By Ed “Bert” Guerrero, LCDR, USN, (Ret.)
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1992 a few months after graduating high school and spent the next two decades of my life experiencing the world and enjoying a Navy career.
I started as an Electronics Technician and ended my career as a helicopter pilot. The U.S. Navy gave me every opportunity to take the next step for success. I was fortunate to have great mentors and friends who guided me throughout my Navy career.
Transitioning from active duty service to life as a civilian was nothing like I learned at all my Navy transition classes. The reason was that most military transition courses are generic where 40-50 service members with different military backgrounds and completely different future ambitions are placed in the same classroom to learn about life after the military. No fault to the military because it is too difficult and costly to have one-on-one counseling, which is what all service members really need. The following is a few important pieces of advice that I give to friends and service members that are transitioning that I mentor.
The common question that I was asked was, “What do you want to do after retirement?” This question was more difficult to answer since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. We all have ideas of what new career or education we would like to pursue but it’s just an idea. This is a very important question to have an answer to because once you have determined what you want to pursue, then you can establish a plan and set goals.
Part of the plan should be to research everything associated with the new career or education you wish to pursue. Go online and look up the job and what qualifications are required or the university you wish to attend and what prerequisites are needed.
Also, begin to network and reach out to friends, family or fellow veterans who are currently part of career or university you are interested in. This process should be done at least a year before leaving the service. I always tell active service members “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job”.
I also help transitioning service members by giving them a large list of resources that are available to them. The list includes everything from Veteran’s Affair’s assistance to state and local job placement services to non-profits that can assist with job training. It can be overwhelming with the help available but as a transitioning service member you’ve got to prioritize the help you need. I refer back to the plan I previously mentioned; this plan will help you determine what help you will need.
Final piece of advice is to never give up. There will be rejections for jobs you feel are perfect for you. You will have set up your plan, received all training required, and meet all the requirements that are on the job announcement but still not get the job. Unfortunately, we may feel we are the perfect fit for the job, which does not always translate to hiring manger feeling the same way. That’s ok because every rejection is a learning experience that will prepare for your next job interview or university application, you will only get better.
Ed “Bert” Guerrero is a 22-year retired Navy officer where he served as a Special Operations Support pilot flying the HH-60H Seahawk including multiple tours to Iraq. He resides in Chula Vista, Ca following his retirement in December 2014. He currently works as a government consultant and is also pursuing a life in local politics. He spends his free time volunteering in his community and helping service members transition from active duty service.
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