Rebranding Yourself For The Civilian Workforce Isn't As Challenging As You Think

Photo by Markus Rauchenberger

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from John Phillips’ self-published book “Boots To Loafers: Finding Your New True North.”

Rebranding is one of many new terms you will start to pick up as you make the transition into the private sector. Nothing to be afraid of or concerned about; you’ve done it many times before, you just never had a name for it.

Here is a quick personal story on rebranding going back to my first days as a soldier: When I graduated from high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. The minute the bus door opened and my drill sergeant came on board at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I knew I was about to undergo a significant change very quickly. What I didn’t know was that I was about to learn how to rebrand myself from an immature teenager to a soldier. Although my early years had been spent on army bases around the world as my family moved from one military tour to another, those indirect experiences did not completely prepare me for the rebranding process I was about to undertake. By the time I got off that bus (very quickly, I might add, due to the drill sergeant yelling at me to “get off his bus”), I realized that I would soon learn an entirely new way of life. Several components of change immediately became apparent:

  • Communication style. Moving into a world where “you speak when spoken to” was my new norm. The best practice for me was keeping my mouth shut, which was hard to do, and simply blending into the crowd with all the other skinhead recruits in fatigues. The communication style was very direct and to the point. There was no doubt in my mind what someone wanted while in uniform — enlisted and as an officer. Being transparent was the norm, and worrying if you hurt someone’s feelings was not.
  • Culture. My new culture was not that new for me since I was an army brat. When I joined, however, I learned the army from the standpoint of being a private. I had been a colonel’s son, so the cultural shift for me was seeing life through a different lens at the bottom of the ladder.
  • Attitude. Attitude is everything — really! My entire attitude completely shifted when I got off that bus. It was serious business, and I was not going to be the guy that stuck out with a bad attitude. Back in those days, you would find yourself under the barracks digging a hole all night simply for having a bad attitude. Attitudes are contagious, so make sure yours is positive.

Those first moments of awareness of what rebranding was all about were lessons that would be played out again some 30 years later as I entered the private sector.

Rebranding does not require you to compromise core values; instead, you must reinvent yourself and apply those values in a completely different environment. You may view the rebranding process as a fresh start with a chance to seize new opportunities, to implement lessons learned, and to capitalize on years of experience while in uniform, making them an advantage in the civilian world. The necessary adjustments differ for each person, so you must do your homework, be adaptable, remain flexible, and use your training to watch, listen, and transform.

So, what does all of this mean? There are two aspects of change that should take place as part of rebranding yourself: the external changes to your appearance and the internal changes in how you communicate and adapt to change. As many of you know from your military training, being aware of and understanding your situation and surroundings is very important. Said in civilian terms, watching and listening to people — how they dress, how they act, how they speak — during simple interactions will tell you volumes and greatly influence your rebranding efforts.

I can recall when I made the decision to retire from the Army; it was time to take my first step toward transforming myself, so I stopped getting a high and tight every Thursday and let my hair start growing. I hadn’t owned a comb for years; it was now time to buy one. The ability to adapt to change is critical. Change is happening all the time in the private sector. Companies are always looking for ways to save money and grow their bottom line, which all requires change.

Remaining flexible in uncertain times will help you manage expectations as well as your sanity. The fact that you have come from an environment that changes direction often means that these changes should not be an issue for you. This move into the civilian world requires adjustments to specific aspects of life: communication style, status and position, stereotypes and diversity, work life, and home life to name a few. Start with the component that will directly impact every facet of your life: your brand.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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