It’s never too early to prepare yourself for transition to civilian life

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael Ostermann
  • 92nd Communications Squadron Superintendent
I recently attended a Chief's Transition Assistance Program in Illinois because I heard this CTAP was geared toward preparing chiefs for executive jobs. I was skeptical about that claim, but as the course progressed I began to see that I, and you, have tremendous self discipline, leadership skills and experience that are unique and highly desired by many companies.

This is not written by a chief for other chiefs. My intended audience is all Airmen. We will all transition from the Air Force in one way or another and we should be prepared, unless you're already wealthy and set for life. Show of hands? Ok, a couple but that doesn't apply to me. Not only will I need to work, but I want to work. I think I'll go crazy if I don't.

The CTAP was an eye-opening experience that gave me the kick I needed to begin resume writing, better networking, practicing interviewing skills and doing my homework on companies before I set foot in their offices - all to show an employer that I am the person they need. For me, all the above skills are self improvement because I'm currently weak in all of them. By the way, these skills are taught at Fairchild so I'm not sure what I gained by traveling halfway across the country. I'll find out when I take Fairchild's Transition Assistance Program in a few months.

In CTAP the instructor told us that an interviewer will always want to know what we've been doing recently for self improvement. Sound familiar? When she asked me what I'd been doing I said "well, not much in the past several years." Whoa, my own answer startled me and I knew it was not good even as it left my tongue. I've picked up more skills and knowledge over the years but nothing earth-shaking.
Just normal career growth. Besides, I've been telling myself, after a long career I already have CCAF and Bachelor of Science degrees, not to mention many different military jobs, so why worry?

"What's the last book you read?" asked the instructor. "Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal," I replied generating laughter among the other chiefs.
I groaned and desperately tried to think of something that a prospective employer would be impressed with. I've read a few books on leadership over the last couple years, but in my frustration I couldn't remember the titles or the authors. Not good.
"Will an employer actually care what I've read recently" I asked. "Of course" said our instructor, "and the closer it is related to the job you are seeking the better." Well, duh. I filed away "start reading professional material again."

At the conclusion of CTAP, I had identified my weaknesses for transitioning from the Air Force to civilian life. That wasn't hard because I didn't have many of the desired strengths. I am resolved to correcting this situation. Fortunately, I'll have time to get prepared. I urge you to continue your own self improvement whether you are transitioning or not. You can be very creative. It doesn't have to be formal or book training. It can be Boy or Girl Scout Leadership Training - wow, there are so many possibilities. Think creatively and don't get complacent like I did. One of my favorite sayings is "you can't do everything but you'd better do something." Time to practice what I preach. Good luck to you. Thanks for your time.