Do you DARE?

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If you read my introductory post you know that one of the “other” topics I’ve considered chatting about in this blog is veterans transitioning from the military into the civilian workplace. I’d like to begin that discussion in today’s post with the intent of sharing some thoughts on this topic in my next several posts.

Why do I feel compelled to write about this? 1) I am an Army veteran and would like to share lessons learned with my fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms. 2) My transition into private industry over a decade ago was a fairly smooth one … some of that was blind luck, some of that was circumstance, and some of that was a little more deliberate. 3) I’ve also assisted veterans of different ranks make the transition into our firm. I certainly don’t have all the answers but think I have a few useful observations and recommendations on the matter.Bald Eagle

But why write about transitioning military veterans in a leadership blog? The connection to leadership is two-fold. For the veterans, their leadership (and other) experiences and skills gained in the military can aid their transition and performance in the civilian world. For the leader that’s hiring and working with veterans, their leadership approach has a significant impact on the success of a veteran’s transition and that veteran’s contribution to the organization.

There are many aspects of veteran transition … education and training, finding a job, transitioning into the job, and performing successfully in the job (and others I’m sure). My focus today and in subsequent blogs is the veteran who has accepted a job offer and is now faced with the task of transitioning into a new work environment and culture.

As you may have noted in my most recent post, I tend to over-simplify matters. True to form, I offer the acronym – DARE – as a framework for what I believe are the essential elements for successful transition. One could easily argue these are essential for anyone’s transition into a new job … and I agree … but I’ll offer a few nuances distinct to veterans as I elaborate on the four main elements. Here goes:

D: Define success

A: Adapt to the culture

R: Recognize your strengths

E: Engage with others

So let’s start with the “D” in DARE. What does it mean for a transitioning veteran to define success? In short, it means understanding what success means to you (the veteran), to your colleagues, your clients or customers, and to your supervisor(s) … and having a conversation (this is key) about those understandings that results in:

  1. A common view of success
  2. A few goals or objectives intended to make you successful (a word of caution here – you can easily go overboard with a laundry list of goals).
  3. How to measure whether or not you’re meeting the goals or objectives intended to make you successful.
  4. A plan for how often you will review progress against your goals or objectives.

US flagAbove I noted that “having a conversation” is key. Just like a successful relationship, the key to a successful transition and work experience is communication. Communication makes it more likely that you and your supervisor, clients/customers, and colleagues are “on the same sheet of music.” It also makes it more likely that anyone involved, but especially the transitioning veteran, will identify early if he or she is not meeting the agreed upon definition of success. If all parties are communicating effectively on a routine basis then the transitioning veteran should only have to make minor course corrections as opposed to major shifts in behaviors and attitudes (unless the job “fit” is just a mismatch … but even then with good communication you will realize this sooner rather than later).

A final note before I wrap up this post. I’ve been out of the military for about ten years but I suspect the phenomenon of inflated evaluations stills exists. For many transitioning veterans, your first civilian job evaluation may be much more frank and less “walk on water” than you’re used to. This may not be the case in all industries but it can be a rude awakening if you’re not prepared for it. This is all the reason more for you, the veteran, to define success (and how that success will be measured) early in your transition.

That’s it for now. Next time I’ll elaborate on the “A” in the DARE framework: Adapt to the culture. Would love for others to join this conversation and share their experiences.

Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of AcrylicArtist/morguefile.com

Second image courtesy of pippalou/morguefile.com

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