A Successful Transition Requires Perspective, Patience, and Performance

Many military officers who transition from the military to business find the career exploration, interviewing and recruiting process exciting.  Like starting a new relationship, traveling to a new destination, or beginning a new book, the fresh change and future possibilities create so many positive emotions.  During the recruiting process, companies will put together an on-site interview event that demonstrates their organization, culture and people at their best.  Hiring managers will “recruit” by marketing and selling their positions to the potential hire.  The candidate will feel quite “loved” during this process.  This is fair and not at all dishonest by the company, as no company with good recruiting practices is going to air their “dirty laundry.”  Once the recruiting process and first few months in the new position, also known as the honeymoon period phase, end, the real work begins.

Unfortunately, some transitioning military officers will continue to expect or look for the same level of attention they received during the recruiting and the honeymoon phase, and they start to wonder:

“Where is my mentor?”

“Is this all the responsibility I have?”

“Where is my career going?  What is my career path?”

“Are they really developing me?”

This thought process can be dangerous and lead to someone leaving a company before fully transitioning to the company, mastering their new role, and understanding broader perspective of the career path.  In other words, it can lead to a mistake – leaving a good opportunity to go back through that hiring and recruiting process where they once again feel that “love.”

The reality is that once one starts a new career, all those hiring managers who spent one-on-one time with you and answered your questions about the position or career are now busy back at their primary responsibilities.  They have to execute and get results, and they expect the new hire to do the same!  It is unrealistic to expect the same level of attention once in the role that you received during the hiring process.

While not all companies are good at developing people, many are.  It just takes perspective, patience and performance, especially in the beginning.

Perspective:  Shift your perspective from inward to outward.  Instead of “What’s in it for me?” ask “What can I do for others?”  Take time to get to know other colleagues.  Find ways to help them.  Smile and say, “Hello” or “Good morning.”  Have a conversation at the watercooler.  Volunteer for something outside of work.  What I love about the Millennial generation is that the vast majority of them want meaningful work.  They want their lives to matter.  I admire that.  Want to know how to do that whether you manufacture food products, sell plastics or consult on Wall Street?  Serve others.  Instead of worrying about where your career will be in 18 months, be into other people and what you can do for them.  If you get your perspective right, patience and performance will follow.

Patience:  Transitioning from the military to business is a big step and a lot happens.  Your life and career are not sprints.  They are a journey.  A career is the natural progression of your professional life, not “What promotion will I have in 18 months?”  Stay present and enjoy the moment instead of always looking into the future.

Performance:  You just left the military where you created a top reputation.  People knew you and your performance.  In starting your new career, the company will have high expectations for you, but you have to build up your reputation through delivering results – every day with the small day-to-day responsibilities and the big projects.  This takes time (back to patience!).

If you still can’t seem to shake those questions, go talk to your immediate leader.  Do it professionally and talk about what you are feeling rather than accusing or stating what they do or not do.  Don’t feel like you can talk to your leader?  Get with someone who can be objective with you.  Just don’t make a decision to leave without talking to someone – you will likely make an emotional one instead of a rational one.

Joel Junker