I will never forget sitting on that mountain side in Afghanistan making the decision that it is time to transition from a military to civilian career. This was my second deployment, I had a wife and young son at home and I reached the pivotal 10 year point in my service where you either finished your 20 or got out. To retire from the military was always my goal from the day I raised my hand and took the oath but the amazing power of family and wanting to be there for them changed that goal. Not to mention that my body was breaking down from abuse of typical military activities and I had a strong feeling that if I was a cat, I used 8 of my 9 lives during my time in Afghanistan. It was time to use this “9th life” being home and in a safer environment.
Every so often I would be able to convoy to a base that had internet and it was during one of these trips that I used the computer to start looking for my next move. Searching through the job boards I ran across huge text “Perot Systems is looking for military veterans. No experience necessary!” Clicking that apply button when I returned back in the states ended up changing my life not only in the career sense but through gaining an unbelievable mentor/brother/friend/guide/rock, in the man, Dave Gregorio. He was the leader of the HealthCare Academy (HCA) at Perot Systems and gave me the chance I wouldn't get at most corporations being a military vet with no degree at the time. He has this ability to see and unlock the potential in people that is unreal! He understood me and where I came from. I was only 4 months removed from the Army and still decompressing from my last deployment. Needless to say, I was not the typical interviewee when I came in.
Throughout my time in the HCA, I was blessed in the fact I was in the academy with other veterans and strong leadership that gave me a safe place to begin my transition from a military environment to the corporate world. WOW! What a strange and different world this was! It is these differences that prompted me write this today.
Remember the military slogan that went something like, “we do more before 8am than more people do all day”? That was the first culture shock I remember. Going from 0430 PT formations to watching people stroll in to the office at 8, 9 and 10am to start the day took awhile to register that expectations and structure was left open to interpretation. I still start my day early even now, though it may be from my office at home and not at my desk like it was when I first started. It allows me to be caught up and ready for any new tasks that the late comers start sending out.
Got meetings anyone??? Holy $H!T I was shocked by the number of meetings when I first came in to the corporate world and to this day, still can’t get my head around it. Would someone please make a decision? I’m not saying that there was not meetings or briefings in the military, there definitely was, but there was a system to it and leaders where expected to make a decision and carry on. These mission plans changed while out conducting the actual mission a lot but quick decision making abilities and the skills to “shift fire” to address issues and keep moving forward toward the objective is lacking for the most part from my experience in the corporate setting. There are both great and bad leaders in both the military and businesses but the truly great leaders gain the trust and confidence of their team by setting the course and dealing with changes in a timely and successful manner. Nobody wants to follow a leader that is uncertain and afraid to move. This will get people killed in on the battlefield and make business fail in the civilian world. I want more leaders to know that it is OK to be wrong sometimes, just have the ability to own it, fix it and carry on. I bet this would give back hours of meeting times that could be used to actually do things that help reach the objective. Not to mention foster a work environment of dedicated employees.
The last culture shock i’ll address for now is the unknown of how to move up the chain. It is pretty straight forward on the requirements soldiers need to advance. Time in grade, schools, PT test standards to name a few. Yes, you get passed over on gaining a rank but at least you knew that you were in the running for it and it could still happen next cycle. I couldn't tell you any one way to advance to your next level in a corporate setting. Could it be luck, time you spent in a chair, school connections, maybe somebody likes you and gives you a promotion? Yes, hard work and doing your job well definitely doesn't hurt your chances for succeeding but it doesn't grant you a guarantee. That just helps ensure you get a paycheck every two weeks. Doing your job and doing it well is expected of you. For the most part, you have to do something above and beyond to get a medal in the military as where I have seen people get rewarded for just doing what is written in their company job description. Here is your trophy for doing what we hired you to do! My wish is for more businesses to establish defined career paths for their employees. Not only would this help remove the unknown but people would have the ability to progress in a more formal manner and have the desire to actually stay with the company because they know how to better themselves if they so choose. Remove the grass is greener mentality from your work force!
I’ll close by saying I am not one for writing down my thoughts. I mean, hell, I already know what I am thinking, why do I need to put it on paper and who would want to read it anyways?? However, if you made it this far, THANK YOU. Maybe someone will make a change from my opinions of how to better the workforce in the corporate world.