Change is inevitable in life. But just because it's common doesn't mean it's any less scary--any transition carries with it some degree of risk. How do we get through the shift unscathed or, at least, with as few scrapes as possible?
From having to report to a different boss to living in a new space every few months, few groups deal with transition and change so regularly as military personnel do. For this reason, I turned to six veterans for some insights. Here's what they told me was essential to handling change positively.
1. Keep an open mind.
Jody Nelson, owner of The Spice & Tea Exchange in the Florida Villages, says that you're the one who sets priorities, goals and the schedule when you start a new venture. The path to success, however, might not be the one you initially envisioned.
"By mentally forcing yourself to take responsibility for every aspect of the business' success, you can work towards naturally changing your mindset from that of your previous line of work or lifestyle to the new goals you're working toward, even if it feels foreign or forced at first."
Nelson adds that pride or fear can get in the way of seeing other opportunities or points of view. She didn't realize The Spice & Tea exchange was a good fit, for example, until she attended a Boots to Business course sponsored by the military, and her sales didn't really take off until she stopped resisting the in-store samplings other owners and staff recommended to her.
"If you're looking to switch career paths, pursue entrepreneurship, write a book, etc., ask for help to get you started off on the right foot!"
2. Never take no for an answer.
Hannah and Tristan Ambrozewski of Anytime Fitness, Southern Pines, North Carolina assert that the public job market can be much more competitive, cut-throat and daunting than the military, where a path is laid out for you. They say that instead of tucking tail, you just need to find a new path to the same goal.
"If you decide to pursue something you're passionate about, don't take rejection as a 'no'," says Tristan. "Take it as a 'try a new strategy'. [When we started our gym,] we worked closely with the corporate team to create a gym that appealed to the specific needs and wants of our community. [... We] refused to accept defeat."
Knowledge, however, makes a difference in getting what you want!
"It's crucial to become extremely educated in what you're seeking or asking for during a career transition," Tristan adds. "Aggressively research the industry or position you're pursuing or combat questions regarding your lack of previous experience in that role or industry. [...] Once you've combatted the initial 'no' and have proven yourself capable of succeeding in [the] new role/industry, you can negotiate for what you want in order to execute a strong transition."
3. Transfer the skills and principles that made you successful in previous careers or situations.
Pulling skills and principles from your old work or lifestyle can give you a psychological advantage in that you can convince yourself it's not necessary to start your new job or behaviors completely from scratch. That's according to Andrew Schneider and Kevin Stansick of Marco's Pizza of Virginia Beach.
"Throughout our service," Andrew says, "we made sure to abide by the rules while also speaking up when we felt it necessary. We've applied this same level of integrity when launching our first Marco's Pizza location, and have transferred those core values to our new career. This approach has helped us open a business we can be proud of and allows us to serve our community as best we can."
And the most important skill you can transfer? Communication.
"If you can speak to others with empathy and understanding," Andrew asserts, "you'll find yourself able to transition into a new career or lifestyle with a greater sense of ease, because you'll be able to get the help and support you need more efficiently."
4. Keep a strong network of family and friends close.
"One of the challenges of a transition is figuring out what attributes from one career transition well into the next, such as the military transition to civilian business ownership," says Jason Vernier, owner of WIN Home Inspection in Fishers, Indiana. "Communicating, and ultimately testing, what works and what doesn't is best tried on those who know, love and support you. [And] having that strong network surrounding you can help you better understand exactly what is needed for improvement or what is already working, as it provides you with outside perspective from people you can trust."
You can't necessarily predict which transitions you'll face over time. But you can plan to consciously approach changes you might encounter with the right attitude and strategy. Adopt what the vets already know and you'll be well on your way to what you want.