The military-to-civilian transition is unlike changing any other career. It is more like transitioning your entire life. You leave a different physical world, with a different ethos, culture and way of working, and get into a world which you now barely understand. But this is the new world of veterans, in which they must learn to succeed.
In my many years of training veterans, I have found a few common factors which apply to almost all transitioning soldiers. So here are those key reasons due to which transitioning soldiers need to start preparing and training well in advance, followed by key areas which this training must focus on:
Why soldiers must start preparing well in advance:
- A New Value System and Culture: Soldiers get used to a value system, which focuses on things like honesty, integrity, discipline, leadership and commitment. In the civilian world, soldiers experience a shock, as value systems differ from one organisation to another. When I left the Army, I trusted someone blindly and lost all my money. Many veterans tell the same story, so soldiers must first of all learn about their new world and its new rules. So that they do not make fatal mistakes at the start. If they understand the civilian world a little before entering it, they can better adapt to it and appreciate it.
- Settling in the Family: Like the soldier, his or her family too undergoes a huge transition. They too need to make many adjustments. The veteran must prepare in advance for this too.
- Hitting the Second Career Running: The world outside is transactional and fast. No one waits in line for a soldier to join in. So a soldier who picks up a job or self-employment or business, gets no time to settle in. He or she must hit the road running. To be able to do that, he or she must be prepared and train in advance.
- A Wonderful Second Life Versus a Life: No soldier would like to start over again, and find a few years later that he or she took the wrong path. They are well on their way in their lives and this should not happen to them. So veterans’ second life decisions become a little more critical. Besides, finding their niche takes time. Veterans who are under pressure to pick up something fast do just that – pick up anything fast, and then regret it. Advance preparation and training help them make the right decisions.
- What transitioning soldiers must focus on:
- An overall understanding: As mentioned above, the foremost thing for the soldier is to get an overall understanding of his or her new world. And the best way for them to do it, is to find a way of experiencing their new world. They can take leave to find out, talk to successful veterans, attend transitioning courses or intern with someone. As they say, there is no better proof of a pudding than eating it. So why not take a small bite, to try it first?
- Acquiring New Knowledge and Skills: Most soldiers do not develop skills like branding, marketing, sales, networking, technical skills needed in the corporate world, financial management and knowledge and jargon about industries and functions. All soldiers must learn about these common skills. Then they must practise these as best they can. In a sense, they must go through a ‘civilian KSA boot camp’ (Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes).
- Gathering Resources: Apart from skills, you also need material resources, like money. The soldier must focus on these. He or she must create a money corpus for acquiring these resources, build a corpus for things like a business, and also set aside some reserves. A new business for example, guzzles money. A good thumb rule is to calculate what you need for business, then multiply it by three!
- Building Networking: At the age at which soldiers get out, people are already settled into their comfort groups. So even though soldiers might learn networking, they need time to create those networks. These networks will be critical in getting them their second careers, in building the social fabric in which they will live outside. This is another key area which needs preparation and training.
- Getting a Foot Into the New Career: A soldier must not only decide upon a career, and prepare for it, he or she must get that critical breakthrough. Since they are entering sideways, this takes more time and work than entering through the normal stream of college placements. This is an area which needs a lot of work by the veteran. He or she must learn the art of doing this, and then put it into practice.
- The Armed Forces have approximately 24 lakh veterans, which constitute a well-trained, self-motivated and a highly disciplined workforce, who have given their youth to the Nation. If they are well trained and transitioned, they will not build wonderful second lives for themselves, but also become great nation builders and pillars of their society. So their transition preparation and training are even more important, and have an even larger impact, than they might think.
Colonel Sunil Prem (Retired)
About the Author
Colonel Sunil Prem (Retired) is MD and CEO of Brisk Olive Business Solutions Pvt Ltd, a Business Consultancy and India’s largest Field Force provider, with a network of 23,000+ ex-soldiers positioned across all 741 districts of India. Their teams are composed of trained, handpicked ex-soldiers and they are employed for tasks at which they excel such as Surveys, Audits, Market Research, Promotions, Trainings, Project Execution, Verifications, Rectifications, Last Mile Connectivity tasks, etc. Brisk Olive also provides recruitment of veterans. They train and transition veterans, to ensure a win-win for corporate and veterans.
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