When service members leave the military, there is an adjustment process we like to call “transition.” This harmless-sounding period is actually one of the worst times of many veterans’ lives. It’s hard to be ripped out of one community and then have to figure out where to go, what to do, who to do it with, etc.
There are predictable problems that stick out to many veterans. These often emerge because of the differences between military and civilian values, language, and organizational practices. Here are three of the worst:
Adjusting to ambiguous careers
Private, Private First Class, and so on. 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant, Captain, and so on. Put in the time, do your job well, and you can expect to make it to the next rank. This holds true for most people in the military up to the lower end of the senior ranks. In many jobs and industries, however, this isn’t the case. It’s a lot less clear how you continue to progress up the company organizational chart. It takes time for a veteran to figure out this is even a problem, let alone start to figure out a solution.
Adjusting to obvious selfishness
More than any other organization, the military exemplifies servant leadership. There are formal and informal barriers to people behaving like jerks. You aren’t supposed to be focused only on yourself; you should be taking care of your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and/or Marines. Things change out in the private sector, unfortunately. You’ll find a lot more folks who are willing to step on everyone else if it helps them get ahead.
Adjusting to a money-first mindset
The military loves its missions. Everything is about the mission, the goal, the objective. A close second is troop welfare (see above), but everything is measured by the unit’s ability to perform its basic job. There are plenty of civilian companies where this is also true, but definitely not the majority of them. Mostly people are punching a clock to get a paycheck, and they will do whatever it takes to make even more cash.
Leaving the military forces people to learn some hard lessons. Things work very differently in the civilian sector. Those of us who are already out need to make sure that the landing is as soft as possible for the next generation. What sort of advice do you have for people who are getting out?
About the author
William Treseder, Military1 Advisor, writes about well-designed approaches to national security issues ranging from technology to veteran careers. He co-founded BMNT Partners, where he helps start-ups grow by solving government problems from advanced manufacturing to veteran employment. William enlisted in the Marines in 2001 and served until 2011, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. A Rising Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution where he studies 21st century conservatism, William also contributes to other national outlets such as Foreign Policy, TIME.com, and Breaking Defense.
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