Thursday, January 13, 2011

Transitioning Out of the Military: 5 Steps to Success

Step 5 – Prepare for Culture Shock

The military culture is unique and very different than civilian culture. No matter how long you have served in the military, you are bound to experience a period of adjustment when leaving the military to join the civilian workforce. Keep in mind, leaving the military is much more than just changing jobs; it is a lifestyle change. Add in relocation to a new state, and you may soon find yourself overwhelmed. There are several key areas of which to beware.

The move from a regimented environment to one that is unstructured. In the military you are conditioned to put military first, the team second, and yourself last. However, in the civilian workplace there is a focus on individuality. You may be surprised by the lack of teamwork and camaraderie. You may find it difficult to connect with coworkers whose work ethic differs from your standards. Be friendly, enthusiastic and positive with your new co-workers.

Lack of a sense of community. The military is a close-knit community. A military base is often a self-contained city, much like small-town America. In the military you are involved with and aware of the personal lives of your team. This will not be the case in the civilian world, where many people tend to keep their personal and work life separate. Without your community, or support system to rely on, you may find your sense of identity shaken. Keep in contact with friends to keep yourself grounded.

Increased personal freedom. For the duration of your military career you have been told what to wear, how to behave, and where and when to report. The lack of direction and standard operating procedure in the civilian world can be disconcerting to a veteran. You must learn to think about yourself and focus on what you want and need to be satisfied in your career.

As a veteran transitioning into working in the civilian world, there are a whole new set of rules you must learn. Remember, less than 1% of the population has served in the military. Chances are, your new coworkers and supervisor has no idea what military life is like. Demonstrate your willingness to adapt and be flexible to new ideas. Perhaps the most important thing for a successful military transition is something veterans do very well, keep a positive, can-do attitude, be persistent, and don’t give up.

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