NEWS + ADVICE
4 Reasons SOF Professionals Should Prepare Now for Transition
If you are in the military, regardless of your time in service, you should be thinking of your next career…like yesterday. Many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, particularly in Special Operations Forces (SOF), fill highly technical roles, have gone through various screening and selection processes, and often carry high security clearances.
In short, you have already made it through a rigorous vetting process and have very marketable skills. So why should you worry about your next career now? Several reasons.
1. All Jobs Are Temporary
Today you might be a Green Beret, Navy Seal, intelligence analyst, CI Agent, Special Ops Aviator, or similar careerist. But anything can happen. You could be injured, your domestic situation could change, or you might just get tired of deployments. Also, the U.S. military is drawing down rapidly, and your notion of a 20+ year career might be rudely interrupted by sequestration or other Congressional hijinks. You’d better have plan B on the back burner. If you are enlisted without a bachelor’s degree, start on this now. Use Tuition Assistance programs, take courses on-line to allow for deployments, and consider your education a passport to life 2.0. Save your GI Bill for later!
2. Transition Programs Are Inadequate
You will, by law, attend a week-long transition program. The quality of these programs varies by installation, but across the board SOF warriors find them woefully lacking. Consider that you have spent years to hone your skillset in order to be mission ready. Those years were packed with training, rehearsals, experience, and lessons learned in combat. Now realize that you might get a full six months to transition and that will be on top of the five whole days of transition training. It’s simply not enough time and not enough training. Period.
3. It Takes Years to Build Your Network
Throughout your SOF career, you have met a variety of people that might influence your next career – diplomats, security contractors, vendors, etc. Each of those individuals may be able to help you down the road. You need to approach each contact with an open mind and with an eye to potential. When I started meeting with counterparts in other agencies, I viewed them as obstacles. Later in my career, I learned to communicate with them and include them in my professional network. You never know when someone you meet along the way will be able to help you down the road. The key to building your network is actually participating in your network. Today, you need to be on LinkedIn, and you need to expand your circles to areas that you might be interested in down the road.
4. You Need to Be Financially Stable When the Time Comes to Transition
Most SOF warriors will get some special sort of special pay or allowance, not to mention a high rate of deployments to areas that offer tax exemption, hazardous fire pay, per diem, family separation allowance, etc. Far too often I see young troopers put that extra money in new cars, motorcycles, guns, tattoos, beach houses, and so on. Read up on the nature of investing and the time value of money. Make that extra pay work for you. If you are not financially stable – debts paid, cash savings, and retirement investments – you need to get that way. When you are looking for your next job, financial insecurity will lead you to take any job, rather than the right job for you.
All SOF professionals understand the value of planning and contingencies, yet few actually focus on their own future. You are the only one that is going to look out for you, so start preparing for your transition sooner than later. You have too much to offer after you get out to miss out due to lack of preparation.
John Klapperich is a retired Sergeant Major who served over 24 years in Special Forces. He earned his BS in Management from UMUC and MBA from Georgetown University. John is a management consultant, entrepreneur, and beekeeper. He recently launched Sextant Consulting LLC to assist SOF personnel transition to the civilian sector.
photo: USASOC News ServiceThis entry was posted on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 7:02 am