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John Buckley

Despite my 33 years of military service – including multiple combat and peacekeeping tours – my transition into the private sector was one of the most difficult periods in my life. As an honorable soldier, however, I conducted an after-action review to capture lessons learned. A compilation of those lessons can be found in Koch’s Veteran Transition Guide, but I’ve summarized some of the actionable steps you can take to successfully transition into a fulfilling and rewarding civilian career.

1. Focus on your objective. It’s way more than a job hunt – you’re shaping a new career.

2. Aggressively conduct informational interviews with professionals in your career field of interest.

3. Build, then leverage, a network that is focused on your career field of interest.

4. Network. Study company cultures and opportunities.

5. Narrow your job search. Search only for roles in your career field and only with those companies with appropriate culture.

6. Analyze the job description before you apply for any job. Step 1 – Do you meet 100% of basic requirements? Step 2 – do you have relevant and comparable skills and experiences for the job’s daily responsibilities?

7. Write a unique, distinct resume for a specific job description. (You’ll never be successful in urban warfare if you use the OPLAN and operational graphics from Operation Desert Storm.)

8. Prepare for the interview like there is no tomorrow. Rehearse “actions on the objective.” Be candid, honest, humble and relaxed.

9. Companies expect you to negotiate their offer, so be ready. Don’t fixate on salary. Review entire deal. Be reasonable and flexible. Avoid ultimatums.

10. Never leave a fallen comrade. When you have succeeded, turn around and help another military veteran.

I hope these tips will help you endure the rigors of your military-to-civilian transition and lead you to an overwhelmingly successful new career in the private sector. But before you begin any job hunt, remember this principle advice: Start early, study and analyze the new complex operating environment – the private sector – before launching any resume “down range.”

Get more tips on each of these steps in Koch Industries’ Veteran Transition Guide.

This excerpt was formed from Transition War Stories: Lessons from the Front Lines, a series of seminar presentations and articles based on the experiences of John Buckley, Manager of Outreach Strategies at Koch Industries. John is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served for 33 years commanding infantry soldiers in combat and peacekeeping ops and directing two of the Army’s most prestigious schools. You can check out our interview with John Buckley below.

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