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In a recent episode of RecruitMilitary LIVE on LinkedIn, retired U.S. Army officer and RecruitMilitary’s SkillBridge Program Manager Lucas Connolly sat down with General (Ret.) David Petraeus to discuss the transition experience – from a senior leader’s perspective.

The retired four-star general served in the United States Army for 37 years. Military service took him to Europe, Central America, the Middle East, Central Asia, and beyond. Renowned for being the chief architect of the counter insurgency strategy in Iraq, his career culminated with six consecutive commands, including airborne, mechanized, and air assault infantry units.

After the Army, Petraeus served as director of the CIA during a period of significant achievements in the global war on terror.

Now, he’s a partner with a global investment firm, KKR, and chairman of the KKR Global Institute, which he established in May of 2013.

Here is what he learned through his own military to civilian transition.

Military Transition Tips from General Petraeus

Military Transition is not One-Size-Fits-All.

Military transition is an individual event. Those who are transitioning have a variety of skills, experiences, time in service, rank, expertise, family situations, positions along the way, and even desires.

Some of those who are transitioning don’t want to go right into the workforce, they want to use their GI Bill and go into education.

Transition programs must understand who their clients are and their population demographics in each individual program. Then, ensure that what is shared with these individuals is as relevant to each one of them as possible.

Your Style of Leadership May Need to Adapt.

The values, traits, and principles of interacting with fellow human beings is valued very highly in the civilian world. What’s different is the *style* of leadership that you will employ. As you rise higher in rank (military or corporate), you may find that what works at very small unit level doesn’t work at higher levels. The responsibilities are different.

It’s important to get the “big ideas” right. Communicating them effectively through an enormous organization, overseeing their implementation, figuring out how to refine them, and doing it, again and again – becomes the essence of what you’re doing.

You need a different style, and it’s important to understand that there is a high likelihood that the organization will be less hierarchical than the ones in which we have exercised leadership in the military. But in this case, you can’t fall back on your rank.

Good corporate leadership is about doing what you’ve always done as you’ve progressed: Understand the new organization, understand your responsibilities within the new organization, and then determine how to effectively lead within the organization, given those dynamics.

Seek Opportunity, Not Just a Job.

There’s absolutely conclusive evidence that employers highly prize veterans. That shouldn’t be surprising – these are individuals who got up early and did PT (physical training) whether it was wet and cold or nice outside, who had full-time jobs and fought against adaptive, determined enemies, and who carried out important missions requiring enormous levels of trust.

People from the military community value all the same qualities that employers and civilians value, with this recognition that they have had some extraordinary experiences that have given them a degree of resilience, maturity, judgment, interpersonal skills, leadership capabilities, and more.

Military spouses have shared many of these experiences, on the home front, but have demonstrated equal levels of determination, resilience, fortitude, and adaptability.

The key is to seek a career opportunity, not just a job. Hold out for an opportunity that gives you:

– A chance for advancement

– A chance to invest

– Mentorship, training, or education

– Affinity groups for veterans or the military community

Monetize Yourself.

When I was out hustling and seeing what the opportunities were, thankfully there were quite a few. But one of the individuals, a phenomenal hedge fund founder and CEO who will remain unnamed, said to me, “You know, General, you don’t understand how to monetize yourself.” I responded, “Not only do I not understand how to monetize myself, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” And he then went through how I could be of enormous value.

Ask yourself: How can you monetize what it is you bring to the table? How can you provide value? How do you continue to build on your intellectual capital and keep it fresh?

Continuous Learning is Imperative to Success.

Any organization that learns the fastest typically prevails through conflict. You’ve got to be a learning organization in the civilian world as well. If anything, the corporate world is evolving more rapidly because of various aspects of digitization, the internet, social media, and everything else.

I think in truth, there is a very small subset of individuals who take the uniform off and for whom there are board seats waiting. In reality, even if you’re leaving the military with a strong portfolio, you have to show that you can hustle.

We must be very careful not to think that just because we had a very senior position (either as commissioned or non-commissioned or warrant officers), that automatically qualifies you to lead some enterprise.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Search new jobs and hiring events from your RecruitMilitary job seeker profile.


GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

This article was sponsored by RecruitMilitary.

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