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A Plan and Networking

By Angela Salinas, Retired Major General
U.S. Marine Corps

For anyone looking to transition from the service in uniform – whether after a four-year stint or after a full life of service, whether departing willfully or kicking and screaming – planning is essential to a less traumatic transition to civilian life. Let’s face it; this is a hugely stressful period in anyone’s life. Leaving the military often is combined with multiple stressors; a household move; change in income; relocation to a new area with few friends and no military facilities; some family or too much family; leaving behind a way of life few can appreciate. No matter the rank, officer or enlisted, lifer or first termer, it’s still the same…it’s scary!

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Angela Salinas was the first in her family to graduate from college. After college, she became the first Hispanic woman to become a U.S. Marine Corps general officer.
Upon her retirement in 2013, she was the highest-ranking
female officer in the Marines.

Having a plan can reduce the stress level. The day someone raises their hands and says, “I do solemnly swear” should also be the day they begin their transition planning. In reality, too many wait until told to attend Transition/Separation classes. Most say preparing for the next phase of a career should begin at least two years before a planned separation, however, many people will begin to get serious about a year out but many more will wait until the last month just because someone told them “don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of offers.”

The three questions you should ask yourself… Am I motivated by a job? Am I motived by a salary? Am I motivated by a location? Few are fortunate to have all three… once you answer… you can begin to plan.

What you hear from the experts is true… you have to decide what you want to do; you have to adjust to a new lifestyle; you have to accept you no longer have the job you had; you have to do something and something means preparing yourself by creating and building a resume that is revised and improved daily; meeting new people and networking through them; joining professional organizations; preparing for interviews and learning to “dress for success.”

Any good plan must include family and finances. Your family, whether immediate or extended, are an integral component to your success. As they were while you were in uniform, they will be with you as you traverse the mine field of decisions you will make. Include them in your decisions, whether it is your spouse, your children or your extended family members. A savings account/investment plan and an education fund are a must. At the ripe age of 18 or 22, looking to save any money from a meager paycheck may appear insurmountable but five or 10 dollars a week adds up. Automatic deductions directly into accounts with an increase every pay raise can provide tremendous flexibility four or 20 years later. The savings provides the flexibility during the transition phase and the education funds allows the flexibility to return to school to compete for any additional qualifications. Saving funds for the eventual is critical to whether you leap into the first McDonald’s manager position offered or entertaining multiple offers at corporate level McDonald’s.

Multiple books and articles are available on the subject with tremendous amounts of advice to secure the best jobs… some hire “head hunters” or professional recruiters… some pay to have their resumes professionally produced… whatever path chosen, networking has proven to be one of the most successful tools available. Networking works. Joining local organizations, whether it’s the Woman’s Chamber of Commerce or the Girl Scouts, the local church or the women’s Golf group, participating in as many organizations, both professional and personal, pays dividends. Volunteering with organizations that matter to you may find you rubbing elbows with a corporate vice president who may be surprised by your work ethic and job search.

Make your next job a choice. Try not to be tempted by the first “offer” just because you don’t think another will come along. Serving the nation in uniform may be foreign to many but the work ethic, character, loyalty, dedication, professionalism and moral courage you possess will remain in high demand. Sell yourself. Few will find the job they have always wanted and will finally be paid the salary they truly deserve… but some do because they had a good plan and worked hard.