There have been many articles written on how to make a smooth transition from the military. Advice on how to develop a well written resume, how to apply for positions, how to approach and answer questions during the interview and the list goes on. What is not written about or discussed is once you receive and offer and start a new career, the CULTURE SHOCK that occurs during your first year out of the military.
I transitioned from the military back in 2012 and thought I was ready. I attended T-GPS, worked with Military and Family Readiness and even had a mentor to assist in the process. What I discovered was getting the job was easy, dealing with the culture differences was the most difficult for me. I went to work for a DoD contractor, but worked in a department where there was no former military members in it and there was definitely a difference in the work environment. Here are some of the differences that I noticed.
- Work Ethic – The pace of work was much slower than what I was use to. Most military professionals know one speed and that is GO. When given a task, we take it on, complete it and are on to the next. I was told several times to slow down that it wasn’t necessary to complete things so quickly. Coming in early and staying late to get work down was not the norm. When I showed up 30 minutes early, I was the only one there. At the end of the day, it was a mass exodus to get out the door. My norms were not the same as my teammates and this caused tension in the office.
- Individualism versus Teamwork – My TEAMMATES tended to work as individuals and had a hard time being a part of a team. Because they have been operating as individuals for so long, the suggestion of teams to accomplished tasks seemed to present a threat to how things are which leads to the last difference.
- Change – This was the hardest thing for me to adapt to when making my transition. The resistance to change and the dismissal of new ideas was discouraging. I felt that I because I was new I could bring fresh ideas to the table and we could improve our processes. This was met with much resistance. In the service, change happens all the time as we know. Presenting new ideas to improve processes and make things better is always encouraged. This was not my experience and ultimately led to my decision to move on.
The differences I’ve listed above are not necessarily bad, they are just different. I prepared for the resume writing, applying for jobs, the interview and the follow-up but not prepared for the life in the civilian work force. No matter where you go to work, there are going to be some cultural differences to what you are use to. My suggestion is you find a mentor who has been in the civilian workforce for some time to discuss and prepare you for what you might face. These were my challenges that I had to work through. Your may be the same of maybe different, the key is to be prepared with the knowledge and understanding that there are going to be areas that you are not use to and what you’re going to do to overcome them. Best of Luck!