Transitioning Suggestions from Nancy J. Hatfield, USMC (ret) and professional engineer
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
Transitioning out of the USMC is life changing; just when you thought you knew everything, you don’t. As a person leaving the corps where you guided Marines and managed the chaos you may not have that same role and your point of view may not be the same as those you work with in your civilian life. Be prepared for preconceived notions about those who have served this nation with distinction. The civilians do not have a clue that you can “juggle tennis balls in a hurricane.” It takes time for your new employer to understand your talents and come to appreciate your abilities.
My advice to those transitioning is to execute the following:
1. Finish your education and, if you can, achieve a master’s while still on active duty. The flavor of the day is one in Business Management or Project Management. If you happen to be an engineer, a master’s and your Professional Engineering certification are most desirable. Certifications are also a plus, i.e. Project Management, Certification in Hazardous Materials Management, Certification in Homeland Security, Certified Safety Professional, etc.
2. Document every job you had in the USMC including the description, the experience, and level of management you had while holding that billet. This information will come in handy when applying for positions.
3. Manage your money. Participate in investments, 401’s, IRA’s, etc., but do your research first.
4. Read What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles, and do the workbook. It will help you define and refine your skill set and where you can apply those skills in industry. It will also help guide you to develop a 5-year plan.
5. Read and apply Principle Centered Leadership by Steven Covey. It is how most companies want to operate.
6. Network with old colleagues and new ones, often. It is who you know out there, not the algorithms embedded in the job applications software.
7. Dress appropriately for the job and the company. Also watch your language; you are not in the field anymore.
8. Once you have secured a position, set the example, be on time, and get along, but never compromise your ethics or “corps” values.
9. Find a mentor that challenges you in your new civilian life and with your new employer.
10. Take every training opportunity the company has to offer, especially the Leadership and skill set courses.
11. Have a sense of humor as you do need to laugh at yourself once in a while.
12. Stay in shape and participate in recreational activities offered by your new company and within the community. The bonds you make will serve you well in your new life.
13. Expect change as it will be often and without notice.
14. Look up Martin Yates’ work, the Ultimate Interview from the Knockem Dead Series: Practice, practice, and practice interviewing!
15. Remember also that all interviews will start with mentioning “Safety” first!
Logistics, Motor Transport and Maintenance Officer, USMC 1979-1999. Currently the Project Manager and Lead for site infrastructure with the Boeing Company. I earned a BA in Criminology and Forensic Chemistry from THE Ohio State University, and have MS'es in Logistics Engineering and Environmental Science. My passion is in the training and the amalgamation of the skills, talents and abilities of those chosen to manage to be successful, manage things, and lead their organizations. My goal is to make a difference and remain relevant until I “pass the baton.” Printed here with my permission.