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BY Joel Junker

The Importance of Starting Early: JMO Transition to Business

How long did you prepare to be a military officer?  Most of you would say approximately 4 years.  So you spent 4 years preparing for a military career that lasts an average of 7 years.

Now ask yourself:  should you decide you want a career in Corporate America, how long do you want that business career to last?  You would likely say 20 to 30 years.  Then why do so many JMOs only take a few weeks to months to prepare for a career that could last 3-4x as long as their time in the military?  Yet, every year, officers fail to prepare adequately, which causes difficulty getting through the interview process.  They don’t present the best version of themselves and end up settling for a position.  This can often lead to a “do over” (i.e. going backwards and doing the search again).  This can be especially important when the economy becomes tighter and there are more “industry hires” on the market that you may find yourself competing with for positions. Today we will cover the importance of starting early.

Preparing can also be a challenge because, as an active-duty military officer, the odds your schedule is constantly busy are very high. You have a full-time job that requires you to work late, often on weekends, and spend long periods of time away from home. You do not have a lot of margin in your life.  As a result, Junior Military Officers (JMOs) considering a transition often put off researching, planning, and preparing because they just cannot find the time. Now, if the intent is to transition into a position within the DoD industry where the JMO currently works, and there are no hard timelines or location restrictions, preparing early may not be as critical.  However, if a JMO is planning to conduct a career search and move from the military to Corporate America, the transition is likely complicated and thus requires more preparation.

So, as mentioned above, there are four major reasons that support the importance of starting early:

1. You are changing industries.

You are transitioning from an organization where the mission is fighting and winning our nation’s wars.  An organization where rank influences and persuades.  You work in an environment where the reward for spending your entire allocated budget is a full budget reallocation the following year.  You are moving to a career where innovation and continuous process improvements are not a “good to do;” they are a “must do” to stay competitive.  You’re joining a world where competition drives action and results, and profitability is paramount.  Certainly, there are similarities between government and commercial business, but the contrast is unmistakable and significant.

2. You are changing functions.

The importance of starting early also comes into play when considering your military role. Whether you are a Submariner in the Navy, a Contracting Officer in the Air Force, or an Aviator in the Army, your primary function in the military is different from what you will do in Corporate America.  Regardless of whether you accept a position as a Quality Engineer, a Senior Consultant, a Field Clinical Specialist, or a Project Manager, your function will be different.  Again, there is no denying that there are some similarities between your job in the military and positions in commercial business.  These similarities are drawn in how you lead people, how you manage complex projects, and how you solve difficult problems, and not necessarily in the specific function you perform daily in the military.

3. You have a fixed timeline.

If you commit to transitioning from the military, you will likely have to submit a resignation six to twelve months prior to transitioning.  In most cases, it is difficult to interview for positions in business that far out simply because jobs are not available or vacant six to twelve months in advance.  This is very different for those in business who search for jobs, earn and accept an offer, and THEN resign.  You do not have that luxury. The other challenge with the fixed timeline is not knowing what the economy will look like when you transition because of how far out you must submit your resignation. So, it is better to be well-prepared than under-prepared without knowing the condition of the market when you transition.

4. You will likely relocate.

Finally, because many military bases, posts, and ports are not located in major metropolitan areas, you’ll likely have to relocate for a position in business.  This is especially true if you have chosen to “cast a wide net” and consider multiple leadership opportunities in business that capitalize on your strengths and interests – many of these leadership roles could be in different cities and different industries. Additionally, it is important to have the conversation with your spouse, significant other, or family early in your transition timeline as to how important location will be relative to other factors in your career search.  This will shape your career search strategy, and it is important to recognize that the more myopic you decide to be regarding location, the more challenging the transition.  Again, this is because you are making an industry change and now trying to do this in a specific locale.

If your desire is to transition into a leadership role in business with responsibilities commensurate to your current role and responsibilities, you have to interview well.  You must understand yourself and your experiences and communicate them in such a way that specifically relates to the competencies of the position for which you are interviewing.  In my experience, this takes time, commitment, and practice.  On average, the JMOs we partner with spend 11-12 months in our Development and Preparation Program. We cannot stress enough the importance of starting early.  The more time you have to prepare, the more you can apply what you learn to your current role, and the more you will be prepared for a successful transition.

If you’d like to learn more about the Cameron-Brooks transition firm advantage and how it’s impacted the upcoming Career Conference Candidates, click here.

You can also read about the results of our most recent Career Conference here.

Additionally, if you are interested in exploring your options with Cameron-Brooks or curious about how to make a successful transition, I encourage you to call us at 210-874-1500! You can also check out our website, YouTube Channel, and follow us on LinkedIn.

Rob Davis