Starting a new career

One of the things about transitioning from the military is that you cross a very bright line from being in uniform to being out of uniform.  One day you are lacing up your combat boots and saluting the flag while the next you are suddenly faced with deciding, on your own, what shoes you are going to wear after sleeping in well past reveille.

It can be a bit jolting. One of the most jarring bits is realizing that you have crossed the line into the civilian world, and that there is no going back. With that realization comes the need to start your next career, and that is what we are going to be talking about for the next few posts.

Before you can find a job or a new career you need to determine where you want to go.  For a lot of reasons it isn’t as easy as it seems!  Where do you even start?

You start by getting out four sheets of paper.

Take two of those sheets and set them aside- they are for the next post.  The two that remain are today’s focus. A real challenge that transitioning military types face is not just what they want to do in the future, but what are they suited for?  What is really a good career choice for the way ahead?

It isn’t that people don’t have an idea of what it is they would like to do next, but they don’t know how to get there.  How do they start a new and rewarding career? We’ll go down that road together, starting with your two blank pages. At the top of the first sheet write, in big capital letters:


Now start listing things that you are good at.  Not just work, but hobbies, sports, or anything else that you (or others) feel that are your strengths.  Maybe you are a great aircraft mechanic.  A terrific infantryman.  A woodworking hobbyist.  A mountain biker.  Whatever it is that you are good at needs to go on the list.

Now pick up the second sheet.  On this one, write in big capital letters:


This one is more difficult than the things that you are good at because it requires a certain amount of reflection and honesty about your abilities and talents.  Once you begin, though, it is surprising how quickly it is populated.  Maybe your penmanship is terrible (like mine!).  Maybe you can’t type.  Really take a look at yourself; are you indecisive?  Maybe a little too decisive?  Are you overly aggressive or passive?  Are you an introvert who finds cocktail parties excruciating?  Afraid of public speaking?

Take the lists with you for a day or so.  Don’t expect to write everything down at one sitting, but instead jot down bullets as they come to you.

Then sleep on it.  When you get up the next day take a look at the lists again over your coffee and breakfast.  I guarantee that you will have a few more thing to jot down.

I’ll give you a couple of days to work on your lists.  Then we’ll get to work on your other two sheets of paper…..

Good luck and be honest with yourself – especially on the second list!  It will pay off in the future.  I promise!