The transition from the heavily ingrained military culture to the corporate, civilian environment can be one of the greatest challenges facing post-duty service men and women today. And one of the key aspects of this transition is the manner in which communication differs in these starkly contrasting worlds.
It’s vital to understand here that this isn’t simply a “different way of doing things”; the subject today, is about fundamentally different cultures and different languages.
On the field, force of arms and virtue of rank carry the day. The demands of performance that flow from that environment are rapid-response, no hesitation, and unswerving commitment to the task at hand
A key concept here is that of military bearing. You have been trained to take a full dressing, up and down, and maintain an impassive discipline. The civilian world operates under different rules, where that manner of communication occurs only if something has gone very, very wrong.
You’ll also be accustomed to an exacting precision of both conduct and hierarchy. Both of these, though the former more than the latter, will be far more mutable in the civilian world.
In the boardroom, the spoken and written word is the driving force.
One of the key differences that may take the most adjustment for soldiers is the environment which fosters creativity, or collaboration. The blending and melding of ideas and the free flow of working concepts is the heart of innovation. As such, many roles, attributes, and responsibilities are flexible and fluid as collaborative projects spanning multiple departments flow back and forth – this is the realm of lateral strategy and assignments.
One of the greatest advantages to the corporate field is that the more matrix-oriented organizational system (rather than the militaristic ladder dynamic) is the near-unbounded potential for rising up the ranks – and fast, depending on your skills, leadership, and networking abilities.
The Common Misconception
One of the most persistent misconceptions is that military members are only good for following orders – their contribution to the corporate structure is simply carrying out directives. Rather, the truth is that many, in their time in the military, are taught leadership skills that are of rare quality in the civilian world, such as: fast decision making, taking full responsibility, keeping a cool head no matter what’s happening, and so much more.
There will be an adjustment period – acknowledge and accept that. It is both normal and perfectly understandable. It also helps to know that your biggest challenge is in the narrative, because it is a very well understood issue.
The journey from one side of the uniform to the other can be a daunting one, in both the coming to and the going from. The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone, and there are resources and people ready and waiting to work with you toward your next successful steps.
(Originally published: 6/17/16)
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