Written by Mission Next Consulting
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life". Coaching can encourage you to see and appreciate your true self, understand how you see others, and gain awareness of how others see you. There's a strong case for former service members to engage with a professional coach as they make the major transition into the civilian workforce. What can a coach do for you?
It took you years to get to this point. You aren’t going to walk away from your first coaching session as a brand-new person, but if you grant yourself permission to fully engage in this space, it could be the start of a transforming journey for you.
For many people, it can be incredibly difficult to find honest feedback from the closest people in your life such as friends and family. These people often share a comfort zone with us, or they have a long history with our choices, including our mistakes. They have a hard time seeing all the potential that could be uncovered during your transition to civilian life. A good coach will be there to provide invaluable, unbiased feedback on your progress.
Trust is fundamental to all coaching conversations. Both you and your coach need to feel safe when working together. Both of you need to know that you can trust each other to engage in meaningful conversations and work. Expect to have an explicit conversation about the parameters of confidentiality which will include an agreement that the coach will not share any of your conversations without express permission (except when they are required under the coaching ethics guidelines to do so).
Once you establish trust with a coach, he or she will be in a position to help you develop a greater sense of self-awareness, understand the gaps in your skills and knowledge, create a plan to fill those gaps, and improve your mindset as you prepare for the transition to the civilian workforce.
Your motivation may waiver each day – or even from morning until evening. Some days, you might be excited to work on your values, or draft a cover letter, while other days start with a desire to catch up on yesterday’s sports highlights.
Having a coach makes you accountable. You should expect your coach to help you set tasks with deadlines. Though it may feel like you can do this yourself, the coach gives you a reason to make the commitment. The coach can also give perspective on unrealistic deadlines or unpack reasons that you aren’t making progress.
You and your coach will create a schedule which will require regular check-in’s. He or she will be there to give you bits of encouragement and ways to get unstuck. For example, you might meet every Wednesday morning and then update your goal sheet by the end of Friday each week. The structured process is a great way to move goals forward while feeling supported and encouraged.
You know this transition is going to be a real change. This is a no-kidding, preparation-needed, attention-required change in your life. So, you can’t think of this change as merely checking the boxes and moving forward. As you work on your vision for post-military life, a coach can help define and guide you through each phase of the change process. Having a change expert by your side will help you understand and accept the challenges that are bound to develop.
After you define and execute on both your small and large goals, you will be ready for experimentation and practice. You won’t change overnight but a coach can help speed up the process. Some of your tasks or new skills will challenge you immensely while others might be a lot easier for you. A coach can help you experiment and try new things when you’re operating in this space. You will be encouraged to keep track of what you’re doing and how you feel while doing those new things.
A good coach will push you – and that’s one of the main reasons you want a coach at your side. As a transitioning service member, you need to move away from the habits you adopted in the military, which will likely pull you out of your comfort zone. Intellectually, you know that your dreams in this next phase depend on leaving your comfort zone, but it can be really hard to take those steps sometimes.
You may have some brilliant visions about what this next phase could look like and what opportunities you could have. How do you turn those thoughts into action? A coach embraces your ideas and won’t stop pushing until you make it happen. Essentially, you’re paying someone to keep you on the path even when you want to stop or wander back to what’s comfortable.
Adjusting to the change from military life to the civilian workplace can be extremely stressful for the service member and his or her family. While coaching is designed to help you in the transition to the civilian workplace, it is not a replacement for professional mental health support. If you start having trouble coping with this transition, you (or your family member) may find it helpful to speak to a therapist in order to become better able to adjust to the things they cannot control.
The Department of Defense offers services to connect veterans with mental health professionals. Simply call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.
Published: May 27, 2022
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I was excited to participate in the research that led to the Mission Next book because it reminded me how this needed to be a priority for our organization.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Community healthcare organization
I learned that you can't walk around with your rank in your back pocket, so I had to quickly adapt in the new civilian environment. Any preparation work you can do before you make the transition is worth your time.
Retired U.S. Army officer
University veterans’ liaison
From the very beginning, I spent time working on my interpersonal communication skills. I de-militarized my speech and stopped using all the jargon. Since then, I’ve helped many veterans make that transition...
Retired U.S. Army officer
Human Resources Director, manufacturing company
I got an early copy of the Mission Next book to preview. I wish I would’ve had the book prior to my transition because I had to figure out so many of the points from the book on my own.
Former U.S. Navy officer
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