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Regardless of your branch of service, the memories of arriving at boot camp will always be ingrained in our minds. Even after 20 years I can remember the bus ride from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois. I remember the anxiety, the cold, the lack of sleep and the wind as we were greeted by our Recruit Division Commanders. That first step off the bus was a shock to the system mentally and physically.

There is a mental adjustment you need to make before your arrival at boot camp or Officer Candidate School as you prepare to leave your family and previous life behind. But the real adjustment occurs once you arrive. Transitioning into the military means adapting to a new structure, hierarchy and way of life.

You have to be ready and willing to learn new skills. You have to remain malleable and adapt to your surroundings. You have to be humble in service, relinquishing your ego and learning to work with strangers from all walks of life. You have to be humble in leadership, allowing others to learn from your example while putting the team and objective first.

And while these skills are learned in service of your time in the military, they are of utmost importance in civilian life as well. In fact, the mentality and strength you tapped into during your transition into military life will be your lifeline as you transition out of it. As you enter a civilian job, you’ll find that those same skills and learned behaviors will be helpful tools to not only adapt but to thrive. Let’s take a look at the key service and leadership skills learned in the military and how they will help you transition back into civilian life.

Be Ready and Willing to Learn New Skills
Most of you have spent 4 years or more on self-development for the needs of the military. You’ve spent countless hours in the classroom, in the field, and training for physical readiness tests. These are all examples of individual improvement for the benefit of the group. That same commitment to your own development will help prepare you for advancement and success in civilian life. It will help you innovate, prove your resilience, and it will show that you can evolve with your company no matter how complex the business. You must embrace a student mindset even if you’ve already achieved a level of success as a member of the Armed Forces. If not, you won’t be open to learning new skills and you will get left behind.

Remain Malleable and Adapt to Your Surroundings
There may be challenges associated with trying to find the best application of your skillset in civilian life. You will have become accustomed to doing very particular things in a very particular way, with a certain hierarchy and schedule. However, it’s important to realize that each employer is going to have their own processes and procedures and you will have to be flexible and adjust to those individual demands. In the same way you adjusted to the military, you can use that same adaptability to adjust to each company’s particular way of running their business.

As you settle into this new structure, you may be asked to do things outside of your skillset. Don’t shy away from those challenges. Instead, look at those challenges as opportunities to shine, to show that you are multidimensional and that you’re much more than just a job title.

Be Humble in Service
You may have expectations of what a leader looks like and how they should act. You may even hold your own life (or near death) experiences passively over the head of civilian leadership. For many, this is a major hurdle to overcome mentally, but you must be humble and let it go. The civilian world does not operate within the same rules as the military, and the sooner you shift your mindset and expectations the easier the transition will be. Even though the experiences of leadership may be different, remaining humble in your service will serve you well in civilian life as it did in the military.

Be Humble in Leadership
Just like your time in the military, there is no better way to rally a team than to lead by example, so volunteer for tasks, even if you think they are beneath you, and do them without complaint in service of meeting the objective. Embracing humility in this manner doesn’t mean that you discount your experience or existing skills, nor does it mean you stop delegating tasks and try to do everything yourself. It means you share your knowledge and experience to help your teammates level up. It means you roll up your sleeves and show them that when challenges arise you are committed to getting the job done.

The transition into military life was difficult, but by learning these core tenets and skills, we were able to adjust, setting ourselves up for success in our respective military careers. By taking these lessons with you, you will prove yourself adaptable, eager to learn, and humble, and your military experience will become an enormous asset to any team.

Made possible with support by RecruitMilitary.

—Stephen Jones, Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class, U.S. Navy

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