I know firsthand that avoidable mistakes can easily be made during the challenging transition from military life to the business world. I plan to share some of those here. This transition has always been a difficult one for most of us, but recent economic uncertainties have made the journey especially rugged. You should expect to need some serious help in order to navigate this path as effectively as possible. I hope you will consider my suggestions as friendly and candid advice from one of your military colleagues who wants you to succeed in everything you do.
My goal here is to analyze practical transition strategies that can provide the following:
- A one-to-one mentoring approach
- Individualized and customized career training
- Maximum flexibility for work schedules
- Practical and realistic business careers
- Geographic mobility
- A "Plan B" for your next career
The information and resources provided below are a recommended first step in the successful transition from military service to a business career.
Career Transition Mistakes and Problems to Avoid
As I mentioned above, there are several common mistakes to avoid whenever possible during a career change. Here are five that I particularly recommend avoiding:
- Not having a practical career plan B
- Asking the wrong career questions
- Lack of individualized training
- Work schedules that are too rigid
- Insufficient geographic mobility
Some Career Transition Questions to Ask
As Peter Drucker observed so wisely, "The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions." In an effective transition from a military career to business, here are some of the right questions that I have identified over the years:
- What are the realistic career choices available to me?
- What new careers can be a second job or part-time?
- How much does effective career training cost?
- How possible is it to work independently and/or at home?
- Is specialized training available?
What About a College Degree?
The business careers that I advocate most strongly require specialized training but not a college degree. When transitioning from military service to a business career, it is important to distinguish between the different roles of education and career training.
A university education still has an esteemed place in our society. I certainly enjoyed the time that I spent at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) obtaining a degree in Business Psychology thanks in part to the financial support which I received from the Navy while doing so. After my military service with the U.S. Navy Supply Corps, I enjoyed attending the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) thanks to the G.I. Bill and received a graduate degree in Real Estate Finance.
But that kind of education is now playing a much smaller role in choosing an effective career. As one illustration of how little influence an expensive college degree can have on getting an appropriate job, recent college graduates have one of the highest unemployment and underemployment rates seen during the past several decades.
In my extensive experience, participating in a relevant and practical career training program is a much more cost-effective career transition strategy than receiving an expensive college education.
Always Have a Plan B
One of the strengths of having a military background as individuals move forward to a new career in business or elsewhere is extensive practical experience with contingency planning. Because it is well-understood that things can and do go wrong in any military operation, it is typically commonplace to have a backup contingency plan to execute if the original planned action cannot be completed.
Probably because of my own military background, it has been natural for me to "Always have a Plan B" in virtually everything that I do for myself as well as clients in my small business finance consulting practice.
For purposes of facilitating the transition from military service to a business career, a "Plan B mentality" will prove to be an invaluable asset. Based on my observations about the current state of the economy and employment marketplace, having a "Career Plan B" is also prudent.
With "Plan B" firmly in mind, I want to emphasize that the career options I have outlined above are well-suited to serve as either a "Plan A" or "Plan B."