Take it from a retired four-star admiral: Finding success outside of uniform is a team effort.
“The bottom line is, this is one you can't do by yourself,” said Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret), who capped a 37-year military career with a three-year stint as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) that ended in 2013. “You've got to be part of a team to make that transition. At the heart of the team, it’s not just you, but your spouse, your family, your parents, and then your work on that team ought to radiate outward from that initial team.”
Unsure where to start? The admiral had this suggestion: “I think MOAA is a very good example. … No one of us is as smart, effective, efficient, and as capable as all of us working together. Transition help, help with medical insurance … these are all things that well-run professional organizations do very well. MOAA, top of the list.”
Stavridis shared his thoughts on military-to-civilian transition as part of an interview about his new book, Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, which was featured as part of the 2020 Summer Reading List in Military Officer magazine. (Members can access their digital copy here.) He wasn’t the only author to do so; in fact, he wasn’t even the only four-star retiree.
[RELATED: MOAA's Career and Transition Resources]
When you are looking for your next career, things may not stick right away, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, USA (Ret), who served as 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his 2015 retirement.
“Neither your successes nor failures should define you,” Dempsey told MOAA. “It's one of the things that I try to discuss with rising leaders, or really anyone who's on any team, whether it's a corporate team, a sports team, an academic team. … In my experience in the military, we do a very good job of learning from both our successes and failures and therefore applying our experiences.”
Dempsey’s book, No Time for Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most from West Point to the West Wing, discusses lessons learned both in and outside of service. The author of another featured book stressed the lessons servicemembers could learn thanks to their earned benefits.
‘Terminal Lance’ Lessons
“The GI Bill to me is like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the military,” said Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine lance corporal who, after finishing his time in service, used the GI bill to attend a top-ranked private art and design school. That set him on his successful career as an artist and creator of Terminal Lance comics; his latest work, the graphic novel Battle Born, is due out July 28.
“You could do anything in the Marine Corps because … you would get out and go to college and get a degree and do literally anything else,” Uriarte said. “That’s what I think makes it so great is that so many Marines are like, ‘Oh, I want to be a mechanic ... so that I can get a job as a mechanic when I get out.’ But you don’t have to do that. You can go be infantry and then go get a degree as whatever you want.”
No matter where you are in your military career, the best time to plan for your transition is in the present. As the world changes faster than it has before, gaining skills for when you decide to take the leap is imperative. MOAA offers a variety of resources to get you started on building your career toolkit, including a number of free webinars. Learn more here.
Jump Start Your Career
Gain access to all of MOAA’s career tools available for you and your spouse.