Military to Corporate : The Essentials – Ajay Krishnan
Making the decision
Two and half years ago, I made one of my life’s most important decisions. It was to pursue a different challenge in the corporate world, vastly different from the one I was already handling as an officer in the military. A lot of people ask me why I didn’t continue. There was no singular reason I could offer, and there was no way I could make them understand the myriad of them either.
The point was, I had taken a decision that had far-reaching consequences. At home, at the workplace and in my soul. Except my wife, there were none who endorsed it. My parents were aghast, seeing their only son electing to ‘throw away’ a secure government job. My colleagues, for the most part, disagreed with it. My wife said, “Go for it, if that is what you want.” It really made a difference that the one person who stood by it indisputably was the person who lived with me and a vital stakeholder in my future.
This is an invaluable prerequisite if you are making the transition from the military to the corporate world like me — unconditional support from your partner or your closest family. Because you will fail, be depressed and hit the bottom before you finally rise; and you will need the mental and emotional support only a close relation can give you. It’s highly probable that, without this foundation, you may give up even before you enter the game.
Since I have recently made the same transition, and my memories are fresh, I have chosen to share whatever I know and did in this journey through this blog series — so that my brethren can benefit from it, even if it is a small drop in the giant ocean. Towards that, the primary obstacle is the decision itself : are you sure you want this?
Selection and Maintenance of Aim
There is hardly a military officer worth his/her salt who has not heard this famous line above. Written by a Chinese general called Sun Tzu in the 5th century BC, The Art of War teaches us methodical violence, but also how to live life. If you desire to quit but have not planned on what to do once outside in the corporate world, then I humbly suggest you do the planning first. Do not hasten your decision because :
a) You are angry with the system.
b) You are angry with your boss.
c) You are chasing money.
d) You think it will be easy.
In short, do not plunge in to the ocean before you learn how to swim. Quitting a well-respected, well-paying and benefits-rich career should only be done if you have such conditions of exigence. If you truly believe there far more important things in your life than the existing ones, and are able to garner support of your loved one, then and only then, make the decision. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for dejection and self-doubt as the journey will be anything but a bed of roses.
Once your choice is concrete, then stay with it at all costs. Put a timeline to your dream so it becomes a goal. Be prepared to take flak from a majority of the people you discuss it with — even better, let it be known only to a trusted handful. Talk to the real stakeholders in your life — your wife, kids, trusted friends and relatives who have been there for you during the dark periods. And finally, do not second guess yourself at any point in time.
How do I know if my decision is correct?
Nobody else can live your life for you. Your decisions will impact not only your life but your immediate family as well. That is why this part of your transition is the most significant. You will never know if your decision was correct until the consequences start appearing in your life. Do not take this part lightly, and spend enough time and effort on reaching this epoch-making determination. This crossroads will completely alter your life, including the people you meet and the choices your kids will make in the future.
Think hard. And when you are done, think once more.
Something that helped me in this process was to write down what I wanted to accomplish in the short-term and the long-term. Imagine yourself living the best life you could ever dream of, and jot the deliverables both in your professional and personal fronts at realistic time intervals. If the majority of these do not align with your current career, it is a major indicator that you crave something different. Keep in mind that this is a best-case scenario, and that you need to find a way to balance it by bringing in harsh realism as well. If they align, then unbeknownst to you, you’re indeed happy in your current situation and there is something else making you resent it — identify it and move on.
Do you think you have it in you to take this decision? If you do, then let’s start this journey together, and let me guide you to the next step. Else, fret not, you still have one of the most respected professions in the world, assured care for you and your family and decent growth prospects.
Next, we shall visit the second key attribute of the transition : Evaluating and improving your finances.
(This is a continuing series that deals with transitions, especially for military veterans. More than 40% of the veterans who retire do not find a suitable job to offer their skills. If you have a friend or a loved one who can benefit from this series, please do share and request feedback. Thank you.)