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Understanding Your Military Spouse’s Career Transition

To help make sense of their career transition, we teach individuals to think of their process as planting a garden. Tending a garden is no easy task, but can reap great rewards and personal satisfaction. But before the would-be gardener can think about the harvest, he or she has to decide. “Am I going to do this, or am I not?” A “yes” answer to this question means that the person has taken the first step in the transition process, and begun to change his or her mindset. In many ways the earlier a person answers this question, the better. That’s because when people come to us early, they have more of an opportunity to really take the whole process in small steps. Taking small, purposeful steps enables them to wrap their heads around each little piece of the process to make the transition a smooth one.

It’s also important to note that just because your spouse has only recently decided to begin his or her transition process doesn’t mean that he or she can’t make a successful transition. It simply means that, because they will leave the military in a short period of time, they may have a few more stumbles along the way because they haven’t been able to really think through and get their heads wrapped around each little piece of his or her transition.

What to Expect in the Beginning
Now, returning to our garden metaphor, if your spouse has decided to transition out of the military you have to start making the next decisions: where to put the garden and what to plant. In other words, “Where do I want to put down my roots?” The answers to these questions - and the ones that follow - will help your spouse move forward comfortably and confidently by breaking the process into manageable steps.

Making it Through the Sometimes-Difficult Middle
Of course, choosing where to put down roots, and knowing skills and talents that your spouse can utilize are essential to the start of a successful transition, but now your spouse will have to “turn up the dirt.” What we mean by that is the networking and the informational interviewing part of the process. Next, comes the “planting of the seeds.” Essentially, this means your spouse will need to get out there and talk to people - network. Any good garden needs water and fertilizer, so your spouse should expect to talk to a lot of people, often. This is the part that can become discouraging. Your spouse will have some doors closed on him or her. It’s nearly unavoidable. But over time, as he or she talks to more potential employers and continues to network - more water for the garden – he or she will suddenly start to get feedback. And feedback is exactly what you want.

Key Take-Aways

  • More time often means greater success for career change transitions
  • Break the transition process into smaller pieces and work on them individually
  • Network, network, network. You never know how you’ll find the next opportunity
  • Be prepared for setbacks, and turn them into useful events by gathering feedback to apply to later interviews or meetings
  • Take the time to find the right opportunity, which isn’t always the first one to come your way

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