What Are You Afraid Of?

There are few monsters who warrant the fear we give them” - Andre Gide Nobel Prize-earning French author

One thing I often notice when speaking to fellow veterans about their future transition is the presence of fear.  It’s evident in their sweaty hands, nervous laughs, wide eyes and jittery legs -- like jackhammer jittery.  I have to ask...”where does that come from?” Are other people threatening you?  Are employers giving you pop quizzes on their career pages?  Pencils down, ladies.  Time to meet the enemy....but I have to warn you….she’s a complete badass.

Of course the fear comes from genius region between our own ears.  We were raised, professionally speaking, where it was sometimes critical and occasionally life-saving to dream up the worst case scenario so that we could develop risk management plans to mitigate them.  Because an engine might fail during takeoff and a tire might blow on landing and you have to be ready or it could be too late.  Because, where we’re from, the bad guys want to outsmart us and never stop trying.  Perhaps because of this perfectly rational mindset, or because vets are just wound too tightly, we are incredibly gifted at making molehills into mountains and nothing burgers into something burgers with extra cheese.  Why exactly to do we let our own minds create monsters to fear?  

Something like 70% of Americans can’t even qualify to serve if they wanted to. And of the 30% who do qualify, you’re in the tiny minority who raised your hand and said “send me”.  Did you know what to expect?  Were you certain what success looked like?  If you were anything like me you were thinking “what the hell did I get myself into?” and “why can’t he brush his teeth before he yells at me?” but I don’t remember stressing over not knowing every step I’d need to take to get through that day, or basic training or anything tough.  I just knew that I wasn’t going to quit -- especially after they cut my hair that way that made troll dolls seem stylish. I had already invested too much at that point and couldn’t show my face in public anyway, so….

Why should the transitioning “out” experience be so much more frightening than transitioning “in”?  Well if it is, I have great news!  Nobody in corporate America will be wearing a gigantic hat, with a tuck that shows their six pack, yelling at you about how worthless you are.  And sure we use terms like “headhunter” on occasion but they are trying to attract you….like a guy at a bar.  Their job is to catch you….but then they give you money and benefits and stuff. That’s right.  It’s EASIER here...or at least it should be.  The only one questioning your ability to succeed….is probably you.

We all share something here -- and I’m not just talking about wearing the same clothes or recurring nightmares about being late for formation.  We succeeded in an unpredictable environment that almost noone you’ll meet in the corporate world will comprehend. We already know that we can accomplish what seems impossible to most people -- because we DID.  We’re unquestionably proven.  Newsflash:  the skills and behaviors you learned to succeed as a woman in the military are EXACTLY the reason companies want to hire you.  People know you can handle some serious shit, ladies.  You’re in the 30% who could serve and the 1% who did.  Do yourself and the whole world a favor -- find that old voice again.  You’re talented, experienced and in demand.  Don’t let anyone, especially you, tell you otherwise.