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For O-4s+ in Career Transition: Do as I Say not as I Did.

I transitioned 17 years ago and would like for you to benefit from my highly indirect path to success, especially if you are a senior 0-4 or above.

What is the O-4+ hurdle to transition? Primarily because we are arrogant (probably for good reasons, accustomed to being in charge having held extremely sensitive positions in highly operational positions.

I began my transition having been a successful nuclear submarine officer, Jointly-Trained and most recently leading a $15B global inter-agency counterdrug operation. I was certain that my future employers would understand the leadership skills, technical competence, personal integrity and physical stamina it took to have such a successful career.

WRONG! After 9 failed interviews focused on employers in Raleigh, NC as a program manager in Information Technology sector, I thought that I was probably doing something wrong. I kept hearing a consistent HR response that “I was not technical enough”. What!? I am a nuke! How much more geeky and technical can you be than that? I went and paid $5k for a life coach who on our first meeting as I began systematically answering her questions about my resume heard her say “shut up and listen you type A field marshal!!”

What I found with her coaching exercises that because of my pride I expected that my future employers would understand my technical achievements. They did not. Life coaching turned my technical resume into specific business terms that met defined business needs. My marketing plan was on managing and delivering technical projects using small and highly efficient teams.

Sounds almost like being an Ensign division officer on board a boat. Except it pays 300% more. She taught me discipline and business speak. One week after her extensive marketing plan we (actually I developed with her oversight—yes, that meant I had to do the work) landed my first interview with a business partner of Caterpillar Inc. They were trying to help the executives of Caterpillar prepare for year 2000 crisis aka Y2K. As neither the IT geeks nor the executives could understand each other, I filled the gap. I understood the needs of the business and conveyed and guided the IT delivery team to meet those needs. So began my career as a successful IT Director in both the private sector and Federal government. And I still do not know how to program code!

I have since developed 3 different coaching and mentoring programs for both the private sector, State and Federal governments. I am involved with the USNA Mentoring Program and have found it much easier helping (Coaching) LTs vice CDR/Capt. The LT’s land the job easier and quicker. Why? You can figure it out but my analysis is that too many senior officers maybe suffering from that “Cavey syndrome” that led to 9 failed interviews.

Senior transitioning officers seem to convey they only want a networking opportunity and sometimes ask for a mentor but really need a coach. None of my17 coaching opportunities had a resume nor could elaborate their story to convince a non-military hiring manager they had a “real job”. Of those 17 coaching opportunities, 7 have turned into long time mentor relationships as I get to witness and help develop their rapid move up the career ladder. Leaders that get things done, need no hand holding, and can be held 100% accountable.

Difference between Coaching and Mentoring.

Coaching: short term task oriented and dedicated process to develop a skill for winning. Focus on concrete issues, performance driven.

Mentoring: Long term relationship oriented where mentee can have a safe environment to convey professional issues that affect their personal success. Time is needed for both mentor/mentees to build a climate of trust. Development driven.

When you call on me I am ready to help, network as a minimum, but call me “COACH CAVEY” and when you are successfully employed in the position we marketed you for then it becomes my good and close and hopefully wise friend “the Caveman”.

Please contact me if you'd like to hear details of my own career or share your own related point of view. //BC

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