Our Podcast

BY Joel Junker

Episode 161 – The 8 Stages for Military Officer to Business Leader

Successfully transitioning from military officer to business leader is a strategic multistep process.  In my 23 plus years as a military to business headhunter and recruiter, I have coached 5,000+ junior officers through the 8 stages of a military to business transition.

In this 30-minute podcast, I explain the 8 Stages of the Transition to give you a roadmap to help you reach your goals.  Like any roadmap, I help you identify your destination, the different routes to get there and where you can take disastrous wrong turns and how to avoid them.

Before I jump into the 8 Stages of the Transition, I devote time to defining the successful transition.  It’s critical you understand the difference between just finding a job with good pay and location and truly establishing yourself in a new industry, company and career field.  The latter is the successful transition and requires the 8 Stages.  The former is landing a new job and only requires about 3 or 4 of the Stages.  The 8 Stages will seem like overkill if you just want a job, but if you want to truly transition from a military officer to a business leader and transform your career, you will want to walk through each phase well.

Stage 1: Questioning

This stage takes place sometime in your military career.  You start questioning if you are in the correct career.  You start to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the military the career I want to reach my personal and professional goals?
  • Do I have the life I want? Is my work and life in balance?  Do I want to spend this much time away from home?
  • Do I enjoy this work?
  • Am I interested in something else?

These questions help you understand if you are on the right path.  If you feel good about your answers and where you are, you are done!  Stay in the military for now.  You might return to this stage later in your career.  If your answers cause you to question your military career, you will move to stage two.

Stage 2: Discovery

If you made it to this step, you have had this thought or feeling you should consider leaving the military.  If you really want to ensure that leaving the military is right for you, you have to define what problem you are addressing.  You want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a quality of life issue?
  • Is this a question of reaching my professional potential?
  • Is it that I am more interested in some other career other than the military?
  • Am I looking for more control over my career?
  • Am I looking for a career with more upside and pay and promotion based on performance?
Stage 3: Clarity Stage

Once you have clarified what problem you are solving by leaving the military, you want to set goals.  The first two stages are helpful in learning why you are leaving, but “A” players don’t just leave; they “go toward” something.  So you want to set some goals.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does my personal and professional life look like in 5 years?
  • What kind of work am I doing? What skills am I using?  What am I learning
  • What type of people am I working with?
  • What does my personal and family life look like?

I recommend getting a journal and writing out your answers to all questions in each stage.  Your answers will be helpful to return to if you ever question your decision.

Stage 4: Develop the Plan

In the previous phase, you set your goal or objective.  Like a good military leader, now you need a plan to reach your objective.  To help you create a plan for going from military officer to business leader, ask yourself:

  • How many opportunities would I like to interview with?
  • What does my network look like to line up interviews?
  • Can I go it alone, or do I know people who can help me?
  • Should I reach out to military recruiting firms?  Attend job fairs?
  • How will I prepare?  Who has done this before that can help me understand what I need to do to prepare?
Stage 5: Prepare

Now you need to prepare for interviewing and hitting the ground running once you move to your new career.  Here are some tips on how to prepare:

  • Read and study business concepts.  Start with reading PCS to Corporate America, 4th Ed.
  • Learn about business concepts like Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, Project Management and Data Analytics.
  • Apply what you learn in your military career to start creating relevant accomplishments in business.  You will also learn how to tailor your military experiences to concepts like these.
  • Gain some self-insight on your strengths, best military accomplishments and leadership style.  You will need to comfortably talk about these topics in an interview.
  • Develop answers to commonly asked interview questions.  Take time to practice!  Don’t just wing it!  Your first interview should actually be a mock interview or several mock interviews!  Check out our free Transition Guide on How to Crush the Conversational Interview.
Stage 6: Career Search

This is the fun and critical stage where you start exploring your options.  I encourage you to get out there and interview for a wide range of positions and industries.  By comparing options, you will more likely choose the best of many options for you.  This will allow you to stick with your choice and avoid any hiccups or do-overs early in your career.

You can listen to our podcast Episode 118: The Power of Comparison and how important it is to the successful transition.

Stage 7: The Honeymoon Period

This is year one of your new career.  It’s like a honeymoon.  You are excited, the future is bright, and you’re enjoying your new environment.  This can last a few months or up to a year.  Eventually, if you are like most people, the newness will wear off and it will start to feel like work.  This is when you go back to your journal and read about your goals, your options and why you made these choices.  It will help you find that excitement and purpose again.

I also recommend mentors and trusted advisors to help you put things in perspective.  Check out Episode 158 – 5 Steps to JMO Business Career Success.  This podcast dives deep into finding mentors who will ground you and give you the advice you need to hear.  The podcast also addresses the importance of being patient.

Stage 8: The Foundation – Years 2-4

This is what you have been working for!  In stage 8, you build the foundation for your career.  You transition from a former junior officer with some business experience to a business leader with lots of potential who is a former junior officer.  You will focus on developing a track record of many accomplishments and experiences that lay the framework for promotional opportunities.  You will get your first big promotion during this phase.  The keys to your success will be humility, hunger to add value wherever you can and building relationships to expand your network.

Patience is key to navigating through Stages 7 and 8.  Too often, I see people get impatient, wondering about promotions, thinking the grass is greener on the other side and looking for something else.  Resist that urge to start over at another company in Stages 7 and 8.  Focus on building the foundation.  I cover this topic in Episode 158 -5 Steps to JMO Business Career Success and Episode 157 – The Parallels of Investing and JMO Career Management.

If you’re interested in learning more about your transition options, contact us.

You can also check out our Transition Guide on “3 Game-Changing Strategies for JMOs Making the Jump to Business” for additional transition tips.

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