- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

The Power of People
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Senior Contributing Editor

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Tom Wolfe

Salary? Location? Job satisfaction? Benefits? Growth potential? What criteria will you use to evaluate an opportunity? Those are some of the common ones used to appraise the likelihood of happiness and success in a new organization. As important as they are, there is a less obvious one that could have a significant impact on your job satisfaction. Let me share with you a personal story.

Many years ago when I was involved in my career transition from the Navy to the corporate sector, I had a routine I would go through after every second-level interview. The market for military personnel in the business world was very strong and I was fortunate enough to visit several companies during my search. On my way home from those interviews, I would collect my thoughts, review the events of the day, and consider the opportunity. I was getting pretty good at briefing my wife on what I had seen and she had become accustomed to my spiels. Her reaction to what turned out to be the last of these briefings caught me by surprise.

She picked me up at the airport and we stopped for dinner on the way home. We took some time to catch up and she asked me about my interviews that day. After going on for awhile, I noticed she was shaking her head and smiling. I stopped and asked her what was so amusing. She laughed and said, "Well, if you get an offer, that's where you are going to work!" This reaction surprised me. She had never responded like that in any of our previous discussions of this sort. When I asked her to explain, she said that for 30 minutes I had not said one thing about the job, the company, the office, the benefits, the working environment, the potential compensation, or the location. She knew nothing about those issues, but she knew much about Neil, Terry, Ben, Linda, and Mike.

All I had talked about were the people. How nice they were. How much they seemed to like what they were doing. How friendly and upbeat they appeared. How most of them had backgrounds similar to mine. How they seemed to be "my kind of people." My wife pointed out to me that in all of my previous reports, I had not spent nearly as much time, if any, talking about my potential coworkers. This time, she said, even without knowing much about the job, she could tell by the sparkle in my eye, by the tone of my voice, and by my enthusiasm that I had found my niche.

Fortunately for us, she was right. I received an offer the next day and a week later we were flown to the headquarters in Washington, D.C. for the company holiday party. Both of us had a great time - she loved the people also - and I accepted the offer before the evening was over. We continued to attend those company holiday parties for the next 30 years. Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps.

In addition to your other search criteria, do not overlook the power of people. There are very few jobs that operate without coworkers or interpersonal relationships of some sort. The importance of these relationships when it comes to your quality of life, quality of work, and job satisfaction should not be overlooked. As you go about your job search, I hope that you are fortunate enough to find yourself thinking, "These are my kind of people."


Tom Wolfe, Career Coach, is a nationally recognized expert in military to civilian career transition and the Senior Contributing Editor at Civilian Job News.  He served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy and has provided career guidance to military personnel since 1978. Contact him via e-mail


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