“The only thing that is constant is change” - Heraclitus
Transitions require a great amount of planning, information seeking, and change. I strongly believe, as veterans of all eras, the more stories share the better off we all are. Last month, Wayne wrote an excellent post about his transition and I wish I had had it as a stepping stone for my own journey. So in the spirit of shared experiences and support-driven success, I would like to pass on some of my personal lessons learned as I worked through the transition process.
Start the transition process as early as possible
This seems like it should be common sense, but in the military it is anything but that. You must plan early to meet all of your transition requirements while still performing at 100% capacity within your unit (as most units will hold on to you until they are legally required to let you go). My recommendation is to work with your chain-of-command early on in the transition process to plan your events with your unit’s training schedule in mind. This will allow you and the unit to be open and transparent about your roles and responsibilities during your final year or less in the military. Additionally, you need to be checking the additional duty/staff duty roster to ensure that you are not scheduled for any duties during your appointments or final out. Don’t wait until the day of duty to bring this up as it can cause undue stress upon yourself and your immediate supervisor. While it is great to continue helping the unit and pushing your transition process off until the end, your unit will not be there when you ETS/retire. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for what happens to you once you final out from the military.
Know your skills and how they apply to civilian employment/education
In order to locate an employment position that you will find challenging and fulfilling you must first understand the skills you already possess thanks to the skills and experiences you gained during your service. GuideOn’s free skills translation and resume building platform is created specifically for this purpose. Create an account and begin exploring how your years in service are geared towards civilian employment within minutes here. Understanding your skills and being able to provide relevant examples is something that is an important aspect of your job search.
Start your VA paperwork early
If there is one recommendation I pass on to people asking me about their transition, it is to start the VA process as early as you can. I highly recommend working with a Veteran Service Organization to file your claim as they are your advocate to the VA. (Check out my blog about filing in more detail: VSOs Can Help.) You must also request a copy of your medical records prior to working with the VSO and this request may take up to 30 days so make sure you plan accordingly. Following acceptance of your VA claim into the system you will then be seen by physicians to validate your claims. Once the doctors have provided their input, you can expect up to 6-12 months before you hear from the VA about a final decision.
Explore opportunities to learn
There are plenty of organizations that run events catered towards veterans entering the workforce, college, or thinking about starting a business and the majority of these events are free to the veteran. If you can take advantage of these events, especially while still serving, DO IT! They provide a great opportunity to network with fellow veterans and potential employers. I participated in numerous job and education fairs, entrepreneurial workshops, transition workshops, financial training classes, and anything else that I could attend which would provide me a better understanding of life on the outside. These local events opened up my eyes to the various opportunities available to all of us, but it takes effort and motivation to find these events and make the time for them.
Build your network
Networking is vital in today’s high paced and high tech world. By building a network you are opening the door to mentoring as well as possible job openings not known to the general public. Here are a few blogs to help you navigate your way:
I hope that you found this information helpful and as always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. We will work endlessly to gather stories and experiences of fellow veterans on their transitions and learn what worked and did not work for them, in efforts to share best practices and lessons learned to assist our community as much we can.
Best of luck with the transition and thank you for your service!
GuideOn, Director of Business Development
Marc is a serial entrepreneur focused on social and veteran issues. He served in the active Army for over eight years as a DUSTOFF pilot prior to entering the Start Up world. He is now a member of the Army Reserves and serves on numerous municipal level boards. He is an avid reader and enjoys expanding his understanding of the world around us and ways to improve it. Marc earned degrees from West Point and The George Washington University. Please feel free to reach out to Marc at Marc@guide-on.com.