Leaving So Soon? Don’t Let Others Tell You It’s Too Early to Move On

Leaving So Soon? Don’t Let Others Tell You It’s Too Early to Move On
Photo by GeorgeRudy/Getty Images

By Col. Brian Anderson, USAF (Ret), and Kevin Lilley


Nearly 19% of veterans left federal jobs within their first five years in the position from fiscal year 2014 through 2018, according to recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, compared with about 11% of non-veterans. Veterans resigned 1.6 times more often, and they left the jobs at a higher overall rate – 6.7%, compared with 5%. 


The report studied multiple factors for these decisions and sought more data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to better understand the findings. Multiple media outlets outlined the “struggle to retain” veteran hires and the dissatisfaction reported by veterans in the survey. 


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Often overlooked in these studies and reports is the possibility that the veteran is making his or her move not because of dissatisfaction with or trouble adjusting to a civilian position – it may be simply the right time or set of circumstances to move on, for one of  a myriad of factors: 


Better opportunities. Many veterans, especially those in need of employment after leaving service, may settle for positions that don’t meet their initial salary or responsibility benchmarks. After a short time in those positions, it may be time to return to their original goals – they may even be recruited by others in their agency or professional network. 


As a transitioning servicemember, there is a big difference between trying to find the right connections to break into an industry or sector versus working 40-plus hours a week in a new position and being exposed to a wide range of internal and external stakeholders.  


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Personal priorities. Taking off the uniform doesn’t only affect the servicemember. If a new position doesn’t mesh with a new family dynamic, it may not be worth continued struggle when other options are available. And, as pointed out in the GAO report, veterans are more prone to be unsatisfied with the meaningfulness of their federal employment. If that’s the case, and steps to fix the problem aren’t addressed by your employer, why not rise to a new challenge? 


Granted, you should always be thinking about whether this is going to be the right cultural fit for both you and the employer during the interview process. However, both you and the employer are on your very best behavior during that process, and you may find the actual environment inside the work center to be different than what you may have experienced in your interactions leading up to the job offer.  


The long game. Veterans are more than capable of charting their career course. In some instances, a short stint in a position may be by design – picking up needed experience before a role with more responsibility, for example, or mastering a needed skill set. Given the nature of military careers, you are used to changing new positions every couple of years. 


You have went from being the “new person” to the go-to personmultiple times. Now you may be just doing it again in your new civilian career; going from one opportunity to the next may be your best avenue for professional growth, career advancement and compensation.    


MOAA Works for You 

Regardless of why you’ve decided to test the new-job waters, MOAA can help. Visit MOAA.org/careers for links to our latest career webinars and virtual job fairs, our new Job Board in partnership with Indeed, and member-specific benefits that can help you get your career on track, no matter the experience level, sector, or location.  


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