Are you ready to change your military uniform for civilian clothes?  Have you started to prepare for your transition to civilian life?  The difference between change and transition is subtle, but important. These two words are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings.

Change is something that happens to you, even if you don’t agree with it.  We change duty locations, homes, jobs, and shoes.  Change is a shift from one thing to another and generally a one-time occurrence. Sometimes change comes too quickly or often unexpectedly.  Finally, change can be self-imposed or it can arrive at your doorstep.

“It isn’t the changes that do you in; it’s the transitions.”

– William Bridges

Transition, on the other hand, is internal.  Transition is the ongoing process of dealing with change. It is the movement from one state of being to another.  When you transition, you must ‘let go’ of the old and embrace the optimism of the new.  A positive attitude is essential for transition and for you to excel in your new environment.  A negative attitude can lead to resistance and opposition during your transition.  Therefore, embrace your personal change and mentally take charge of your attitude during transition.

In today’s challenging work environment, you must be flexible, able to embrace change and continually transition to remain viable.  Your military experience has instilled the ability to adapt to changing environments. This flexibility will serve you well as you respond to change. How will you embrace the change coming to your personal and professional life? What actions will you take to enable your successful transition? As you depart the service, remember to embrace the associated changes, but remain focused on your transition.

“There is a time for departure, even when there’s no certain place to go.”

— Tennessee Williams

Understand that your military transition will move through three distinct phases.  As a service member, your transition always starts with the end of your military experience. This can be very difficult, as not everyone is ready for the departure.  The second phase, AKA the “in-between zone” – is the most critical.  During this phase, you have lost your old identity and have yet to acquire your new one.  Finally, the last phase of your transition is the start of your new life, outside the military.

Here are a few survival tips for the critical second phase or the “in-between zone” of your military transition.

  1. Start early! Take time to figure out who you are and what you want to do!
  2. Create a solid network of close friends that can assist you with your transition and introduce you to their connections.
  3. Find and select an experienced mentor. Your mentor should be performing the work you want to do and be willing to dedicate time to assist you in your transition.
  4. Decide if you need certification, education and training – and determine how to get it.
  5. Develop a brand and make sure it is clearly indicated in your resume and on social media.
  6. Study transition materials – there are many good books and articles on line to assist. Check out the “Transitioning Military Series” for more details.
  7. Build a personal strategic roadmap for your transition.

The good news; numerous companies are seeking qualified candidates with your abilities. If you have met your personal military objectives and are ready to transition to the rapidly changing commercial work environment, you will find a great career.

Wishing you a lucrative transition!

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at