So you’ve decided it’s time to move on. You’re a bad-ass combat arms type who has paid his dues and more. Time to give the body a rest, and invest in your mind through education, and find a skilled job with good pay. You know you’ve got what employers are looking for, confidence, self-discipline, and the ability to improvise. This should be pretty easy to compete with all the soft-bellied civvies out there; you’re a real veteran with combat experience and everything. Well, maybe. But there’s something else you should probably add to that checklist of employable attributes that you should probably brush up on – just a little bit of humility.
You may have everything you need to get poached by an oilfield company (or not, they’re not doing so great these days either), but don’t think for a second that just because someone thanks you for your service that they owe you a job, or will face-push other applicants out of the way to sign you. You are going to have to earn it like everyone else out there, demonstrate commitment and be willing to work your way up. If you’ve put in a lot of hard years in the army and earned the trust to lead guys in combat this may be hard to get your head around. You were entrusted with the use of several kilos of high explosives and now you need a 22 year old to supervise you signing out a company vehicle? Yep. Get over it. He’s earned his spot by demonstrating loyalty to the company, why wouldn’t you have to do the same?
But then again, maybe that’s not the problem. Maybe you’re not as prepared for the change as you think you are. I think this is what hits a lot of guys the hardest. They’re tired, they’re ready to move on – or they think they are. Maybe it’s family pressures. None of this means it’s the wrong decision, you just might need to work harder on coming to terms with it. You won’t be a bad-ass meat eater anymore. If you’re serious about moving on successfully you need to accept it.
We all have that friend who is on his way out. You see his Facebook updates bitching about the fat wogs he has to work with. It’s always easy to make fun of the Air Force, but then you remember all the work and favours he had to pull to get posted there. Dude, I get it. They’re lazy and out of shape but you’re there too. You’re the one that begged to be a part of their team, not the other way around. Be a team player and if you think they’re sensitive, wait until you start work on the other side of the fence. Don’t worry about convincing your old buddies that you’re still hard. It doesn’t really matter anymore; focus on what you’re there to do. Keep your mouth shut and learn how the game is played. Don’t be that guy that sucks all the oxygen out of the room by talking about some dude they didn’t know shit his pants when that IED went off when they’re talking about their shopping trips in Dubai. It isn’t necessary and won’t like win you any friendship points.
Be humble. They know where you came from and if they want to know what it was like they’ll ask. In the meantime remember you need to learn their skills and experience, not the other way around. Focus on listening to what they’re saying to learn, not just for an opportunity to tell another war story. Learn the culture, what they value and what’s important to your co-workers and your bosses. You need to pay close attention because it may be much different than what you’re used to. In the skilled trades physical fitness and an intimidating presence are nowhere near as important as they are in the combat trades. Job knowledge and skills are an obvious deficit you will have to make up. But you’ll also need to know how to act day-to-day. Making fun and taking the piss out of each other is a time honoured tradition in the stalls, but it’s likely to get you marked as a toxic personality in an office environment. Pay attention, always be respectful, and don’t try to push any boundaries until you know where they are in the first place!
Once you get in and learn the ropes all the little skills and attributes you’ve picked up over the years will carry you far, and you’ll likely move farther faster than other co-workers. Maturity, independence, and a solid work ethic are universal values that are always in short supply. This is an audition that may determine the direction of rest of your life. Just be prepared to earn your place.
(Image courtesy: nationalpost.com and forces.ca)