PreVeteran—the new military transition paradigm of self-transformation and early alignment.

Jason C. Anderson

In our previous blog we discussed the old military transition paradigm and how that program has not been effective because it occurs in your career descent, when there is a lot going on. What this means is that you, like many others, are not thinking about or planning for your transition until you’ve decided to not extend your service contract (for enlisted) or submitted your separation or retirement paperwork (for officers). At this point, it’s late in the game.

After hundreds of conversations and formal interviews with transitioning military members, I discovered that the tendency to wait on planning until you are in career descent is pretty universal. What is even more interesting are their responses to why they are waiting. These responses typically revolve around three central themes.

  1. I am very busy with my life and don’t have the time.
  2. My boss won’t let me take TAP right now, so what else is there to do?
  3. I will plan during my 2–3 months of terminal leave after I’ve left.

Does this sound like a great way to move ahead? Or does this sound like a few of the causal factors that lead to the challenging two-year period following military transition we’ve written about in previous articles?

As we’ve discussed before, whether you’ve been in four years or forty years, leaving the military is a huge life transition that will very predictably put you on an emotional roller coaster of thoughts and emotions as you go through the 5 stages within the “Emotional Cycle of Change.”

The problem is not that you will or won’t go through this emotional cycle of change—you will. The problem is that within the existing military transition program paradigm and the subsequent associated mindset, you won’t give yourself enough time to address and overcome the stages you’ll face. Especially given the fact that, when you are in career descent, you have three times the normal workload. Beyond your normal military duties and family obligations, you are beginning the administrative process of disentangling yourself from the military. On top of that, you are supposed to do a bunch of things you’ve probably never done, including: figuring out who you are outside of uniform, what you want to do, creating a LinkedIn account, networking on LinkedIn, doing informational interviews, and then putting together a resume and finding your dream job.

Again, does this existing military transition paradigm make logical sense?

And when you take a step back and look at what this environment does, it sets the stage for potentially bad decisions that are made because you’ve not given yourself enough time to address these challenges and make a solid, grounded plan to overcome them.

To illustrate, through my conversations and formal interviews, here are two representative resultant behaviors and their consequences.

  1. The feeling of spinning your wheels. When you intuitively know you are coming to the end of your military service but have no framework to think through this transition, your brain will begin delivering you a wide variety of potential “solutions” to this challenge. This will manifest itself into a flurry of good ideas. Examples include: One day thinking of going to work for a company, while the next day thinking that going back to school and using your GI Bill would be best. On yet another day, you may entertain starting your own company—a complete departure from previous ideas. The obvious consequence of this unbridled energy is a lack of real focus on a tangible pathway that will bring income and stability to you and your family. Also, don’t forget, you haven’t even given yourself time to explore these “good ideas” your brain is throwing at you because you are in career descent with a very real separation or retirement date.
  2. Lack of alignment to the private sector. This means you don’t understand what the private sector values and therefore how to formulate your value to that system. This also means that you will likely be drawn toward finding “a job” rather than “the right job.” The consequence to this lack of alignment to the private sector is that you really won’t spend much time thinking about this option. Instead, you will likely begin devoting most of your time to searching for employment on, for example, USAJobs.gov and very little to no time seeking private sector employment. The secondary consequences to this is that in your hurry you may forego altogether the opportunities within the private sector. Or, if you do entertain employment within the private sector, you will likely accept a lower initial salary, and statistically have a four times higher chance of leaving that company as compared to your private sector counterparts.

PreVeteran—The New Military Transition Paradigm

At PreVeteran, we see things completely differently—and we encourage you to consider our new approach to military transition.

Our PreVeteran approach to a successful military transition—and the real paradigm shift—has three core parts or principles:

  1. Self-transformation is required
  2. Early alignment to the private sector is taught
  3. Preparations start mid-career, when you can fit it into your busy life

Underscoring the entire PreVeteran ecosystem is the acknowledgement that self-transformation is absolutely critical for a successful transition. There is no denying the fact that you are leaving a very homogeneous military system representing less than 1% of the general population and returning to being an individual within that general population. You have to understand and acclimate to this new environment. As veterans, we should be the ones acclimating to the 99%—not the other way around.

The next core principle is early alignment to the private sector. Thirty years of research data indicates that the vast majority of transitioning service members will seek employment when they leave the military. Over that same 30-year period, the data has consistently shown that 60% will go to the private sector while 30% will stay in the public sector. Through the lens of that reality, you need to understand that the military ecosystem you are in now and the private sector are very different. While the military ecosystem’s existence is mandated by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and funded in perpetuity by the taxpayer, the private sector is not. In diametric opposition to our military, the private sector has to operate in the free market where consumers voluntarily reach into their pockets to pay for goods and services. This very stark difference directly relates to hiring very specific and qualified talent into any organization to do a very specific job. There are no private sector companies looking for a generalist.

The final core principle is one of time: When should you prepare for your military transition? To answer this question, we will refer to an apropos Chinese proverb. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now.” To put this into context regarding your military transition, let’s go back to the flight profile model. We want you to start your self-transformation and alignment to the private sector while you are still in metaphorical “straight and level flight” in your military career.

Here is why. While you are in straight and level flight, you can weave this necessary self-transformation and alignment into your busy life when it is convenient for you. And because you have the choice to build this into your schedule, you will avoid getting pinched in career descent and also experience invaluable individual growth that will equate to less anxiety and more confidence in your approach to military transition. Adequate preparation is a huge step.

Get Started Now By:

  1. Downloading our free “5-Step Guide to Finding the Job You Want Post-Military.”
  2. Subscribe to our PreVeteran YouTube channel
  3. Follow PreVeteran on LinkedIn

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