Kirk Windmueller is an Army veteran with over 22 years of service. He is a senior manager at Avantus Federal and a volunteer for Project Transition USA. The latter is a non-profit organization that teaches veterans how to use LinkedIn to network and find their next career. In this article he shares his insights on veteran transition.
After 21 years of service, I decided in 2017 to submit my paperwork to retire from the Army. So, with retirement orders in hand, I stumbled into the unknown. I was a Green Beret and a strategic planner at Joint Special Operations Command. Normally I’m a big fan of irony, but the fact that it was my job to plan things yet I had no plan for my own transition seemed like a form of professional malpractice. The clock was ticking with less than 12 months to my unemployment, and even though 200,000 veterans separate from the military every year, I felt like the first person to ever retire.
Transitioning from military service is a complicated process. Waiting until the last minute or treating it like a typical PCS move is not the way you want to approach one of your most important missions: getting on with the rest of your life. The consequences of blowing this off or wasting time and effort on the wrong things could lead to financial issues, loss of critical benefits, or the most widespread problem — taking a job that isn’t a good fit. This is why so many vets quit their first job in less than a year and find themselves right back where they started looking for employment again.
I’ve been retired over three years now and I am on my second career since becoming an army veteran. I’ve learned a few painful lessons along the way and I’ve worked with a non-profit called Project Transition USA to help other veterans and to pass on the things that I wish someone had told me. Here are a few of those lessons and focus areas for transition that require ample lead-time and planning.
Financial planning Make sure you have your finances in order. Try to live beneath your means and get out of as much debt as possible (particularly credit card and other high interest debt). Save some money (at least three months base pay) to get you by a few months after you separate in case your job hunt takes you longer than expected. Hold off on buying a new car or other big purchases until you have settled into your next career. (continue reading)