I took a big step towards retirement last week by submitting my request to attend TAP (Transition Assistance Program) in August. The course is designed to assist service members in the transition process and members are allowed to attend as soon as 24 months prior to retirement and you can attend multiple times. Unfortunately most do not take advantage of these opportunities. My intention is to attend here at Fort Meade and then take another class closer to my retirement date. Hopefully by that time I have a better idea of where I might end up.
As I’ve noted before, the process of transition can be nerve racking, particularly if you’re not sure which area of the country you want to end up in. For us it’s really come down to either Maryland or North Carolina. For this reason, I am planning to do the second TAP class in Camp Lejeune (NC) if necessary.
I’ve gone through my military career working on the premise of parallel planning, and this situation is no different. In the military we got ORM (Operational Risk Management) drilled into our heads……now it’s time for some Transitional Risk Management or “TRM”.
During my career I often counseled my Sailors to “Do what you can, when you can” when they were frustrated with the pace at which they were arriving at their personal goals. I told them it was about what you did with the opportunities in front of you. The key was to be ready for them and not let them slip away without taking action. At the same time, not to lament the opportunities that were not currently in front of them. I still stand by the advice. And right now, all I can do is plan, network, and lay the groundwork that will enable me to capitalize on future opportunities.
My parallel planning involves looking at both locations. Each has its pro’s and con’s, and I need to be equally prepared for either.
My TRM plan focuses on the following topics (listed in no particular order).
Job Prospects For Me
Baltimore/DC has a great deal of organizations and I believe I could secure a position in the general fields of staffing, training, or another HR discipline. I took the assignment to recruit physicians in Baltimore for a number of reasons, one of which was because of the opportunity to establish a good reputation in the civilian sector. I like to think I’ve done that. I’ve been active in local community events and have a number of advocates in the area.
Traditional employment opportunities for me in Jacksonville, on the other hand, are a little more limited, with government contract work being the most likely option. To be honest, though, there are relatively few of those jobs that I would be interested in.
I, like probably everyone else in the world, want to do something that I have a passion for. For me, that happens to be setting people up for future success. This may be through staffing, or training, or even some opportunity yet undiscovered. My hope is that by thinking ahead, I can avoid having to take “any job that pays the bills”.
I am also looking at opportunities in Wilmington, NC which is a 30-45 minute commute from Jacksonville. It’s a bigger market that Jacksonville, but not as big as the Baltimore/DC area. I also don’t have an existing network there (yet).
Finally, while Jacksonville, NC does not offer as many opportunities to for civilian employment, it does provide a better climate for starting my own small business. After living there for ten years, I still have a strong network and see potential for success in that arena (another story for a future post).
Job Prospects For My Wife
This transition is more than just mine, it’s a transition for the entire family. My wife is a registered nurse and has recently started working in a new position as an office manager for a physician’s office. For the first time in a long time, she has a Monday through Friday schedule. Just as with any great position, this was something that she was offered through solid networking and establishing herself as a smart, hardworking nurse. Her business background and pending completion of a Masters in Nurse Education made her a great fit for the practice. She absolutely loves the people she works with and would hate to leave. At this point, her current job is certainly one of the biggest reasons we think about staying in Maryland.
On the other hand, once she completes her Masters in Nursing Education, that degree carries more weight in a rural area such as Jacksonville than it does in Maryland. MSN’s are literally a dime a dozen around here, and she has no desire to pursue a PhD at this time. It is good that she also maintained a good network in Jacksonville in the event we head back there, In addition, opportunities exist for her in Wilmington with many of the same issues (good and bad) facing her as were mentioned above for me.
Food and Shelter
Retirement pay is the same no matter where I live and the estimated $2,000 a month I will get will go further in NC. In fact, that money will more than cover the mortgage payment on the house we already own in North Carolina (and really like). We are currently renting in Maryland, and although we don’t particularly want to remain in this home after the lease is up, we have been ecstatic about the community. Schools have been great, people have been great, and there are a TON of things to do here.
Without an actual job offer, however, it’s impossible to estimate how much money I would be making, and therefor very difficult to house hunt. The fact that our VA loan is tied up in the house in Jacksonville, NC makes purchasing a new home a bit more of a financial challenge as well. Renting would likely be our best option at first, but one thing about retirement that we are looking forward to is settling down. Renting would not really do that for us.
The Way Ahead
So we trudge on with our parallel plans. I continue to network in the Baltimore area like this is where I will stay and continue to keep up with the happenings in North Carolina as if that is where I will go. I attend the job fairs here and subscribe to job boards with email updates for the Wilmington/Jacksonville area. My wife continues to work hard at her position, not only on a daily basis, but also in helping to craft long term solutions for the office. The key is to work at each job like you plan on keeping it forever. If we stay, she remains at a thriving and successful work place. If we leave, she walks out with terrific references and an impressive resume that lists accomplishments as well as responsibilities.
I think the best thing about living and working here, is that we have both learned a lot through our professional relationships. The mantra of “work hard and be nice to people” is always good advice. It got my wife the great job she has now and is positioning me for similar opportunities if we remain here. In the event we return to NC, the experiences will have made both of us smarter, more well-rounded, professionals.
My plan is to retire from the Navy in the summer of 2014. Doing so would allow me to take terminal leave (use up all my saved vacation days) and, in effect, stop working for the Navy around April or May. Since I still haven’t requested a date, I could still conceivably move it up if the right job comes along, however. One thing is for sure, we know the next year will be a roller coaster.
Whenever I get frustrated about the things I don’t yet know I just fall back on something they repeated over and over in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Class, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. That saying keeps me moving forward. The Serenity Prayer keeps me sane. I have to believe that slow and steady will win the race.