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Transition from Spec Ops: Things I would tell my younger self.

Over a beer at a New York firehouse recently an ex-US Navy SEAL mate summed it up perfectly; “5 years later and I am only just starting to feel as if I have transitioned”.

This powerful moment re-framed the whole transition thing for me, instantly releasing a huge psychological weight. Somehow it gave me permission to take my time, to relax. I wish I had learned this earlier in my career, that transition takes years not months. So, it is worth doing some serious preparation and planning. Upon reflection I would have done a few things differently.

That blurry image of a younger me on some distant Afghani dasht captures everything I recall about my mindset at the time. Thinking I was crushing it and convinced I was going to live forever. Optimistic, (over) confident, strong in body and sharp in mind. However, my blind spot was massive. Now, much older and having separated from the military the reality is different. If I could grab that brash bloke now, I would have a few messages for him and his looming transition from Special Operations.

 1.      Start training for it now: This is the most important (re)deployment of your life. Take it seriously and prepare physically, psychologically, socially and philosophically as you would for any deployment.

2.      Undertake further education: TAFE or tertiary, its more than a piece of paper. It is about a soft landing and immersing yourself in the future environment. Adapt your dress, bearing and language – lighten up on the F-bombs Harry. 

3.      Build a strong support network: Include a good ex-service advocate and a few quality senior civilian mentors. People who can assist you to navigate the snakes and ladders of transition and civilian life.  

4.      DO NOT discharge on emotion: Anger and discontent are neurological states of defensiveness that lead to poor decisions. Employ the counsel of a trusted friend or family member and only make strategic decisions when in a positive state.

5.      Use your leave wisely: Its best use may not be spent on holidays or taken in cash. Rather, use it to taper into your new future. Look around and seek internship or work placement opportunities while you are still earning money.

6.      Tell your story: Create a presentation about your career and life so far and look for opportunities to tell your story. Perhaps at a local R.S.L. for example. It will be uncomfortable at first but it is therapeutic, cathartic even. It will crystallise those strengths the military has cultivated in you.

7.      Listen to your inner Sergeant Major: The military’s most revered rank is respected because he or she cares about you unconditionally and is almost always right. Listen to that voice: “Get up and keep moving forward Moffitt!”

 Look out for our next LinkedIn article on that subject: Why your business needs a Company Sergeant Major?

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