For Transitioning Veterans – Understanding and Surviving Transition to Your Market Value

William Bill Golden
Bill Golden


Should those on active duty having extra benefits besides their basepay, as compared to civilian workers who work primarily only for their paycheck, consider those benefits as compensation?


Yes! Anything that you receive of value is a form of compensation. The military has arranged its compensation so that much of your active duty pay and benefits are free from taxation. For many, the total value of your military compensation pay package can be hard to match in the civilian world.

You work hard in the military with a stressful lifestyle, are often away from family, and your work environment brings dangers. You’ve earned that compensation package — which also includes a great post military education package as well.

However, one of the biggest shocks for transitioning military is that their buying power radically changes once they take off the uniform and become a civilian. It does not shift in a bad or good way. It mostly just shifts in unexpected ways that require some adjustment — it takes about 6-18 months to complete the shift to civilian-life reality. 

There are many extras in the military world which are things that you would pay for out of your own pocket in the civilian world. While that is just common sense, you have probably become mentally accustomed to not paying directly for those things.

Part of that transition shock is higher unemployment among new veterans, AND more frequent than normal job hopping in your first two years of post-military service. It is common that most new military veterans are not working for the same employer after 24 months that they started working for when they first left the military.

Unemployment is higher among young veterans (less than age 30) for 12-24 months after leaving service because there is a whole lot of adjusting to do — and some of that is figuring out how to pay for life with a base paycheck that includes no benefits other than health insurance, which you are often asked to help pay for.

GOOD NEWS: Most people figure it out and overall current veteran unemployment is lower than that of the general population: 4.7% veterans vs 4.9% (Jan 2016,


William “Bill” Golden

Transition Challenges for Executives and Senior Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Career Guide Index

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Professional TransitionTransitioning for Executives and Senior Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Welcome to the challenge of transition as a senior performer or as an executive from one career to the next.

Are you a senior performer or an executive? You probably qualify for one or both of these career categories if you have been with your current employer 10 or more years, hold the military rank of E-7 or 0-4 or higher, hold the civil service grade of GS-13 or higher, or have a management position where it has been at least 2-3 years since your technical proficiency figured prominently in your job description.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects in developing a successful career transition strategy is to realize that you are not just changing jobs, you are changing your entire career and perhaps even your lifestyle.

Regardless of your current status in the realms of business, government or the military, I recommend that you inform yourself with a fundamental understanding of some basic realities:

  • So you are a guru! Few care. The world is full of smart people. Relate specifically how you can benefit a company.
  • You will not be what you are. It’s all about supply and demand. Subject matter experts go where the need is.
  • Your value is relative to the need for the skills you have.
  • Status is earned in the commercial marketplace and can be lost overnight. Pay can increase and decrease.
  • Job security depends upon your willingness to compete, stay proficient, and seek challenges. Expect to change employers every 3-8 years.
  • There are multiple job markets and you need to adjust to them, not them to you. Keep learning.
  • Your skills have geographic value – go where the jobs are or else.
  • Personal networking and the Internet can find you the right job — but you need to know how to network and to use the Internet. “Doing lunch” can be worth money.
  • Changing careers is a life event. It will create significant stress upon you and your family. Heart attacks happen.

Falling Off Your Pedestal

Within any industry, many circumstances beyond even your boss’s reach can adversely affect your job. In the defense industry, you may encounter: buy-outs and consolidations; failure to pass a defense budget (a common occurrence in the late 1990s); layoffs due to diversion of funds for national security purposes; program cancellations (the prime contractor gets in trouble and your subcontract suffers); changes in technology; defeat in the marketplace; or changes in the marketplace — doesn’t happen often but there are an amazing number of companies in the defense market that do just one thing well.

Bad things happen often enough to good people. You need to be prepared because falling off your pedestal will happen at the most inopportune moment. (ICi) actually got its start this way. Funding for the defense program that I was working on did not get renewed. I started ICi on a part-time basis, but then was snagged by another defense company with an offer I couldn’t refuse. Things went well until shortly after winning a multi-year defense R&D contract. Within 30 days of winning the contract, program funding was cut for the next quarter, thus a pink slip. The extra time was used to ramp up ICi to a full-time endeavor and I’ve never looked back.

