Surviving a Mindset Shift from military service

Experiences elicit Change and Recommendations ensure Success


After retiring as a First Sergeant, I had to find ways to survive a mindset shift from military

service in order to transition back into civilian life successfully. For over 20 years, I lived the life of a Soldier having direction, motivation and purpose. As my retirement date got closer, I began to have anxiety and I began to feel that I hadn’t made the right decision to leave the military. I had enjoyed a successful career as a member of the Adjutant General Corps and several leaders recommended I stay so that I could reach Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted pay grade. In addition to a mindset shift, the transition has given me time to reflect on my career as a Personnel Specialist, Drill Sergeant, Sexual Assault Coordinator (SARC) and finally a First Sergeant.


While reflecting on my service, I realized that the military allowed me to lead and mentor

Officers, NCOs and Junior Enlisted personnel. Mentoring gave me a purpose that made me feel valued and also allowed me to recognize that other people depended on me. This is a feeling that I have been unable to capture since retiring from the military. As a leader, there was something to improve or a new skillset to acquire to ensure I was technically and tactically proficient. I was excited for the next challenge. Although I am unable to capture the value I feel while mentoring in the military, I have been able to find a different purpose as a Human Resources Specialist for the Army.


Experiences elicit Change


As a Human Resources Specialist, I add value by collaborating with supervisors to establish or modify federal positions. During my five years as a federal employee, I have had success, but I also had some challenging experiences. These experiences caused me to remember that change is inevitable.


My first week as a federal employee, I saw a large brown bag in my cubicle that I had not left there and felt the right and safe thing to do was call Homeland Security to the office. They cleared out the office to search the bag. It was a big episode. Long story short, it was a lunch bag placed in my cubicle, inadvertently, by a co-worker. I felt justified in calling Homeland Security but this led to a string of events. My coworker’s made jokes about the incident and left me notes if they put something in my cubicle. This lasted only a couple of weeks but when I left the organization for a new job three years later some of my coworker’s reminded me of that episode. In my defense, they had just talked about our responsibility to be vigilant in the workplace. Before calling I did ask if the bag belonged to anyone in the section or if they knew whose it was and no one knew who it belonged to. I thought they were testing my knowledge, understanding and application of being vigilant. As a service member, I would be given classroom instruction and a test, typically within the working environment. Leaders use these tests as a metric to assess Soldiers’ proficiency.


This definitely caused me to reflect on a quote I came across by Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. I had to understand that being vigilant as a federal employee meant something different than being vigilant as a Soldier. As this mindset shift was occurring, I leaned heavily on my training about having personal courage. For me and most of the Army, personal courage is defined as “facing fear, danger, or adversity (physical or moral)”. I have not had to face bodily harm or physical adversity however the fear of being misunderstood and facing moral adversity is just as real.


Recommendations ensure Success


Here are five ways that helped me survive this mindset shift:

1. Believe in myself and my ability to survive. I have experienced and endured far worst in my lifetime.

2. Put things in perspective and understand that every experience is an opportunity for growth.

3. Manage expectations and escape my comfort zone. See P.E.A.C.E

4. Embrace the emotions that will come with the required mindset shift because it is going to happen.

5. Maintain relationships with friends and family. Check out kid-connection.


I recognize now that there is nothing that could have fully prepared me for such a drastic need to survive a mindset shift, but I hope that sharing my experience at least makes you aware.


Check out survivingthemilitary.com and meet Jacqueline Hill, an Army retiree who survived the mindset shift from military service to federal employee.

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