The military offers a number of benefits, and a primary one is the clarity of the career path – there’s a rank structure, lines of authority, and even if you don’t always have direct control of your career path, you’re on a journey with like-minded counterparts who are focused on the same mission. Then the jump into the civilian sector arrives, and many service members find themselves asking – now what?
Even for Navy SEALS, whose military training prepared them for every contingency find themselves struggling to establish what career path to pursue after their military career is over. Navy SEAL Eric Frohardt found himself forced to medically retire, and had the difficult task of translating his military skills into civilian employment. He’s gone on to create a successful life and several businesses – but it didn’t come easy. He’s joining ClearanceJobs for a special webinar November 4, 3 – 4 PM CT as he discusses how he navigated the military transition. His remarks will arm service members, transitioning vets, recruiters, and company leaders with insight into the process and inspiration to help kick off Veterans Day month.
We asked Eric to provide us a quick Q & A teaser to help give you a sneak peak of why you should join us Nov. 4.
1. What was one of the biggest surprises you faced when transitioning out of the military?
The biggest surprise is how HARD it was. At first, you think it will be so easy. You no longer have to risk your life so much as part of your ‘job.’ My job in the military was considered quite hazardous. Navy SEALs have some very dangerous training (shooting, demolition, parachuting, etc.). Plus, there’s the inherent danger of combat operations (getting shot at, getting IED’d, etc.). So I thought it would be ‘easy.’ But, it was not…especially at first. This gave me a newfound appreciation for people in the workplace.
2. One of the big things we talk about at ClearanceJobs is skills translation – vets have so many valuable skills in the private sector, but don’t always realize it. What was one of the biggest skills you attained as a Navy Seal that you’ve now applied in the civilian sector, or one you’re surprised you’ve applied so much?
This is a GREAT point. So many of the specific skills just didn’t translate. Unless I was going to become a security contractor (which I did not want to do), no one would hire me because I was a Navy SEAL Sniper (as an example). I had some computer literacy, and could type, build slide-shows (PowerPoints), email, and build spreadsheets (Excel). But so can EVERYONE else. So it was the macro-skills (or high level skills), that really served me well. Examples include: Leading, being a good teammate, communicating w/others, being able to handle stressful situations (no work stress now compares the stress of combat), EXECUTING a plan (getting things done), and of course PERSISTENCE (not quitting when the going gets rough).
3. Surveys say 65% of vets leave their first job within 2 years – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What do you recommend to vets who are having trouble finding their best career match after they leave military service?
If you have the option, it would be great to take a year off…and really take the time to figure things out, figure out what’s next. Those who are younger, and maybe not yet married or have kids are more likely to do this. Of course, it helps to also have some money saved up to live on. The reality is, most of us leaving the military don’t have the luxury of a ‘gap year.’ We have to get to work to support our families (when I got out, I was married with three kids. Now, I have four!). My first ‘job’ was as a consultant. Then, I opened up my own business. There are pro’s and con’s to being an entrepreneur (see the note on being able to support your family).
For most people, I would say ‘just get a job.’ Don’t look or wait for your dream job. You probably won’t know it yet anyway. Don’t wait for the perfect pitch to ‘hit a home run.’ Take a job and just ‘get on base!’ It’s the BEST way to learn about working on the outside, as a ‘civilian.’ You’ll also meet people and be part of a new team. In that job, no matter what it is, simply DO YOUR BEST. Only good will come from it. Keep a journal and write down what you like and don’t like (leading/managing, strategy/execution, etc.) Patterns will start to emerge. Keep your eyes open, and keep networking. Do things that you are a little afraid of. All veterans are good at learning. You spend so much time in the military learning and adapting. Doing new things leads to new things. There will come a time when you have to get good at saying ’no.’ If you have a big important job, you’ll have to say ’no’ to more things right away. If you don’t, or if you don’t have your ‘dream job’ yet, try a bunch of new things. You’ll learn new things, open new doors, meet new people, etc. Hustle!