"Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you." --Alex Haley
If you are a transitioning military member, there are three significant hurdles you will face while transitioning from the military into the private sector. While there may be others, successfully facing these will help with all the rest. As I reflect back over my 15 years in corporate America, these three areas rise to the top and must be addressed and understood so that your entry into the private sector has a positive and successful outcome.
The Trust Factor. Trust is the foundation for all things where people are concerned. I can't think of anything you will encounter in life that does not have some link to another human being. The ability to trust leaders, co-workers, direct reports, etc. is paramount to achieving goals. Without the trust factor at play, you'll spend a great deal of time looking over your shoulder instead of doing the actual job you were hired to do. I see this key tenet as one of the most critical aspects in any organization. I may be critical here, however, if you are a veteran or a transitioning military member, do not make the mistake of assuming everyone has your best interest at heart in the corporate world. Watch your "6" at all times. Learn key methods to gain and build trust within your organization or workplace. There's a great deal of information on how to do that -- just Google; How to Gain Trust In The Workplace.
Cultural Differences. Diversity is a fact of life. That said it's no surprise at how our world has changed in the last 10-15 years. As a member of any branch of military service, the very nature of our job is to interact, influence and perhaps to interpret the actions of individuals and groups whose cultural context may differ from our own. In order to carry out a mission or operation, members of the military must have the ability to adapt in various cross-cultural environments. Additionally, it is imperative that men and women serving in the military embrace opportunities to train and develop skill-sets to gain greater cultural awareness in areas such as; ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. Cross-cultural competence is a valuable asset to bring from the military to a private sector environment.
Communication Gaps. Coming from a world where "you speak when spoken to" will no longer be your new norm outside the gate. While in uniform, a best practice for me was simply keeping my mouth shut (which was hard to do) and blending in with all the other skinhead recruits in fatigues. The communication style in the military is very direct and to the point. There was never a doubt in my mind what someone wanted while in uniform--enlisted or as an officer. Transparency was the norm. Worrying about hurting someone's feelings was just the opposite...not normal.
With that said one of the most significant challenges for anyone exiting the military is effective communication--verbal and nonverbal. In the private sector, you may run across someone who is "thin-skinned." Generally, this refers to someone who is sensitive and a direct, open and honest approach may seem a bit hard. How these types of individuals interpret your communication style can have negative results for you. Just as cross-cultural competence is important, effective communications is paramount to building positive and strong relationships. Learn how people like to receive information by listening and watching how they communicate with others. Or, if you learn that someone is sensitive, invite them to lunch and ask them how best to communicate with them so that the end result is always a positive one.
Tackle these three hurdles early on in your transition process and you'll be amazed at how much easier it will be to face any other challenges.
To my brothers and sisters who have served or are now serving in the United States Armed Services--you know more than you think you do. These are just a few tips from someone who made a successful and positive transition!
U.S. Army (Ret.) LTC John W. Phillips
John W. Phillips, LTC (Ret.) has had a distinguished career in both military and civilian service. He is a retired U.S. Army Field Artillery officer and Comptroller with 20+ years of service in Corps Artillery, Division Artillery, Army Headquarters and Forces Command.
After retiring from the military in 1999, LTC Phillips immediately started a new career with The Coca-Cola Company and, currently, is a mid-level finance executive. In addition to his position, he is also the founder and chairman of The Coca-Cola Company annual Veterans Day program and Co-founder and President of The Coca-Cola Company Military Veterans Business Resource Group.
LTC Phillips is the author of Boots to Loafers: Finding Your New True North. For more information, please visit www.bootstoloafers.com
This book is a true guide for what you need to know, not what an ACAP or TAP instructor has in their script. Every military service member will experience three phases as he moves from a military career to a life outside the gate: transition, transformation, and integration. The foundation of "Boots" is built upon these three concepts. They provide the structure for the advice and guidelines I want to convey to you. (Read More at Amazon)
"Boots to Loafers"
by John W. Phillips, LTC
Paperback: 246 pages
Pu9blished February 13, 2014