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What I’ve learned during Military Transition

Rebekah Nugent - June 30, 2020

Every day at WYWM the Veteran Success team speak to people who are preparing for a life transition, whether that is a military transition to civilian, student to full-time employment, or another significant career change. The questions we get asked a lot are, what’s next, what should I be doing now, where to from here? Because of this, I want to write a short series on preparing for transition, reflecting on my own military transition in 2018.

Lessons from military transition

Growth Mindset

The first step to military transition or any transition starts with your mindset; the attitudes, self-perceptions, and beliefs you hold about yourself. Towards the end of my Army career I wasn’t satisfied with my career, but I was staying in because I knew I was good at my job, it was secure, and I didn’t know what else I could do. I had quite a fixed mindset on what my skills and talents were within my niche Army trade. When you think about changing careers if you’ve thoughts similar to “I’ve never done that before, so I can’t do that” and “I’ve done this job for the last 10 years, I can’t do anything else”, this is a fixed mindset. 

The change in my mindset started when I saw my Army colleagues find new employment. Seeing how excited they were motivated me to have a look at my own situation. I realised I wasn’t happy to keep floating by in my current role till that next promotion, that long service leave, that next trip; I wanted to change, and it wasn’t going to just happen. 

A fixed mindset doesn’t allow you to achieve anything new. You require a growth mindset, where you know that you can grow and develop, which is key for every transition. A growth mindset is taking those thoughts and changing them to “I’ve never done that before, I think I can do that in time that with some training” and “I’ve done this job for the last 10 years, I’m excited to see what else I can do”. A growth mindset requires an embrace of challenges, mistakes, self-reflection, learning, and ownership. 

Challenge, not threat

You can view change and growth as either an exciting challenge or a threat. Initially, I was scared about leaving the military. For me personally, it was never the fear of losing financial security, identity, mateship, which are all genuine challenges people face during transition; for me, it was the threat of failure. “What if I change careers and it doesn’t work out”. “What if I fail”. This is something I have to continually pull myself up on. I reframe this stress and fear from a threat, to an exciting challenge that I am motivated to overcome. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, I think about the excitement and personal reward that comes with overcoming a challenge.  

“This will be challenging, this will be rewarding”. Become excited about the challenges you will face and what you will learn from completing that course, attending that job interview, going through your transition. Be like the athlete before a grand final who is excited and pumped for the game, not scared of getting on the field. 

Previous success and mistakes

It’s not just reframing a threat as a challenge that helps me overcome my fear of failure, it’s looking back on all the times I’ve faced challenges and succeeded. I was afraid of failing when joining the Army, but I successfully overcame that.  Your current transition may be one of the biggest changes in your life, but it isn’t your first. Think back on times when you have gone through changes before, such as moving out of home, starting university, joining the military. These events were big transitions, and you navigated through them. 

Focus on the overall victory of those changes, but also recognise what you could have done differently to help the transition.  Reflect on what worked well, and what didn’t, view any mistakes and setbacks as lessons learned. Did you have realistic expectations? Could you improve your research or skills? Focus on how to overcome these lessons learned, which will help you develop a growth mindset and prepare for your transition. For example, I knew from a previous deployment I needed a support network wherever my transition took me. I could have prepared for my return to Australia better, I knew all the advice but didn’t think it would affect me. What I didn’t take into account was as a member without dependents when I returned home in February most of my support network had posted to other locations, which was difficult. Throughout and following my transition from the Army I made sure I had planned social events and stayed in contact with friend and family.Transition is not something to be scared of and avoid, it’s an exciting opportunity for you to grow and succeed. My advice is if you’re thinking that it might be time to change careers, it is. I hope you’ve gotten something from the above lessons learned, I’ll be following up on this soon with my experience on self-reflection, learning, and owning the transition!

For more information about any transition especially military transition, visit http://people.withyouwithme.com

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