Why Military Transition is So Difficult -- Part 1 of 3: Exposure

Hmmm… I wonder if that leather comes in purple.

Hmmm… I wonder if that leather comes in purple.

Imagine you’re buying your first car ever... but somehow you were raised in the mountains of Nepal and never drove before. You’ve heard some stories of how amazing a car is and how fast you can get from point A to point B (much faster than your mountain yak); that you’d be able to pick up friends and drive to far-away locations; and that you have a certain budget but can pick whatever brand, size, shape, or color you want!

So exciting! 

But where do you start? How do you choose what type of vehicle you want, especially if you have no experience behind the wheel? Everyone says, “Well, what do you want? What makes you happy?” but how do you figure that out without knowing what’s out there? Do you like a sedan, truck, or SUV? Or hatchback? Would it be mostly for highway or city driving? What brand is best? Most reliable? Do you want a brand new car, used, or certified pre-owned? Navigation system? Heated seats and/or cooling seats? Sirius XM? Extended warranty?

Or you learned about how horrific Chicago traffic can be and you want the ability to zip in and out. Should you just get a sweet motorcycle instead? Something like a lean, mean crotch rocket or maybe a large, loud Harley? A motor tricycle? What size? Two seats or one?

For me, this was similar to my thought process when I was exiting the military in OCT 2013. All I had ever known in my adult life was the military. I went to West Point at the age of 17 and spent the next 14 years of my life in service. When it was time to get out, I didn’t have a clue where to begin. Sure I could write an OPORD in no time and disassemble/assemble a M240, blind-folded, in 72 seconds. But, what do I like really doing? What are some of my translatable strengths to the corporate world? Do I want to be in a big or small company? Public or private? Where do I want to live? Where do I want to be in 5, 10, 20 years? Do I want to go in to sales, operations, finance, or other? Since I had no exposure to the “real world,” I didn’t even know what questions to ask!

All I had ever known in my adult life was the military. I went to West Point at the age of 17 and spent the next 14 years of my life in service. When it was time to get out, I didn’t have a clue where to begin.

But when you purchased your first car, you probably had a guide to help with your decision-making. Your parents, extended family, friends, or the internet all fed you information and helped you make decisions. After learning that the risk of accidents are greater on a two-wheeler and that you don’t want gnats stuck in your nose, you decide against a motorcycle. You learn that SUV’s guzzle gas, hatchbacks look weird, and that you have a need for speed. And those cooling leather seats are really, really cool. As you learn more information and see how your interests shape, you can finally make an informed decision.

For me, gaining exposure was what helped me understand what my own interests and desires were. This is Step 0, which should be done prior to “figuring out what you want.” Without knowing what’s out in the world, how could you possibly know what you like or not? Gaining exposure leads to developing curiosities and interests. 42% of Veterans leave their first job within the year; 65% leave within their second year. Why? Because people learn that their expectations are so off from their true reality. What the recruiter sold them was… a lie. They learn that they’re not a cultural fit for the environment. (More to follow in Part 2.)

42% of Veterans leave their first job within the year; 65% leave within their second year.

How do you gain this exposure? Through your family, friends, and network. Talk to experienced professionals about their experiences and careers. Ask what a day-in-a-life is like for a sales professional, or what someone’s likes and dislikes are in working in Operations for a manufacturing company. Grab coffee from that guy at church or your neighbor who’s a Branch Manager at a local retail store. Ask other successfully transitioned Veterans what their key take-aways were during their search process. See if there are internships you can pursue; use the DOD SkillBridge Program. And start early. Even if you end up quitting your first job, start again, relearn what makes you alive and most passionate. 

At MilSpec Capital, we focus on bringing High-Impact Veterans with relevant business experience and gained track record of success, for placement into mid-to-senior level roles. Our Veterans have already figured out what their interests are and what they’re good at in the private sector, and we find them the next level of opportunities to conquer, to be tremendous value-added assets for your company.