Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls….Please direct your attention high above the center ring……..watch and witness as Bob Wheeler will attempt to leap from one swing to another many feet away. In order to do this he must let go of the first at just the right time in order to catch the other as it sways back and forth through the air.
That’s kinda how I feel right now…..I need to let go of the safety and stability of one career and do it at just the right time in order to catch another one.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years contemplating when I should actually retire from the Navy. My 20 year mark will be in January of 2014, so theoretically I could end my career in January and with terminal leave (the vacation days I’ve accumulated) I could start working two months prior. I could actually be employable before the end of 2013. On the other hand, I could remain in the Navy until the end of my current contract in September of 2014. This leaves me a virtual exit window of nine months. Certainly there are a lot of other factors that will go into this decision. My son will graduate high school in June of 2014, for example. But at some point I need to decide when to let go and reach for the other bar.
The hiring process evolved to support and thrive in the civilian professional market, not to act as a safety net for those exiting the service. Most job postings that you will find on the internet, are essentially for immediate hire. They are not long term projections and if it’s posted for hire, no one is interested in holding a position vacant for four months while I process retirement paperwork.
I was recently engaged in an online discussion this week in the LinkedIn group “Military-Civilian Career Coaching Connection (MC4)” and one gentlemen (prior Marine Officer who’s been in the professional world for the past five years) suggested that the real work of looking for a job shouldn’t start until about 90 days out and should really get kicked up at about the 45 day mark. It’s really all about filling vacancies, and they may not be sure of a vacancy until about 30 days out, so by the time it’s posted it’s essentially a “hot fill”.
But, while the actually job hunt may not begin until about 3 moths out, active networking can and should begin much sooner. It is essential to build and maintain the network before you need it. I knew when I took the orders to Baltimore that there would be a chance I would want to work in the HR industry once I retired, so I knew that a reputation for success would be something I would be able to leverage when the time came. Especially if I was willing to remain in this area (Baltimore/DC).
And…oh by the way…..building a network has a lot to do with helping people out and collaborating. “Networking” is not a dirty word. The things I did to succeed as a Medical Officer Recruiter here were the same actions it took to build a network. The key was just keeping in touch with people and offering to help them out as well. It’s created a terrific professional synergy and has been probably the key factor in me finding some absolutely terrific physicians and future physicians for the Navy. Even better, thanks to my network, I have sustainable results.
To date, many people in my network know that am transitioning soon, but without an exact date. More than one has offered me great advice about how to prepare and given me a glimpse “behind the curtain” of the civilian work sector. If at some point the network comes to me with a job offer with enough lead time to set up a transition, terrific. If not, and I’m forced to eventually let go of one swing in the hopes of catching the other, the network can at least act as an advocate for me.
It’s tough to leap from one trapeze to another. As scary as it is though, it sure is nice to think there is someone on the other bar trying to catch you.
Update: I put my retirement papers in and will begin terminal leave in June of 2014.