When a lot of veterans exit the military, they bring a lot to the table. They may have useful skills, that the military trained them in the highest levels of proficiency and that are directly transferable to the civilian sector — even if they were infantry, that brings along a plethora of abstract qualities like leadership, a willingness to get down and dirty and simply work, and a “think outside the box” mentality. All of these things are desirable and lacking in the civilian world.

Jobs should be chomping at the bit to hire you, right?

Wrong. You could have all the qualities in the world surrounding a certain job, but if you can’t do the one thing you’re there to do — how can they use you? If you’re working in a marketing company, you have to learn how to use Twitter and you have to know how to schedule posts on Facebook. If you’re working in a newspaper distribution company, you have to learn how to a paper route works, how the newspapers are built beforehand, and how the company mitigates disaster when breaking news gets printed last-minute.

These are basic things in the industries you’re getting into. Day one knowledge, like always putting your weapon on safe if you’re not actively engaging the enemy, or learning to automatically clear a malfunction in your weapon should one occur.

My experience is with Rangers, and unless you were a SOCM Medic, had an MOS in communications, or had some other niche skill, your direct skill of kicking down doors and shooting or detaining the enemy will likely not correlate. You have to adapt and overcome — a phrase many hear but have difficulty applying to the boring or uninteresting facets of civilian life.

And even if you DO consider a directly correlating job: SOFREP recently interviewed Patrick Bacon, former Army Ranger turned Metropolitan Police Officer in Washington D.C. — he said that being a Ranger exponentially helped his transition into law enforcement, but being “coachable” was the secret to success. Approaching police work with a level of humility paved the way for a seamless integration into his new group of peers. “I had a realization that while I was out doing the military thing, my future colleagues were all honing their skills on the streets,” Bacon said. “Five years of Rangering doesn’t really translate with the complexities of policing.” Despite the glamour of a Special Operations background, an understanding of his peers’ experience and knowledge granted Bacon an all-access pass to the wealth of his seasoned coworkers’ mentorship. “They’ve been there and done that. I haven’t. It’s plain and simple. A little respect goes a long way in any endeavor to which you know nothing about.”

The hard reality is: if you’re going back into the civilian world, maybe you’ll get lucky and find some position that puts you at the top of their game right away. However, it’s more than likely that you’ll wind up doing what I call your “private time” all over again. You’re the civilian version of an E-1, and you’ve got some grinding to make your way to the top.But that’s okay. Embrace it. Thrive off of being at the bottom of the barrel and climb your way up and out. It’s just a new ladder and it won’t last forever — I have seen too many veterans chase grand scheme or some solid idea that rockets their way to the top, but they never actually sink their teeth into anything. They never actually find the traction they so desperately want. A few years later, if they would have just stuck with that first business or worked their way up that first ladder, they would have been so much further along than they are now. As Bacon suggested, humility will take you a long ways — don’t be afraid to do your private time again.

Applying veteran discipline to the civilian world

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Images courtesy of pxhere.