By Rob Griggs
A common challenge for veterans in transition is trying to figure out exactly what they want to do in the next phase of their life. For many, common advice given is to do something you are passionate about, determine where you want to settle down and look for employment there, or (most confusing to me) figure out how your military skills best translate and find a corresponding civilian job.
The flaw in each of these well-intentioned pieces of advice is that there is actually a step that precedes any of these approaches. In fact, it is actually something many in the military are familiar with – determining three core tenants about you: your personal philosophy, your personal vision and your career plan.
Personal philosophy is also known in military circles as a leadership philosophy. Simply put, it is a document that tells those that work for you and with you what you are about. What are the things that are most important to you – which values, which leadership approaches et al – help define who you are personally? As a veteran in transition, consider formalizing these thoughts into a simple one-page document.
The process in developing this will help you not only develop your vision and personal plan, but it will also help you figure out those things – many intangible – that mean the most to you and may tip the final equation in choosing whether to apply for one job or another or even accept one job over another.
You can establish your lines of effort (or “lines of focus”) into something simple such as “professional” (your employment pursuits), “personal” (areas in which you want to commit personal time and effort, towards personal growth and accomplishments, i.e. earn a degree or certification) and philanthropy or community – areas or a path that focus on helping others.
While these are just examples, the recommendation is to have at least two and preferably three axis on which you want to progress. Once you have articulated a personal philosophy, you should next develop a personal vision. For so many of us that served in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a derivative of what is known in operational and strategic headquarters as a campaign plan.
Like a campaign plan, we should have “lines of effort” or “lines of operation”. While it is not necessary to militarize the terms in your document, understanding the correlation from the military campaign plan to your personal plan may prove useful.
As with personal philosophy, the process is equally important to any final product. As you proceed down any one axis, challenges to your plan will occur – early and often – and if you produced your vision deliberately and with careful consideration, you will know those areas that were previously considered and dismissed (and why they were dismissed), which will better help you make the decision to continue on course, deviate or abandon the current trek down the axis.
The last personal “core” document is your personal plan. Think of the development of a personal plan as the meat on the bones – the bones being your vision plan. For those that will go into business for themselves, this is similar to your business plan – how you will do whatever it is you want to do. If in your personal philosophy you determined that personal growth is a core tenant in your life and in your vision you stated that you wanted to pursue an advanced degree or professional certification, then in your personal plan you would lay out all of the gates required to fulfill that plan.
Nested with the lines of focus in your vision, you will easily be able to sequence and de-conflict the different action events in your plan with each other. If your ultimate professional goal is to own your own business while earning an advanced degree for personal growth while establishing yourself as a community leader while serving as an adviser for a local non-profit effort, a nested philosophy/vision/plan will let you develop a detailed path that will give you specific direction as to what endeavor you should pursue, where you might want to pursue it and the timeframe when all of this will happen.
The business plan planning will lay out all of the specifics – costs, challenges, sacrifices, possible branch plans, etc., which will produce a business plan that gives you the direction…and the confidence…to realize an end state that has been extracted and is rooted in the most valuable asset in this entire process, you.
Transitioning from the military into the civilian sector can be daunting and everyone who provides guidance or recommendations is surely well-intentioned and usually has good reason to give whatever advice they give. The entirety of the process can be daunting and overwhelming. Through a deliberate process in the development of personal philosophy, vision, and plan, you can navigate the transition into the next phase of your life with confidence and certainty. Good luck, be confident in yourself, and lead them well.