I was raised in the “Segundo Barrio” in El Paso, Texas and am a 1984 graduate of Bowie High School. After graduation, I joined the Navy with my twin brother “Angel Quezada” to give back to the country that had provided so much to our family. A three-year hitch turned out to be a 30-year career. My career spanned 16 years as a Senior Enlisted Leader and 14 Years as a Naval Officer. The two biggest career accomplishments were selection to Chief Petty Officer in 1997 and commissioned as a Naval Officer in 2001. I honestly can say I lived the Navy slogan “Join the Navy, see the world”. By the time I retired–in January 2015–I had been deployed eight times, visited over 43 countries and travel to 48 States. My motto was “Living the Dream…Just Living the Dream”. Although I did not want it to end, I knew there was a day when it would be over! .
By LCDR Johnny Quezada, USN (Ret.)
Two years before my retirement, I started planning for my transition to civilian life. Today there’s plenty of information for transitioning personnel compared to 10 years ago. Today, there are plenty of companies assisting military personnel in their transition. You need to be prepared, so do your research.
The transitioning is not only for you, but for your spouse as well. You need to plan at least 24 months and no less than 12 months in advance. Try to attend at least two pre-separation seminars provided by the military, these seminars are mandatory, informative and will guide you through the transition period. Also, start saving your leave time prior to your transition. The more days the better it will be when your transition starts.
If you haven’t already started saving money, now is the time to save extra cash because you don’t know when or where your next paycheck will come.
Ensure your medical record is up to date. Start documenting all your medical issues at least 18 months before your last day. Ensure your health concerns are diagnosed by a medical doctor and documented at least twice. This is important for your disability claim with the Veterans Administration.
Here are some tips for a successful transition.
- Attend a Transition Assistance Program: Helps in resume writing, interview preparation and career exploration.
- Transferrable Skills: Describing military skills to civilian skills.
- Look for military-friendly employers: Ensure the cultural atmosphere is visible. Having co-workers that are prior military will ease the transition.
- Adjusting to corporate world: You need to fit in and change your body language and speech. No more acronyms and military jargon.
- Interview: You need to play up your strengths and give yourself credit for your military experience.
- Network: This is one of the most important parts of your transition. I found that networking really is important. Network, network and network!
My final thoughts are to prepare yourself early, understand what needs to be done, take action and be realistic.
Johnny Quezada is a 30-year retired Naval Officer where he served as a Naval Aide, Department Head and former Senior Enlisted Leader. After retirement in January 2015, he made his home in Grand Prairie, Texas. He is the Director of Military Affairs and Special Programs at LATINA Style Inc. He is a member of the Association of Naval Services Officer (ANSO).
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