Thursday, January 26, 2012

Military to Civilian Transition Culture Shock

The transition from a military career to a civilian career can be a very eye-opening experience. This is especially the case when you went straight from high school into the military, served a 20+ year career, and are now facing the task of adapting to the civilian workforce.

You may have noticed from my other posts that I am a big proponent of the motto "Be Prepared." I am a co-leader of two girl scout troops after all! The same applies to the military to civilian transition. If you know, in advance, some of the challenges you may face, you can tackle them much easier. Here are a few I have compiled:

  • In the military, a supervisor is involved in all aspects of his team's life - both work and personal. This is very different from the private sector. Supervisors in the private sector do not get involved with their employee's personal life.

  • For obvious reasons, fitness is a high priority in the military. That is not the case for many civilian workers. It is often hard for a former military service member to relate to someone who is disinterested and unwilling to take care of their health and fitness.

  • Most every task that is assigned in the military comes with very detailed instructions and guidelines. Many veterans become frustrated with the lack of step-by-step instructions and the overall lack of structure they may face. In fact, the company is quite structured - just not to the same level as the military.

  • Economic conditions do not often affect the military the way they do the civilian world. In the military you don't often have to worry about profit margins and your company going out of business. You know that you will have a job every week in the military. Unfortunately, in the private sector, the economy plays a large role in a company's success and often causes reductions in force.

  • In the military you wear military provided uniforms and are provided clear-cut expectations of what you must wear to work every day. When you enter the civilian work force, the expense of purchasing a work wardrobe is quite costly. However, don't forget about the stress of figuring out what is appropriate and expected of you to wear to work every day.

  • Don't forget the small things that you will have to change such as the way you state the time and the way you write your dates. Chances are, if you don't conform the civilian way of telling time, the first time you tell your team to return from lunch at 1300 on 1 October they may look at you like you are crazy.

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