Your True Values and Strengths Reveal the Real Hero Behind the Uniform
What would Captain America be like as a veteran? More importantly, who would he be if he wasn't the "super soldier?" The obvious answer is that he would still be Steve Rogers, but who is that? So much of his persona is tied to his role as the leader of the Avengers that it’s hard to separate his true identity from the uniform. Sound familiar? When you think about it, Steve Rogers would go through many of the same challenges that you face when leaving the military.
Without question, Steve Rogers has remarkable skills. The typical employment protocols for military transition would direct him to find a job that uses those skills, but as he reveals through his conversation with Sam Wilson, those aren't necessarily the things that would bring him happiness. To be honest, they aren't even his best qualities. Even well into his nineties, Steve Rogers would have to answer the question about who he wants to be when he grows up, and he would have to uncover his true strengths - his real superpowers. Recognizing his true values and strengths reveals the true hero and would help him discover the right opportunity in life beyond the military.
Values: Your State of Being
Values reflect your state of being. The unique combination of your core values defines who you are. Values are universal. They apply regardless of your role, title, or position in your family, organization, or community. Stated another way, the labels of soldier, father, wife, pilot, etc. don't reveal your true identity. Who you are is what remains after you remove those labels. Your values reveal the qualities and attributes unique to you.
Steve Rogers' values existed before he became Captain America. His character was the reason why he was chosen for the experiment in the first place. He is authentic: Regardless of the consequences, he will always honor his beliefs. His response to government control reflects his commitment to freedom. He has a strong affiliation for duty as demonstrated by his repeated attempts to pass the induction physical for the army. Because he won't sacrifice one person for the good of the masses, he values life. Finally, who could argue against his loyalty? The qualities that endured after he left the Avengers were authenticity, freedom, duty, life, and loyalty. These are his values.
Value alignment is the best way to approach finding your new tribe in life beyond the military
Values are the key to determine the goodness of fit with the culture of an organization. Given his values, the army was a natural fit for Steve Rogers. He left S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers when that congruence no longer existed. He has his own values separate from the organization, and you have your own values separate from the military. You've probably heard the cliches to "discover your new tribe" or "find the right culture," but transitioning service members rarely consider how personal values align to the values of the organization when looking for their next career. The reason why the military felt right to you is because the values of the military aligned with your personal values. Finding a new tribe that also feels right requires a level of self-awareness about your personal values. Values define your unique identity story and tell the world who you really are. The right culture is one where your values resonate and allow the fullest expression of your potential.
Strengths: The Act of Doing
If values define your state of being, then strengths represent the act of doing. There is a tendency to mistaken values for strengths and strengths for values. They may be related, but they are very different. Strengths are active qualities that embody your values in motion. They inform the 'value' you provide to the rest of society. Because strengths are connected to your values, they too are independent of your role or title. Strengths are those things that you do best and represent your unique value proposition to the whole of society.
If you were to imagine what Steve Rogers would be like if he lost the physical attributes as Captain America, you would have some insight to his true superpowers. Because he is authentic, he is personable. Because he values freedom, courage is one of his strengths. Because he values duty, he demonstrates perseverance, fortitude, and determination. Because he values life, he honors and respects the potential, contribution, and value of everyone. Because of his loyalty, he builds trust and confidence with the other members of his team. The combination of his values and strengths reveal his most enduring attributes as a leader.
Your intrinsic strengths are the qualities that provide your competitive advantage in any situation
Your intrinsic strengths matter because they represent your value proposition to a potential employer (and the rest of society). As you review some of the more memorable achievements in your life, you will find that these traits - your strengths - appear again and again. They provide your competitive advantage to improvise, adapt, and overcome in any situation. As your innate abilities, they represent your true superpowers.
Imagine Steve Rogers as a Veteran
Besides my childlike adoration for comic book heroes, I chose Steve Rogers to make a point. It's easy to offer career advice based on what someone can do. That's what Sam Wilson did when he mentioned ultimate fighting. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it will make you happy. The real challenge in transition is to look beyond the special skills and accomplishments that people see on the outside and tap into the things you want from the inside. If you were to take away everything Steve Rogers got from the serum, his true values and intrinsic strengths are what remain. Likewise, if you were to strip away the military uniform, your values and intrinsic strengths are what would remain for you.
The paradox of Captain America in the greater Marvel mythology comes from recognizing that the puny form of Steve Rogers is the true hero. Likewise, your challenge in transition is recognizing that you are truly greater than the uniform you wear. So much of your persona is tied to years of military service that it is hard to see your true self beneath the body armor. Personal fulfillment and happiness comes from doing what you want to do - activities that honor your values, provide the opportunity to showcase your superpowers, and achieve the personal mission for your life. From that perspective, Steve Rogers has the potential to make an even greater impact as a veteran, and so do you.
But seriously, you can do whatever you want to do . . . what makes you happy? If you can answer that question, you just might be able to leverage your values and strengths to be a real hero.