- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Finding Your Bliss

by Heidi Russell Rafferty, Contributing Editor

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One piece of career advice you may have heard as you pursue a civilian career is, “Do something that truly interests you” - or in other words, “Find your bliss.” But ultimately you have to ask yourself, “How do I distinguish my career wishes apart from my skills and experience?” Are they one and the same, or do they differ? Sometimes, what you’ve done in the military either doesn’t translate well into civilian life, either (think: artillery or infantry). But that doesn’t mean you don’t already know deep down what you can and should do.

Here are tips on how to break it down to find your bliss.

Use your network to help you think outside of the box, says Dr. Bernard Luskin, the Provost at Touro University Worldwide. He is also a clinical psychologist and internationally known media psychologist.

Luskin, a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran, made the mistake of segueing into a career immediately after his service that was similar to his Navy job as Captain’s yeoman. “I wound up teaching typing and business office practice,” he says.

Many veterans do that, too, because they’re accustomed to a “herd mentality” or not looking beyond the obvious, Luskin says. “The military manages large groups of people to achieve objectives, but they do not manage for the individual.”

To move beyond that, contact people who have already exited. Find out about their post-military careers. Ask them what they thought you were good at when they served with you. And ask if they think you would be a good match for what they’re doing. “All you have to do is get an epiphany so that you get insight into options. You need to explore them and shouldn’t be intimidated by them,” Luskin says.

Keep a 30-day journal on what makes you happy, and then tally the results, says Jeff Gitterman, author of Beyond Success; Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity ( He’s also an award-winning financial advisor and the CEO of Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management. Every night, write a paragraph about the most enjoyable part of the day for you - the time when you felt “in flow,” Gitterman says. “That translates as a moment where you don’t recognize the passing of time because you’re so engrossed in whatever you’re doing. It’s not necessarily a work activity. What are the best 15 minutes of your day, where you were engrossed and energized?” Don’t review previous entries, however, until you reach the end of 30 days (doing so may skew your future entries). When the month is finished, you’ll typically find a pattern of activities that bring the most joy, he says. This will help you crystallize future goals - and also how to handle your current environment.

“What you contribute at work makes you ultimately happy and helps you find your bliss. It’s not the job, per se,” Gitterman says. “Most people start off their careers in the job they don’t love. So bring your love to your job, no matter what the job may be.” He points to New York City waiters and waitresses, who are often hired by his friends in the financial industry based on their service and cheerfulness.

“You can tell quickly how much they’re bringing their joy rather than their suffering to their work,” he says. “Doing so opens up opportunities for people. You’ve gotta bring your best contribution to your job.

Nothing beats a scientific analysis - of you. Dr. Herb Greenberg is founder and CEO of Caliper, a leading international consulting firm. Greenberg came up with the Caliper Profile, a scientific instrument for in-depth personality assessment and job matching that measures more than 25 personality traits related to job performance. Through the results of this test, he is able to place individuals into the best jobs for them.

Caliper provides an automated service that can point the soldier to one of 17 potential careers and company matches. It has assisted 3.5 million people at 28,000 companies. Other tests include the Myers-Briggs, which analyzes personality traits and can also be applied to career matches. Greenberg suggests setting aside about $100 to do nothing but test yourself for your interests.

“Poke at yourself. If you’re not feeling well, you go to a doctor. If the doctor is not sure, they send you to a specialist. In the same way, this is somebody’s focusing on the rest of their lives, and they can make a mistake by getting post-military careers that are not right for them,” Greenberg says.

Freelancer Heidi Russell Rafferty is a reporter with 19 years of experience who writes about employment and business issues.

Return to September/October 2011 Issue