- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Spouse Series: Out of the Shadows

by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Mercer

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For some time now, you may have lived in the shadow of all things military. Like it or not, the career of your ever so dynamic and overachieving spouse may have taken precedent over yours and, indeed, over your whole life in general.

While his or her career goals have steadily progressed through the years and the ranks, yours may not have experienced the same upward spiral. Say it isn’t so, right?

This may not be true for every military spouse (we are, after all, quite a diverse demographic) but it certainly is not an uncommon occurrence in this camouflaged world for many.

All too often, we dilute our own career goals or shelve them altogether for that some day when mission doesn’t take precedence over everything else.

We look forward to some day when it’s our turn to take the professional lead in the family or at least to have more of an open opportunity to do so.

Some day has arrived, my friend. How exactly will you manage?

Don’t expect your overachiever to stop overachieving.

Your spouse is used to being in the professional spotlight. Don’t expect that to change too much when the uniform is hung up in the closet. A leopard doesn’t just change his spots.

Unless your other half has committed to a full retirement in the very real sense of the word, he or she will most likely still seek a challenging job that will benefit from your continued emotional, logistical and moral support.

Be clear with your spouse about your own evolving career ambitions.

If you want your own professional future to look different than it has in the past, clearly communicate that fact to your spouse now. By being open with each other early in the transition process, you allow yourselves more flexibility in the big picture when those life-changing decisions need to be made.

Rely on your superpower.

Call it a transferrable skill if you’d like to, but really your ability to manage change is more than that. Change management is your superpower. You eat it for breakfast and you will continue to use it, particularly as you and your family transition into this new chapter of your life.

Make a realistic plan.

Making a successful military-to-civilian life transition takes more than just the desire to do so. It takes developing an exit plan that clearly addresses your unique goals in the afterlife.

Such plans also build in the necessary steps to reach those goals, and they establish backup strategies for when things don’t go as planned. And rest assured, things won’t go as planned. Murphy’s Law doesn’t just exist in the military. It’s everywhere.

Face the upcoming transition with the right tools.

You have to have the right tools to do the job right. It’s a given.

Start with a healthy bank account. In theory, you have seen this transition coming from a long way off and have been diligently saving for it. You may need to rely on those funds as you both search for new jobs - bills still need to be paid whether you have a paycheck coming in or not.

Don’t forget about a professional wardrobe. Your spouse can’t wear dress blues or camouflage to civilian job interviews! Depending on what you’ve been up to professionally and where you want to go in the future, you may also have to add to your own clothing inventory as well.

Have an adaptable resume ready to roll. Adaptable, because you don’t want to make the mistake of using the same exact resume for every job you apply for. You want to tweak it each and every time to the specific job opportunity in question. If you have a basic foundation at the ready, that task of targeting is easier as you go along.

Make sure your online presence communicates an appropriate message to would-be employers on all your social media sites. If you haven’t created a professional profile on a site such as LinkedIn, do so and engage with others online in thoughtful dialogue. As you ramp up your online networking, ramp it up offline as well. Think big picture here.

Take advantage of the military’s transition assistance programs to learn everything you can about transitioning out and about your potential post-uniform benefits as well. Just don’t expect those programs and the people who administer them to do everything for you. That task would fall to you and yours.

Janet Farley is a career consultant and author of “Military Life 101: Basic Training for New Military Families,” (Rowman & Littlefield, July 2016).

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