• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors

Transitioning is Stressful

Posted 3 years 14 days ago ago by Admin

Transitioning into the civilian world is stressful for everyone, and this stress causes apprehension and procrastination about preparing for your transition. While others may passively wait for change to happen, or actively avoid change until the last minute, the best strategy is to control your future, which will help reduce stress as a side effect. Feelings you may have about your transition are not yours alone, everyone that has transitioned before you, myself included, have had these feelings. Everyone feels stress during transition; even those that have everything lined up for them feel some sort of stress. Some of the most obvious causes of stress are loss of identity and loss of structure. 

For many of us, the military and our rank was our identity; just by looking at someone’s collar you knew in a second where they fell in the food chain. You knew who was more senior in rank and who had been flying longer and hand more experience by their wings. Out here the majority of the people you work with are just pilots, there is no seniority, and you may go months without seeing your boss. In the military we were focused on a mission; we all moved in the same direction and once that mission was done, we started looking for the next one. Now, facing a civilian career, things might feel more loose and less structured. Your career path isn’t steadily moving up anymore, now you might be in a position with zero upward mobility, you’re a pilot and that is all you can be, which still beats any other job out there. 

Losing our identity is scary for all of us, but once you transition you need to close that chapter. Many people will quickly tire of all your back-in-the-Army stories or of hearing how awesome your aircraft was…trust me! 

Structure is very important in the military: your rank, your status, and chain of command are defined. Outside of the military, it is more gray then black and white; you are on a first name basis with your direct boss and most times the company CEO. Understand that command comes in different forms when you work for a civilian employer. In the military you had to come to work whether you were flying or not, in your new career you may have to only come in only when it is time to fly, this will give you something you aren’t used to—free time. This is an alien concept to many in the military, getting paid to stay at home, to hang out with your family, to discovery the local area on a workday. Some of the best advice I got when I first got to my new job by someone who had transitioned a year before me was... get a hobby! That is exactly what I did. I now fill my time doing stuff that I want to do while on standby, which is crucial to maintaining my focus and life balance. 

To help with apprehension, there are several online groups to join and events to attend. For example we have created the “Mil2Civ Helicopter Group” on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Try to attend the Military to Civilian Transition Workshop held for free at the Helicopter Association International’s annual Heli-EXPO. The first course I ever attended that helped with my transition was “HeliSuccess” held every fall in Las Vegas and put on by Rotorcraft Pro’s own publisher, Lyn Burks. I couldn’t suggest these courses more highly.

About the author:  Marc Stanley retired from the U.S. Army in 2015 after 26 years and is now a corporate pilot for MassMutual, flying AW139 helicopters. Stanley regularly teaches military-to-civilian transition classes at industry events and volunteers with veterans outreach programs.