What You Didn’t Learn in Your Military Transition Class that is Driving Me Crazy

Posted by Chrissa Dockendorf

what you didn't learn in your military transition classSo you took the class “they” said you had to take to be successful as you transitioned out of the military. You sat for long hours and listened to the facilitators, employers, fashion consultants and speakers yammer on about everything you need to put your best foot forward and land a job.

Sometimes they all sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, but for the most part you paid attention and absorbed it all. Now you are out and there are still things you don’t feel prepared to tackle.

Did all those people lie? Did they not give you all the tools for your toolbox? Were you daydreaming about a vacation in Tahiti, sleeping in a hammock over the beautiful blue ocean while a hot Tahitian fed you….

Sorry I digress.

The point is not all military transition classes are created equal and there truly isn’t enough time during those classes to tackle every situation that might arise. So there are a few things you should know that you might not have heard or learned in your transition classes.

Just because you were a leader in the military doesn’t mean you will be a leader in civilian life.

Yes, recruiters recognize you have leadership skills and if you are retiring after 20+ years recruiters recognize your years of service and leadership. We respect that. We acknowledge that. But that doesn’t mean you are right for every position or that you can step immediately out of your military leadership role and into a civilian one.

Why not? Because companies often like to promote from within to encourage their current employees to stay, particularly government contractors where upward mobility might not be a straight line. Why else? Because your leadership skills might not be the only requirement for the position.

Which brings me to:

Recruiters have to meet basic qualifications when filing a role and if you don’t meet them you are out.

There are many flavors of recruiter: Executive, Technical, Headhunter, Agency, In-House- the list goes on; but at the end of the day the recruiter works for their employer not for you. When recruiters are assigned openings there are more often than not basic qualifications that candidates have to meet in order to be considered for that opening.

Often times these qualifications are a certain amount of years’ experience, education requirements, certifications or experience with specific tools. If you do not meet all of those requirements, then there isn’t much wiggle room. That isn’t the recruiters fault, it just is what it is. Some recruiters will go head to head with their managers if they feel the candidate is a purple squirrel-icorn that can shoot rainbows through the sky, but even then the answer is often still “NO”.  While soft skills are important at the end of the day the measurable skills will almost always win out.

So how can you make sure you meet the basic qualifications?

Network, Network, Network.

I know you learned this in class, I am convinced it is the “Om” for the business world, but as someone who has benefitted from networking I cannot drive this point home enough. What does this have to do with meeting basic qualifications?

By networking with other individuals in your field and specifically in the type of positions you hope to work in once you transition out you can stay on top of trends and requirements for those positions. You may need to invest in a specific degree or certification but having those tools in your toolbox will increase your chances of getting a callback from a recruiter because you meet the basic qualifications!

Pepper on top your leadership skills and other awesome soft skills and you have increased your success rate exponentially. Talking to individuals already in your field or desired field can also give you an idea of what your salary expectations should be, so you don’t sell yourself short or price yourself out before you even get to an interview.

But none of that matters if you don’t know what you want.

I have spoken with many transitioning military members who had no idea what they wanted to do when they got out. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “I’ll do anything.” While your spirit is noted, if you don’t have a goal you’ll never know when you reach that goal.

This is the time to be selfish, know what geographic location you want to work in, what job responsibilities you want to have or work towards, what benefits or company culture is important to you and how much you want to make. Research this to make sure you are within a reasonable range — see above.

Once you have all that information in hand stick with it. It’s okay to be selfish in what you are asking for. It is okay to say no to an offer or negotiate an offer if it doesn’t suit you. It’s okay to think about what is best for you and your family before committing to a company.  And if it doesn’t work out, don’t burn bridges, but know that is okay.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Sometimes no matter how much you thought you wanted a certain position or specific job responsibilities it can turn out you were wrong and that is just fine. It is common for civilians to leave a job after 18 months-2 years. It’s a cycle. They start a job, they learn what they can, the company can’t offer them their next step, and so they move on.

Does this make them job hoppers? Honestly, it depends who you ask, but most recruiters, especially those who work with contractors, will say no.

So it doesn’t work out? Lay out your next plan and move on. You might need extra certifications or education to meet those qualifications but if it will make you happy then do it.

The military was hard and you survived. That doesn’t mean civilian life will be easy street.

The transition process isn’t the same for everyone. Some people step out of the uniform and into a suit with no issues. But just like anything else, those people are the exception, not the rule. Try not to get frustrated, you are not alone.

There are civilians out here that are still trying to figure this whole thing out and they never had to experience a transition *raises hand*. Be sure to set clear expectations for yourself and your family, know your worth and your limits, and try not to get overwhelmed.

Now, take a deep breath and repeat after me:


Chrissa DockendorfChrissa Dockendorf is a recruiting resource manager and employment branding specialist for G2, Inc., supporter of transitioning military, a coffee addict, and BoyMom to 4. Follow Chrissa on Twitter @MissionHired.



This entry was posted on Thursday, January 12, 2017 7:47 am

One thought on “What You Didn’t Learn in Your Military Transition Class that is Driving Me Crazy”

  1. It’s the military. Outside of your MOS there is little experience to fall back on other than your dependable and can show up to work, which in my experience is lacking among a majority of college graduates who did not serve first.
    The transition from military to civilian job often requires you to think about your future and what you want to do when you have 1+ years left and can possibly take some courses to prep yourself for college or trade school. Outside of some of the tech MOS’s transition to a civilian tech field where you may have to get specific certifications to do your job in the military should be very smooth. If you carried a rifle as your main job, your options and challenges are going to be quite a task if you don’t plan early and build a good foundation before your enlistment is up.
    But even that can fail. In my case, I was an OS2 after 4 years, qualified to go to Air Traffic Control school, had all the preparations in place to do so and Pres Reagan fired all the controllers so I had the GI Bill to fall back on which enable me to go to college which was a last minute change of course.

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