- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Spouse Series: 7 Strategies for Making the Hard Decisions
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: American Airlines

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Nothing about military life is easy. We don’t need to go through the laundry list of its many challenges because you’re no doubt familiar enough with them by now.

Transitioning out of uniform isn’t any easier. Surprise, surprise. There are hard and potentially life-changing decisions to be made at nearly every turn.


Should you take Job A over Job B? Should you move across the country? Can you justify asking for a higher salary? Should you stay in your current field or switch career gears now? Given the opportunity, should you delay this military-to-civilian transition altogether?


To say that the process is stressful is a gross understatement. Like all stress, though, it can be effectively managed with the right approach. What is right for one person, however, isn’t necessarily right for another.


Even the most decisive among us can waiver when we shouldn’t. Whatever your personal style of decision making, one or more of the following strategies may help you along the way.




1. Use a time-honored pro/con list. We could get into the pros and cons of a pro and con list, but that somehow seems redundant. Suffice it to say, visualizing through careful analysis the potential good and the bad of any situation can go a long way to helping you arrive at a good decision.


How can you create one? Easy. There’s an app for that. It’s called pencil and paper. Or if you are too millennially-minded for that solution, you can check out any number of online apps to help you, such as T-Charts (Pros and Cons) by Tekk Innovations LLC; Decision Wheel by Nitrex Pro and even Coin Flip Free by iHandy Inc.


2. Play the worst-case scenario game. Move past the pro and con list by making a pretend decision complete with pretend consequences.


- Let’s say you take Job A over Job B and you move across the country.

- Let’s say you soon discover you made the worst decision of your life.

- Let’s say you cry tears of regret every night into your pillow.

- Let’s say your family members will no longer speak to you.


If the worst happens, what then? Can you reverse it or can you take action to create a new decision? Are you stuck with your situation for a given period of time? Is the worst thing that can possibly happen career ending or simply a side trip on your path to true satisfaction and success?


When you take the time to worst-case it, more often than not, the worst that can happen falls into the realm of massive inconvenience, at most.


3. Phone a trusted friend. It works on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” It could work on “Who Doesn’t Want to Make the Wrong Decision,” too. The key word here is “trusted.”


4. Seek guidance from your mentor. This is perfect occasion to call upon your mentor. Give him or her the chance to strut their mentor stuff and offer sage advice and guidance. That’s what they are there for. What, you don’t have a mentor? It’s one of my key checklist items for spouse job seekers. See more here:


5. Stop overthinking the decision. It’s all you can think about, day or night. It’s all you talk about with your spouse, your kids, your best friend or any unsuspecting stranger that crosses your path. You have become utterly one-dimensional and you’ve just got to end the madness now.


When we’re stressed about a decision we have to make, it’s often all we can think or talk about. Strangely enough, that really doesn’t help the situation. When that starts to happen to you, take a mental break. Focus on something else altogether for a while. That neutral space in between often creates the clarity you genuinely seek - and it makes you more fun to be around, too.


6. Calm yourself and listen to your gut. Trust yourself. You’re a pretty smart person, and your gut is hardly ever wrong.


7. Make a decision and move forward. Avoiding the decision isn’t an option but some people try to get away with it anyway. The bottom line is easy. You have a decision to make in a specific period of time. Work to gather the facts as best as you can. Make an educated decision based on those facts. Run with it and see where it takes you.


Welcome to your post-military life.


Janet Farley is a job search and workplace issues expert and the author of “The Military Spouse’s Guide to Employment: Smart Job Choices for Mobile Lifestyles” (Impact Pubs, 2013) and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job” (Jist, Inc., 2013).


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