Who, Why, What, and How - Your Key to the Players in Military Transition
As you enter that space between the military and civilian worlds, you hear a lot of voices. When it comes to which players you might recruit to be on your team, you've got plenty of choices. There are facilitators, coaches, mentors, branding experts, recruiters, hiring managers, hiring specialists, headhunters, veteran advocates, scouts, veteran champions, employment directors, employment specialists, transition experts, transition advisors, career coaches, human resources specialists, career counselors, lions, tigers, and bears… oh my! With all of these players carrying all of these labels, how do you make sense of who's who in the transition space? More to the point, how do you know you've partnered with the right players for your transition journey?
Let's look at this from a different point of view, and more specifically, your point of view. Most military leaders equate the challenge of transition to discovering who you want to be when you grow up - or at least when you can't be the soldier anymore. So, we know that identifying the WHO is important. I think we all would agree that military leaders want meaningful employment, so understanding WHY is also important. Once you know the WHO and the WHY, you have to determine WHAT you are going to do and HOW you plan to do it. From the perspective of the who, why, what, and how aspects of military transition, let's examine some of the players best positioned to add value to your transition and reintegration experience.
Coaches: Your guide to determine the WHO and the WHY
If you are skeptical about the value of a professional coach, you aren't alone. If you had asked me what a professional coach was five years ago, I probably would have said Bill Belichick or Vince Lombardi. To be honest, I thought that coaching was just something leaders did inherently as part of their repertoire. This is probably why so many people are quick to identify themselves as a coach. Now I know better. When I use the word coach, I am talking about is a professional trained and certified in the application of positive psychology to partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. In this context, a coach is someone who complies with standards of ethical behavior and service delivery through a governing body like the International Coach Federation (ICF). As practicing professionals, they are credentialed and commit to programs of continuing education.
A professional coach is someone who helps you discover your unique path for your future.
Coaches facilitate the introspection necessary for personal growth. Coaches aren't mentors, they don't offer advice, nor do they provide therapy. What they can do is help you uncover the values and intentions that inform your unique identity story when it is no longer shaped by the military uniform. In other words, they help you discover who you want to be when you can't be the soldier anymore (the WHO). If you struggle to recognize a purpose when you leave military, a coach can help you recognize your purpose (the WHY). They facilitate the mission analysis essential to write your mission statement and determine your intent for life beyond the military. Coaches help you authentically step with purpose and intention into the next chapter of your life.
Still wondering if coaching is a worthwhile investment? According to Forbes Magazine and Harvard Business Review, the reason why so many organizations (including corporate titans like GE, Goldman Sachs, and Google) invest heavily in professional coaching for leadership development is because it works. Given the recognized ROI of coaching, the Officer of Personnel Management for the federal government directed the implementation of coaching programs for employees. The Department of Defense has even gotten into the game sought credentialed coaching professionals as part of the General Officer Readiness Program to provide senior leaders enhanced self-awareness, self-control, and self-mastery. The bottom line is that this is your life, and if you struggle to identify your WHO or your WHY, a professional coach might be a worthwhile investment before you figure out WHAT you are going to do or HOW you might do it.
Mentors: First Person Expertise to Determine WHAT You Might Do
When it comes to determining WHAT you might do when you leave the military, experience matters. Everyone will have an opinion about possible career choices, but the best intel comes from the people on the ground, performing in those jobs now. This is why connecting with a mentor is so valuable to your transition.
Mentors offer first-hand knowledge, guidance, and experience about potential career options in a way that third party advocates such as transition advisors, career counselors, and employment specialists cannot.
Mentors provide the most comprehensive and informed answers to all of the general and personal questions about a particular career. What does the typical career path look like in this profession? What credentials do I need to get hired? What does my resume need to say to make me competitive for this kind of job? What can I expect in the hiring process? What does an average day on the job look like? What could I expect for compensation in the short and long-term? What are the people like? What is the culture? What are the travel requirements? What is the one question you wish that you would have asked when you were sitting where I am right now? What told you this was the right job for you? What do you enjoy most about this career? Mentors provide the best answers to your questions about WHAT happens next.
The quality of your mentorship experience is dependent on the quality of your relationship with the mentor. Think of the mentors you had through the military. A strong connection provided the impact and value to shape your career, and the same holds true for mentor relationships outside the military. Many professionals and non-veterans across civilian society want to build these kinds of relationships with transitioning service members. American Corporate Partners, Veterati, and Hire Our Heroes are a few organizations that connect transitioning service members with mentors across the corporate sector. First hand experience provides valuable insight into your decision making process.
Consultants: Providing Solutions on HOW to Navigate Your Transition
Most of the career coaches, transition advisors, veteran advocates, and employment counselors are just colorful names for consultants. By definition, a consultant is someone who provides expert advice. Now, we can debate the use of the word expert, but a consultant is someone who provides a solution about HOWto do something. In this case, it might be how to write a resume, how to prepare a LinkedIn profile, how to network, how to establish a personal brand, how to connect with services through the VA, how to access veteran benefits and services, how to prepare for a job interview, how to apply for a particular job, and . . . well, you get the idea.
When it comes to consultants, advisors, counselors, and advocates in the transition space, there are plenty of different voices and varying opinions. This is a good thing. Everyone's transition journey is unique to them. Some established experts have an extended list of bona fides that validate their expertise. Some have nothing more than their personal experience. You may find that the power of the testimonial carries more weight than expert advice because of the visceral nature of someone's personal experience.
We connect more with personal experiences because they connect with us on an emotional level. They connect with our hopes and fears through the transition process.
As you consider all the advice about how to transition, examine how a particular person's journey resonates with your own. Determine what qualifies them to advise you on your transition journey. Enlisted and officer experiences are different. Retirees are distinct from other forms of separation. Transition experience across different branches of service might matter. See what other people say about their work, and make the decision to follow the advice that is best for you and your family. Trust your intuition. The only successful transition story you need to worry about is your own.
Shape Your Team to Meet Your Intentions
More voices in the transition space is a good thing. It gives you more options. As you build your team of advocates for your transition experience, take inventory of the who, why, what, and how. Remember that you can defer aspects of your transition experience, but you can't ignore or neglect them. If you don't figure out the WHO or the WHY, WHAT you do may make you a lot of money, but it won't make you happy. If you never figure out the best opportunity regarding WHAT you want to do, HOW you go about getting there seems rather pointless.
This is your transition, and you can build your team any way you want. Just because a scarecrow, tin-man, and lion work for one person's journey, doesn't mean that is the best option for your journey. Take inventory of where you are at with your who, why, what, and how. Let that assessment drive your maneuver down your path, and select those players that add the greatest value to you.