Making a clean break

Scott A. Huesing
September 26, 2018 - 10:49 am

photo courtesy of Scott Huesing

I’m really terrified about leaving the military. I’m not sure what I want to do when I get out. I’ll probably be happy being a Greeter at Wal Mart.  I’ve heard stories over the past few years from friends of mine who are transitioning veterans—all of which are really depressing.  When I listen to it, I want to crush them into fine powder for having such a pessimistic outlook.

Transition should be an exciting time for veterans. We are geared for it through our training and lifestyle when we serve on active duty. Deployments, lateral moves, promotions, and sometimes demotions for the liberty-risks reading this. Regardless, the ability to change and willingness to improve is in all of us.

The real challenge for most is that when they transition from the military they are being “transitioned” by a group of government employees that have limited, and in some cases, zero real-world experience of what it takes to be successful in the private sector or as a veteran entrepreneur. I learned this in hindsight too, so don’t feel bad.  But learn from those who’ve gone through this gauntlet before, so you can exit with minimal bruising.

Making a “Clean Break” from active duty is going to be work on your end. Trust me when I say that no one is going to do it for you. Unlike the military, most in the private sector care more about what you are going to do, not what you have done. Let that sink in for a bit.  Meritocracy is the maxim to which good businesses subscribe to from the talent pool they hire from.

Like many transitioning veterans, I was geared to think, “Well, I did ‘this thing’ for 20 years, now I have to do ‘this next thing’ for 20 years. No, you don’t. 

That’s the beauty of it. You have to find what it is you really love to do. If you find it, great, keep doing it. But when you hit that point, and you no longer have the passion for it as you did in the military—QUIT. Seriously, you can do that. Sounds scarier now since you have to transition again, right?

But every time you make that transition, it gets easier. You gain more experience at how to do it. Who to connect to. How to leverage the networks you belong to. Set the goals for what you want to do in the job you land, and once you’ve achieved them look for more. If that job doesn’t offer them—transition again. Even if you do it every year and you’ve accomplished your personal goals you are winning ground.

Imagine that. Transitioning every three or four years to a new job—sounds familiar, right? You’ve already done that every time you hit a new duty station. Each successful, and sometimes unsuccessful, exit from a job in the private sector will build your experience base, your diversification, and confidence.  It’s the sum of those exits that will make you stronger and more hirable to others when you look at it through a positive lens.

Major Scott A. Huesing USMC (Ret) is the bestselling author of Echo in Ramadi – The Firsthand Story of U.S. Marines in Iraq’s Deadliest City. He is a proven combat leader with 10 deployments over his career to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He has planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions.

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