For senior military members, getting through transition is like running an obstacle course of naysayers. Slugging through all those big, fat noncommissioned officers is absolutely necessary to get the right job, in the right place, at the right time.
In my work as a career coach for transitioning military, I've noticed at least five naysayers senior military especially must overcome:
You the Naysayer
Your first naysayer is so close, you can smell it. Your brain evolved to despise, abhor and generally avoid change. Your neurons are up there firing together, warning you that leaving the military now makes no sense.
You are going to quit a job you know and love so well at the very peak of your success, just because it is expected? What are you, a lemming? I often see the effect of this naysayer in senior military personnel, who confess to having weak interest in the job market, cannot find time in their schedules to work on it and are studiously ignoring their looming retirement date.
When it comes to the job hunt, your stakeholders are the people whose lives are directly affected by your transition choices. For senior military in their 40s and 50s, this is a prodigious group: not only husbands and wives, but ex-husbands and ex-wives, grown children, semi-grown children still on your cell-phone plan, teens with friends, sweet little children with big sad eyes, mortgage brokers, elderly dogs, $35 cats with $10,000 vet bills and, increasingly, aging parents.
They all have their needs, and they firmly believe that after all the times they have accommodated your career, it is their turn now. It is enough to make any job hunter tremble.
While I can understand accommodating your brain and your stakeholders (because pretty much all your happiness will come from them), worrying about what an imaginary "they" might say about your next job is just silly.
Your peers, friends, co-workers and classmates are probably nice people with lots of suggestions about what you should do. That said, they do not know what is best for you, and they will not have to live with the consequences of your decisions.
Let your they-sayers go -- and get on with it.
Something about transition makes you remember every dumb thing you ever did, every boss you ever had that didn't like you and every job skill you did not learn while you were out there operating in the post 9/11 world.
For most of the senior military members I talk to, these ghost naysayers do not represent serious, life-altering or war-related events. These are the ghosts of the little things. I usually notice this as a fleeting look of doubt on the faces of job hunters.
Luckily, that is what good coaching is all about -- getting past niggling self-doubt and on to creating a more accurate, relevant, business proposition.
Now that you have finessed all those other naysayers, you get to meet with the real naysayers. These actual naysayers are hiring managers who think you are awesome (and feel genuinely grateful for your service) but don't know what you would do for their company.
While these seem like the hardest group to overcome, this is where the greatest amount of improvement can occur for experienced senior military with the right kind of effort, information and feedback.
When you are transitioning as a senior military member, you know you have to skillfully overcome each of these naysayers in a different way, depending on your particular circumstances. No tricky phrases or one-size-fits-all solutions will work.
That is why I am a big proponent of coaching for transitioning military. Find a professional coach with experience with transitioning military. Look into the free mentoring calls on Veterati, America's mentoring network for the military. (Full disclosure: I'm a Veterati volunteer mentor.)
There are a lot of naysayers in the world. Get the people who say yes on your side.
Jacey Eckhart is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level master classes through our Veteran Job Pool and on her website, seniormilitarytransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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