Chain of Command
  • Develops Leaders
  • Create a Positive Environment
  • Communicate

After everyone has completed the assessment, your results are compiled, and you are able to see how your self-assessment compares to the assessment of others.  This is an incredibly valuable tool for leaders, whether you plan to stay in the Army or not.  This information will help you with your career for life.

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