TRANSITION – The unknown.
Every transition from the military is unique, yet everyone experiences the same challenges regardless of their rank, branch, or time in service. Why is that? And why do so many Veterans end up unemployed? These questions and the many other unknowns concerned me when it came to my own transition from service. For the past year, I have stumbled; been rejected; gotten back up just to fail again; and through all the struggles I never lost sight of my goals, ultimately leading to my success. My first transition plan wouldn’t be my best or my last. As Veterans, we know the best plan never survives first contact, why did I think transitioning be any different?
REJECTION – It does hurt.
As a Junior Military Officer, I sought to work with an exclusive premiere headhunter who would open the door to Fortune 250 and 100 companies. There was concern that by being almost 40 years old I may not be the ideal candidate they were looking for. During my phone interview with the recruiter, I thought I was answering every question with sharp precision when in fact, I was tanking the interview. I wished I had taken the time and prepared for that call, that opportunity, instead of thinking I could just wing it, do it “live” like everything else in the Army. At the end of the call, I heard the words “You are marketable, just not marketable for us.” Those devastating words of rejection were a sledgehammer to my ego. All I was thinking was “Who the heck do they think they are talking to? I am not good enough for them?” I am a VETERAN and I DESERVE this after giving 20 years to my country; I do more in the first hour of my day than most do all day.
I wasn’t ready for that rejection, the hurt that came with it. No TAP class will ever prepare you for that feeling of despair. Instead of dwelling on it, I began reflecting what I did wrong and how going into the future I could be better prepared.
PURPOSE – We all want one.
Nine months left until separation and great things started happening for me. I was selected by another head hunter firm beginning my research into different industries, learning case studies like a MBA student, practicing my elevator pitch, and doing all the right things. I was on my way to that six-figure job in Corporate America. I even started building my network and learned how to leverage LinkedIn; I was the networking guru and corporate recruiters were starting to take notice. Finally finishing my last leadership position for the Army, I began to focus more on my transition and began taking advantage of the different programs available at the transition center like: Onward to Opportunity and Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. I started volunteering as an Outreach Specialist for Hire Heroes USA, assisting other transitioning veterans while still transitioning myself and the work was very fulfilling. I was starting to find my purpose, or so I thought. Isn’t that what we are all looking for after all?
Finding your “purpose” is more than just recognizing what you do well or what comes natural to you. I believed I was supposed to work the typical Corporate 9 to 5 job, make a six-figure salary, and climb up the ladder for a spot in the C-suite. I felt I could just volunteer with Hire Heroes USA helping Veterans transition, believing it would fulfill life. Boy, was I wrong! I quickly learned my core values defined my purpose and I started to understand it wasn’t to work in corporate America. What was I going to do? How do I tell others to follow their passion when I was the being the biggest hypocrite?
HOPE – Leads to success.
I was fortunate to complete the “Pathway Forward” class through WorkForce Central teaching me to use Lean Six Sigma principles as the base of my transition. I identified my core values of volunteerism, humanitarian, and service; my competencies of self-confidence, decisiveness, fostering innovation, and strategic analytical thinking; and believed in my new mission – transitioning. We must look deep inside… identify our beliefs and statements’ we live by, define ourselves as a person – not just a Veteran. What is on our chest NOW does not define how well we will SUCCEED in the civilian sector. I decided Corporate America was not where I am supposed to be and began to look at the nonprofit industry after turning down two career opportunities that graciously left the door open for me. Invest time in yourself to learn who you are and never lose hope.
Military transition can be stressful and a daunting mission for our service members. It does not mean Veterans must transition alone; there are many organizations wanting to help them succeed. To find them, I employed every network contact to learn what was available to assist in my transition. Nonprofits like Veterati, American Corporate Partners, Hire Heroes USA, IVMF, FourBlock, HOH Corporate Fellowship Program, Military.com, VETTED, and many others are on the frontline making the difference for our Veterans. This past year of transitioning has taught me to be comfortable in the unknown, overcome rejection, build the right network, find my purpose, and have hope. Though my story is not brilliant, or full of grandeur advice to make you a master at transitioning, it is just that, my story, one of thousands that are unique, ending in triumph. My journey of self-reflection to understand myself landed me the opportunity of a lifetime accepting a position as the VP of Programs and Community Engagement with the nonprofit VETTED. I will continue working with transitioning service members helping them find their purpose, leading them to success. Veterans, come and take it!
VETTED – We Place Veterans First!
VETTED is the optimal Veteran transition platform to transform proven military leaders into tomorrow’s industry leaders and entrepreneurs. VETTED identifies military talent for transition preparation and planning, business executive education, career services, and industry placement in the private sector. VETTED is now accepting applications for their Veteran Accelerated Management Program (VAMP) which is the most comprehensive Veteran Transition program on the market! To learn more about VETTED and its transition programs, visit www.vetted.org. (Photos courtesy of VETTED)