Veteran’s Perspective: By Lisa “La Coronela” Carrington Firmin, USAF Ret
A Seamless Military to Civilian Workforce Transition: Consejos Para Usted
By Lisa “La Coronela” Carrington Firmin, USAF Ret
UTSA Military Liaison
Office of Veteran and Military Affairs
The University of Texas at San Antonio
A professor once said to me that my transition from the military to academia was quick and impressive. Say what? In my head, it was neither. Fortunately for me, I had countless years of leadership experience with adapting and overcoming whatever situation or role I was thrust into from my years in the military. So, it appeared to onlookers that I had indeed “mastered” my transition, but it certainly was not seamless to me. I just knew how to compartmentalize extremely well and never let anyone see me sweat.
My leadership skill-set came in quite handy during the transition, and I will share some tips to help those undergoing transitions, but first, let me address the psychological transformation that I never saw coming.
I totally underestimated the impact that hanging up the uniform for the last time would bring, a significant loss of identity and family. The lack of a clear mission, sense of belonging and purpose can affect you once you are no longer serving. I firmly believe that this psychological transition is something that needs to be addressed before you leave the service.
Here are just a few tips to help those going through transition.
Be prepared for the psychological transition (emotional intelligence)
– Know that you will experience loss, like shedding a part of you. There was no checklist for this, no one had my back. Start visualizing yourself as a civilian, able to transfer skills to assist yet another mission. Learn the language and culture, I had to learn how to speak “academia” quickly to fit in and excel.
Know what you want or even better, know what you do not want. (mission-focused)
– It may be hard for military types to know which positions to apply for as we are qualified for more than most due to the breadth of our experiences. Instead of making one resume for all positions, I created ones tailored for specific jobs narrowing my focus. I learned what I didn’t want to do.
Always have a Plan B (think strategically)
– Dream big. The military was Plan A; Higher Ed was Plan B and Plan C was owning my own business. Higher Ed allowed me to help underserved populations and create new programming from the ground up. Now I have one leg in Plan B and one leg in Plan C with my consulting business, Carrington Firmin LLC.
Take the Time to Build Relationships (team building)
– I took the time to really listen to faculty, staff and students to understand my new environment. Do not underestimate how long you should spend in this phase; it took months for me to build solid relationships which then allowed me to build coalitions with trusted collaborators.
Be Resilient (adapt and overcome)
– Flexibility and resilience are traits that are honed in the military. This can be used in a variety of ways to either seek out employment or help navigate the position you land. Think about how many times you moved or were thrown into situations (like combat) where failure was not an option, lives were at stake, you relied on training and experience to get you through. Your critical thinking and resilience skills will be beneficial in the civilian workplace.
Buena suerte, good luck as you transition “seamlessly”.
Change of command Balad: Col Carrington Firmin assumes command of the 332ndExpeditionary Combat Support Group in the Sunni Triangle, Iraq (2004).
Lisa “La Coronela” Carrington Firmin is a retired Colonel, combat veteran and Bronze Star recipient. She is the Military Liaison at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she founded the UTSA Top Scholar program, the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and the Center for Military Affiliated Students. Lisa serves on several boards and is the founder/CEO of Carrington Firmin LLC, which primarily focuses on Leadership, Transitions and Diversity and Inclusion. A published author and keynote, she has written and presented on Leadership, Transitions, Veteran Culture, Diversity/Inclusion and Military Sexual Trauma. Lisa also served on the Secretary of the VA’s Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans.