Change is inevitable. This is a known fact among all service members and their families. Sometimes change comes without warning, sometimes change looms, and sometimes change is gradual. Change often comes in the form of a cross country move or a pending deployment date. Change can be predictable and is a regular occurrence; however, it can throw the best planners into an unexpected tail spin. Upon separation or retirement, change takes on a whole new form. Change into the civilian world can be daunting, even scary for most who have served; thus, finding a management system for the newest form of change is critical for a smooth transition. Change management is an important component of a positive transition for any service member and their family.
Tackling a potential enemy position requires backwards planning – looking at the situation and then making a strategy to prevent any action from going unplanned. The same focus and techniques can also be applied to preventing change from getting in the way of a smooth transition from the service. When planning a pending separation or retirement, service members should set goals, look at the challenges that might interrupt those goals and then come up with steps or a strategy to overcome the challenges before they potentially present themselves.
Goals should be written with loved ones and should focus on what are the individual, couple and family desirables are upon separation/retirement. Goals should be focused on what the family wants to achieve upon entering into this unfamiliar territory. For example, goals can be centered on attending college, purchasing a home, living below ones means or finding the right place to live. Goals should be written to the service member’s individual goals and then spouse and family goals. They should also be centered on the stage of life the family is entering into as well as where the goals lead for the next phase of transition.
The next step is to really think about what might be a challenge when facing pending changes. What could get in the way or be an obstacle in the near future? If you had already planned for that challenge, when it presents itself, it no longer becomes a road block but rather a bump in the road towards your goals. With proper preparation in regards to possible challenges, one can prevent a challenge or two from stopping their forward progress with a projected goal.
Challenges can be identified ahead of time by clearly listing out all of the possible obstacles to goal achievement, from the most minute to the easy to spot. Challenges are the most important piece to identify in helping to manage change.
Now that the challenges have been written down, one should consider the steps they would take should this challenge become a reality. This is where the planning comes into play. Having a game plan to tackle the problems that might arise can alleviate the stress that accompanies the challenges. Let’s say the family writes down finances as a challenge ahead of time and because it’s been identified early, the family begins to build an emergency fund. Then the transition occurs and the service member is unemployed a little longer than expected and unemployment isn’t covering all of the family expenses. Voila, the emergency fund is tapped and the extra expense is covered.
Finally, having a game plan prior to separation or retirement is critical to a successful transition. Putting it all down in writing can help to manage the change that is on the horizon. This type of system can be utilized during any transition but more importantly, putting your mind to work on what’s next will ultimately keep you from the possibility of change getting in the way of success!
This Veteran Connection blog is by Rebecca Meyer, a valued contributor for ACI’s Employment Assistance Program and SOAR Student Assistance. A champion of veteran’s causes, she teaches classes for transitioning service members for the Department of Labor, recruits for unique educational and employment opportunities for Upper Limit Aviation and volunteers for USMC Life as a base ambassador. She also volunteers her time to help veterans with their resumes, interview skills and job search. A veteran herself, she is also a spouse of an active duty Marine and stays busy supporting her husband’s career all while raising their 3 year old daughter. Rebecca can be reached on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccasmeyer. For more information about ACI’s veteran employee/student support and other services, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.