Asked about the transition from military to the world of government contracting, some of Engility’s talented veterans weighed in on their experiences. Boasting an employee base that is more than one quarter veterans, we know about attracting, retaining, and celebrating our men and women in uniform. We love giving them a channel to share their voice and some great insights for transitioning military. Following is an installment from our PWW Team in Annapolis Junction, Maryland.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)It's a scary transition, but eventually everyone must retire, and it all works out. I do miss the service for certain things on occasion, but I have zero regrets about retiring after 20 years in the Air Force, and my quality of life is better than ever before!
What’s Different About the Contracting World? ChoicesComing off of a decade holding leadership roles in the military, I needed to adapt my mindset when I entered the civilian workforce. For instance, in the military, your options on where you go and what you do are fairly finite… your command structure is placing you where they want you for the most part. When you begin looking at contracting positions, the sky is the limit. I found myself with options and flexibility... the freedom to choose where I worked, where I wanted to live, what type of job I would apply to, and more. Plus, I found that companies competed to hire me. In every interview, the Engility recruiter or program representative was extremely cordial and respectful, and I felt like I was interviewing them vs. the other way around. In the military, we are not used to having freedom to choose positions most of the time.
I’m no longer bringing “homework” home with me every day, and I can really get into the weeds focusing on my operational duties. Being an operator again is a real joy! There is practically no administrative burden on me doing my job and building expertise on my primary labor category skills. This has been a 180-degree change from being in an Air Force leadership role.
How to Narrow the Field? AuthenticityWith so many options suddenly available to me, I needed to decide what really mattered in terms of accepting a job and which company I wanted to work for. Stability was most important, followed closely by having a personal touch. I wanted a program where I could settle in and focus on the mission. In looking at companies, I trawled Internet sites and made sure to talk with peers who recently transitioned.
The personal touch was important because I didn't want to work for a company that didn't treat me as an individual, as many can treat you like a number. If it was obvious a recruiter didn't read my résumé, or if I kept having to remind them who I was, that was a major red flag for me. I gained a good sense of a company’s values during the initial contact and interview stages. If they showed a true personal interest vs. treating me like a number, they had a better shot at hiring me. Physically going to the company, meeting recruiters, technical leads, security personnel, etc., was really helpful to get an idea how the company was run.
What I Wish I’d Known: Get SmartThe military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) training was beneficial, but I didn't realize that in the contracting world you’re expected to come fully trained and ready to work when you start in your position. My hands-on operational skills were rusty due to being in exclusively leadership positions for over 10 years. Some training that is readily available to military personnel takes more time to secure as a contractor. Take advantage of access to certain trainings while in uniform… and take advantage of educational opportunities offered by your new company when you get settled in.
Serving Out of UniformI didn’t know I’d be looking for this in a company, but find an organization that understands the mission and gives back to the community and employees. Engility gives me the flexibility to attend TAP mentor events and on-base mentor events, as part of the company’s employee resource group, Engility Vets (EVETS). The company is always sending updates on its efforts to build homes for wounded vets in partnership with Building Homes for Heroes, and my office is also participating in an upcoming 5K event honoring fallen heroes, which Engility has been very generous to help fund. EVETS is a newly-reinvigorated, small group here in Maryland. It is a worthy cause, and I hope it continues to grow and give back to the nation’s veterans.
I look forward to welcoming many more service members into Engility’s ranks as we serve the mission.