What I told a navy vet about mental health and finding a civilian job

I was so glad to have a coaching session with a navy vet. It gave me so much insight into what clouds a vet’s mind when faced with the proposition of finding a civilian job. Here’s his story:

Doug served in the navy for four years and was “forced out.” I did not probe about the exact details because he seemed to be in a fragile state when we had our coaching session by phone. Doug said he had grown “suspicious” about transitioning to civvie street because he was on a leave of absence (LOA) due to work performance issues. While I collected information, Doug disclosed that it was “difficult to re-amalgamate, social relationships were strained” and he was “forced to talk with crazy civilians.”

Doug’s situation is all too familiar. He is dealing with a few issues: estrangement from the military; mental health issues and impaired work performance. Let’s deal with them one at a time:

As one who currently works in the mental health field part-time, the stigma about mental health is eroding. There are more mental health resources available to the military, compared to when I worked as a counsellor at Canadian Forces Base Kingston six years ago. Doug could avail himself with mental health resources that are confidential, such as 1-800 hotlines, the centre for rehab on base (IPSC) or possible Veterans Affairs. The attitude toward a military member or vet who is experiencing a mental health issue has changed for the better.

Estrangement from the military is very common, especially within the first year of leaving or being released. Serving in the military is very familial, and once the professional umbilical cord is detached, the military member feels estranged. It’s up to the military member to “remove the uniform psychologically” and then craft a transition plan.

Past performance issues. These can be dealt with a career coach, who can help military articulate their strengths, identify their weaknesses and identify previous accomplishments and achievements, that will be the focus of all self-marketing resources, such as resumes, cover letters, Linkedin profiles and interview preparation designed for behavioural questions.

What did I recommend to Doug so he could move forward? A transition plan. Here it is in a nutshell:

Phase I: Do as many self-assessments as possible to really identify work that will align with your values, motivators, talents and interests. Check out the home page of this site, and you will see a FREE career decision making tool, called “What matters most.” Click on the link and dive in. It is an investment.

I’ve seen TOO many clients panic and take the first offer after leaving the military. DON’T be tempted. The self-assessment phase is crucial to figure out your next direction.

In this phase, you should be work on eliminating FEARS (you will have them after leaving the military) and eradicate self-limiting, negative beliefs and self-talk. I spend time with clients on doing this during coaching sessions.

Phase II- In consultation with a career coach, ensure that your resume, cover letter and Linkedin are stellar-enough to entice recruiters and employers to contact you for an interview. Review your performance evaluations and Bravo Zulu’s from the last three years and embed positive aspects of those as testimonials. Also develop strategic interviewing strategies.

Phase III- Develop online and offline relationships. Develop consistent social media accounts that communicate your brand and value to employers. Your job search strategy should be 60% on networking, 20% on targeted resumes and Linkedin profiles and ONLY 20% applying online.

Phase IV-To quote a client, know your “risk appetite.” Decide in advance what you are willing to accept or not accept in the next job. Prepare negotiate the salary with confidence.

Keep gathering recommendations and referrals on and offline.

Take a proactive, not PASSIVE approach to your transition.

Ready to book a career strategy session? Go to my strategy session page on this site.

Melissa Martin, B.A., B.Ed.

Military to civilian career coach

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