I suppose it is fitting that my first blog would come at my transition point from active duty military service into the civilian world. This past year has had so many “firsts” that I have lost count. For so long I did not even consider what I wanted to be when I grew up; that is retired from the Army. You just chug along at a blistering pace for so many years and then it is suddenly time to figure yourself out. What do you want to do next? The same thing you’ve been doing in the military? A long desired passion that you’ve always wanted to make a reality? Something completely new that you never even thought of until now?
As one approaches the transition point from military service, whether simply finishing your term or making it to retirement, there is a mandatory process that every service member must go through. Honestly, they throw so many resources your way it can be overwhelming. There are so many great organizations out there that are willing and able to help veterans. The tools are there, that is not the issue. The issue for me has been simply not having identified, or even thought of, what I wanted my life to be like after military service. The military becomes your life and for 22 years I have lived the Army way. My wife and family have lived it right beside me, supporting through many hardships and celebrations. While I know in my heart it is time to move on, the most daunting aspect of retiring is the question “now what”? Retirement pension, healthcare benefits and other perks are certainly a blessing but not enough to simply sit back and do nothing, not to mention I’m only 41 years old. And so, I have simply dived into this new world.
To say that 2020 of all years was probably the worst year to go through such a big life transition is an understatement. We have all struggled through one of the most challenging and tragic years in recent history. Yet, for me it has been a roller coaster inside a tornado. The tornado has been 2020 while my own journey has been a roller coaster of self-reflection, networking and absorbing as much information as possible. It has been like drinking through a fire hose at times but if I could give one word of advice to a service member at any point in their career, it would be to look beyond the military as soon as possible. Identify your passions, your skills, and goals for post-military life. Start setting things in motion wherever you are at in your military career so that you do not have to figure it all out in your last year like I have.
To my fellow veterans, I have discovered so many brothers and sisters in arms who are willing to help and mentor. Reach out for yourself and if you are in a good spot, reach out to those who need assistance. Here in the world of project management that I have found myself in, there is a huge desire for veterans. Companies like THE PMO SQUAD have initiatives in place to hire veterans and they support other organizations such as Veteran Project Manager Mentor Alliance (VPMMA) who will come alongside veterans as they transition or are in need of being connected after leaving the service. Stay connected through LinkedIn and other veteran networks like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Use your state workforce commission, use your education benefits, and stay motivated. I have experienced multiple denials, setbacks, and delays this past year. All I can end with is to say, be resilient, pick yourself back up and lean on those who have been through it before you.