From Boots to Business: Owning Your Transition
By Catherine González Pack, Assistant Vice President, Video Operations AT&T Mobility & Entertainment|Content Operations, U.S. Army Reserves Veteran
When my parents emigrated from Uruguay to the United States and found out they were having a daughter, they were relieved to think she would not have to sign up for selective service one day. Imagine their surprise when at 17 that same little girl showed up with a recruiter because she needed their signature to enlist in the U.S. Army.
As a 9-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, I did everything they promised me in that recruiting video. I was challenged every day, pushed to do things I never thought I could, learned leadership skills I still use today, and traveled the world. The one thing my service didn’t prepare me for was what it would be like to take that uniform off permanently. I spent quite a bit of my service years on active duty deployments, and even when I wasn’t deployed being a soldier had become part of my identity. Taking those boots off for the last time felt like high school graduation all over again – diving into that great unknown. To be fair, I was already working in a civilian job, so I didn’t have the active duty transition most have searching for employment, but it had its challenges nonetheless. No matter what branch you serve, there is a sense of responsibility to something greater than anything you’ve ever known.
When that uniform comes off, there is a reintegration period where you’re expected to learn how to be like everyone else. What does that even mean? I was 17 when I went in. I certainly couldn’t be expected to now “adult” full-time, right? Yes, that is exactly what was expected of me. Fortunately, I think I figured it out. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
We completed Confidence Courses people!
For me it was Victory Tower at Fort Jackson, SC. No matter what job you held, your service taught you skillsets that apply to ANY career. From basic organizational skills and problem solving to leading large diverse teams – when you drill down into the specifics of what your military role entailed, you will find that you can do just about anything in the civilian workforce.
Those of us who’ve served will never be like everyone else and THAT is what sets us apart
Have you ever noticed the immediate “smack talk” that ensues when there is another service member around? The sense of comradery, loyalty, and even a feeling of “they’ve got my back” is almost instantaneous. Use this, find this, wherever you can. Build your network. And most importantly, be proud of your veteran status – you earned it.
Find your community
I got out in 2002 and spent several years missing that connection. Over a year ago I was elected onto the board of a non-profit called Merging Vets and Players. Our mission is to match up combat veterans and former professional athletes together after the uniform comes off to give them a new team to tackle the transition together.