How To Find Meaning After The Military: Grow Your Own Identity

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U.S. Army paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, board multiple Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft while conducting an airborne assault during exercise Arctic Anvil 19-01 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 9, 2018

U.S. Army paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, board multiple Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft while conducting an airborne assault during exercise Arctic Anvil 19-01 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 9, 2018

Here’s the fifth entry in our contest about how to find meaningful work after leaving the military.

Aaron Hostutler writes: “Let me start by saying please never underestimate the weight of a transition out of the military.

For years you build your identity, purpose, and tribe around an institution and then all at once all of that disappears. While I’ve found an amazing path now, it was a rough road that included a divorce, homelessness, a struggle to see and provide for my children and of course the scary question: What do I do with my life now?

After nearly two years of videography gigs, driving Lyft and delivering for Amazon, I found a company with a culture that stood out to me and through research discovered they had what seemed to be an authentic veterans initiative. I looked them up on LinkedIn and found someone who could introduce me to the director of their military program. Through that introduction, I got the interview and ultimately the job.

Of note In that interview, Mike Hansen — my now-boss who’s featured in the Washington Post — asked me what I was reading. Luckily, I had been on a journey of self-improvement and was reading a new release; Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans. Mike happened to be reading the same book and I know to this day that’s one of the reasons I have this job.

But finding the jobs isn’t enough. You have to become the person who is capable and worthy of it. You need to grow and build a new identity on a foundation of service but no longer defined by it. This job has meaning to me because I get to help inspire veterans and civilians alike around the country to become the best versions of themselves.

There may be a higher calling in life — but I certainly haven’t found it yet.” 

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