Warning:  The following is a personal account from August 2015 as I left active duty.  You may or may not experience the same when leaving the military…

So, there I was.  I landed a job with a great company, cleared CIF and received my discharge papers.  I even submitted my VA disability claim early!  Now, it was time focus on my new job.  For me, I went from wearing the uniform on a Friday to wearing a collared shirt and tie on the following Monday.  I was very gracious it played out like this because getting paid from DFAS and my new job was awesome!  However, something hit me that weekend before I started my new job…

I was a nervous wreck!

I found myself Saturday saying “Dude, you have been in the Army for the last 6 years of your life.  You haven’t worked in the civilian workplace since before Obama moved into the White House…What are you going to do?!”

Here’s the strange part. I wasn’t nervous about the job itself.  At the time, I had been working in IT for 6 years, obtained a Master of Science in IT Management and had the capability to learn new concepts in technology.  Sure, there would be a learning curve because of the nature of my company’s business but otherwise, I knew I could do the job.  What was causing this feeling?  Honestly, I couldn’t put it into words.  I could not tell my wife why my stomach was in knots on that Monday morning as I put on my tie.

Corporate culture? No.  Co-workers that don’t “get me”? Not really.  My boss being upset that I will have to take time to go to those pesky VA appointments as I navigate the compensation for disability process? Not that either.  I just couldn’t explain it.

While driving to work for my first day, I realized what was going on.  My time over the year prior to leaving active duty was so consumed with finding a job that I forgot about the first day jitters that were going to accompany that new job…and jitters is putting it lightly.

Once I arrived to my new job for New Hire Orientation, those jitters seemed to float away.  Seriously, they disappeared faster than steaks on “steak day” in the DFAC downrange.

So here is my advice as it relates to that crucial first day:

First, the jitters will probably hit you, too!  You’re excited about your new beginnings but you will be nervous.  It doesn’t matter whether you were an E-4 that separated after your initial enlistment or an E-9 that served over 20 years, those jitters will hit you smack-dab in the face!  Ride it out…most likely you won’t be able to explain it either, but they will disappear almost immediately after arriving at your new work digs.

Secondly, try to fit in.  This isn’t the military, so don’t use the knife-hand when talking to employees if you are in a supervisory role and please don’t use acronyms when speaking to co-workers.  Learn the culture and embrace it because this is your life now.

Lastly, do your best.  I shouldn’t have to say this because as Veterans, we (most of us) inherently do this.  When I say do your best I mean ask questions and be willing to learn.  You aren’t expected to be an expert the first day, but do your best at becoming a good employee.

By the way, congratulations! This is indeed an exciting time in your life!  


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