Transitioning from Military Service to Civilian Business

Transition.  Passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another:  change.

Career transition.  Wow.  That almost sounds easy.  I didn’t see anything in that definition that said uncertain, difficult, frightening, or dangerous.  No big deal, right?  I’ve even discovered when networking, saying that I am in transition even calms me a little while I say it.  It implies an underlying confidence – sort of like “Who me?  Afraid?  Nervous?  No way, not this guy – I’ve got a plan.”

Well, if it is that easy for you – then stop reading – move along.

My transition is from military service to civilian business.  At initial contact, I would describe the transition from military to civilian as anything but easy.  As a helicopter pilot, I might have used the term transition to describe going from one flight regime to another; transitioning from a hover to forward flight, for example.  That was an easy transition.  This transition comes with a host of uncertainties.  Start with the challenges of just translating skills learned in the military.  Who is able to perfectly translate “platoon leader” or “division officer” to civilian equivalents?  Sure – it can be done – but the moment you are done with the résumé translation you just begin the battle of stereotypes.  Many of the stereotypes are positive, and could even be useful – but do you want to be limited by stereotypes?  After you wade through the stereotypes and build some new relationships – try escaping the gravity of the expectations of the world around you.  Once again – the general public supports your service, but it is not likely that they know your personal interests.  (Personal interests?  What was the weight of “personal interest” on your last assignment request in the military?  It moved from last to first during the transition, but exploiting that priority shift – for me at least – creates a whole new stress.)  So the reality is that the transition is a very challenging experience.  If you are not prepared, you may find multiple layers of inertia pushing you in unintended directions.

Putting some inertia in the direction that I want to go is exactly where the USD MBA program has proven value beyond just an academic degree.  This program provides the space to shape my skills and redefine my résumé – a chance to grow beyond the limitations of stereotypes.  Ultimately, it affords me the chance to build relationships and open doors that go in the direction of my personal interests.  The professional diversity within my cohort and the challenges presented from top shelf faculty have been well worth the time invested.  Beyond the academic experience, Sarah’s support in tailoring my syllabus, Reyna’s assistance with résumés, and Terra’s networking assistance have depressurized the job search.  I am very pleased to have landed in the USD community.

It’s almost making the transition start to feel easy.

-Alex Wilhelm

Alex, a US Naval Academy graduate, is a first year MBA student who recently completed 20 years of service as a Naval Officer.

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