10 Lists to Make Before You Make the Transition

Man transitioning out of Navy

As you get ready to separate or retire, you’re likely swamped with details around completing requirements, deciding where to live and figuring out what work you’ll do next (or retiring completely). As you inventory what you’ll need for the next chapter of your career, start by making these lists:

  1. What are your short-term career goals?
    • Will you be going back to school in a year? If so, what job could benefit you until you’re back in the classroom?
    • Do you need corporate experience? What jobs could help you get that?
    • Are you looking to work in an area completely unrelated to what you did in the military?
    • Are you prepared to start at an entry-level job and work your way up?  
  2. What are your long-term career goals?
    • Where do you see yourself at the end of your career?
    • Do you want to do the same kind of work you did in the military? Is there a market for that work?  
  3. What are your family’s goals around location/geography?
    • If your spouse wants to relocate the family back “home,” what does that mean for your job prospects?
    • Do you have connections and a network in the area you’ll live in after separation?
    • What do you know about businesses in the area you’ll relocate to?
    • Do you have kids in school who’ll want to stay in the community of your last duty station?  
  4. What are your financial needs?
    • What number do you need to earn to sustain your family comfortably outside the military (not what you think you “deserve”)?
    • What are your desired financial goals (that would make you feel excited about a new position)?
    • What other parts of the compensation package are important to you (i.e., relocation expenses, additional tuition coverage, flexible work schedule)?
    • For the right job, would you (could you?) take on a second job?  
  5. What are your non-negotiables?
    • What type of work would you hate to do? Make this a long list. Spell out every single kind of job you could not possibly imagine doing.
    • What level of compensation could you not accept, no matter how great the job?
    • Benefits and/or perks you must have to take the job (i.e., flexible work schedule, ability to work from home, etc.).
    • What value conflicts could you not tolerate from an employer?

The next five lists get a bit harder …

  1. What are you passionate about?
    • What topics excite you when you think about them or talk about them (i.e., mentoring and coaching others, serving veterans, public speaking, etc.)?
    • What work have you done in the past that you truly loved doing?
    • Which causes or issues do you find yourself preoccupied with (i.e., global poverty, politics, cyberterrorism, etc.)?  
  2. What are you good at?
    • For what have you received compliments or kudos (i.e., your patience, communication style, sense of humor, etc.)?
    • What work seems to come easy to you (i.e., analytical work versus creative? Project management or strategic design?)  
  3. How do the people around you perceive you?
    • Are you seen as a leader, follower, challenge or advocate?
    • Have you received feedback about your personality, workstyle, leadership style?
    • What words would the people you’ve worked with use to describe you?  
  4. How do you want to be perceived?

Get super clear on this one. What words do you want others to use to describe you at work? Avoid words like “hard-working, dedicated, creative” and get really granular. Paint a picture in your mind of how you want to be known.

  1. What roadblocks exist for you to build that desired reputation?
    • Do you have relationships that need repairing?
    • Will you need to change your workstyle?
    • Do you need to become more overt in sharing your goals and interests?

These lists will start you on the path to career clarity before you exit the military and begin the next chapter. While they are certainly not the only lists you should make, looking over your answers will highlight areas to pursue -- and avoid – as you transition.

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