The pitfall of being a leader, manager, subject matter expert is that you need to find someone who cares. Regardless of how good you are at something, you must be able to relate your value to a new employer. Employers most often hire for the specific, not the generic.

If you are departing the government or military, realize that your status will not transfer with you, guru or not — unless you bring a Rolodex of contacts within your new organization. If you have a Rolodex and knowledge of the acquisition system, there are any number of enterprises that are willing to transition you into a position to use that knowledge. And while you may not be allowed to directly take part in the process, revolving door and all, your knowledge as an internal consultant will help you maintain your former status … for a while, until your Rolodex gets outdated and you have to use the phone book like everybody else to figure out who to call.

The overwhelming majority of senior performers and executives need to define opportunities based upon having a portfolio and finding career possibilities that can make good use of your portfolio.

Your portfolio should include:

  • Certifications and Academic Credentials
  • Outline of your technology skills – Listing Microsoft (MS) Office has little value unless you can also put to use the MS Excel spreadsheet or the MS Access database. Use of MS Word should be universal as should use of MS PowerPoint.
  • Versions of your resume
    — Curriculum Vitae, aka CV – Recruiters do ask for it
    — Defense industry focus #1 – Chronological and heavily jargon-specific to your government or military background
    — Defense industry focus #2 – Chronological and de-jargonized so that your neighbor could read it and have a clue as to what you do
    — Generic chronological de-jargonized resume
    — Document listing your KSAs: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
  • Knowledge of administrative: regulations, legislative, common and accepted practices.
  • An economic/compensation worksheet that represents your needs and expectations.

The portfolio is primarily for your own use. It should grow and become a living document that transitions with you so that every time you find a great job, you will be prepared to immediately begin looking for your next great job.

A key piece of your portfolio is your economic/compensation worksheet. Things to consider on this worksheet:

  • Home – Mortgage/rental, upkeep and insurance expenses
  • Food and beverage costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Vacation expenses – Take one!
  • Education costs for self, spouse and children
  • Transportation – Car, insurance, fuel, tolls, repairs
  • Savings – Whatever your expenses are, set aside 10% for investments
  • Retirement – Neither social security nor the social security fix being debated will pay your way in retirement. You need to invest 5-10+% of your living expenses into some form of a retirement plan.
  • Tack on 5% of your expenses to cover stuff that both you and I forgot to budget for. Life happens.

The above portfolio worksheet is essential to helping you determine where you need to be in the marketplace when it comes to seeking minimally acceptable compensation.

Marketplace Darwinism

There have been significant changes in the commercial marketplace since the New Economy debuted in the late 1990s. One of the most important major changes for you is that companies and organizations are intensely focused on efficiency by outsourcing non-core functions and creating as flat an organization as possible.

Flat organizations can pose a unique challenge to former government and military members — where organizations are pyramidal and highly structured in terms of status, compensation, benefits and functionality. Flat organizations prize initiative in thought, product or service marketing concepts, and the ability of individual team members to bring home the bacon. Ultimately, flat organizations thrive and succeed because most of its members are part of the marketing team and are rewarded (or not) accordingly.

Opportunities for senior performers and executives are predicated upon the ability to answer the questions: how do you bring value to the marketplace, to which marketplace, and what will be your entry point into a particular market?

Defense industry employers are looking for people who can manage the production/marketing of a product or service, who can lead their team into the marketplace and actually market products and services, and then seek reward with honorary title of leader and manager because they did in fact take charge. A leader in industry is usually just the best-paid worker bee. If your primary skill is management then beware: there are very few defense employers seeking managers. If you can’t do then can you manage?

The Changing Marketplace

You will not be what you are. It’s all about supply and demand. Recent Department of Labor research indicates that those in the prime of their career should expect to change careers another 3-6 times before retirement. Younger workers should expect to change careers 6-10 times. What this means is that you should expect career change in your life on a recurring basis of every 4.5 years (worst case) to 15 years (best case) for someone in the workforce from age 20-65.

Your marketplace value is relative to the need for the skills and expertise that you have. Your primary challenge as a senior performer or executive is to avoid having to start over. You need to brainstorm your way to success. If you have never brainstormed, then find a friend who has experienced this concept. Brainstorming is routinely taught in corporate, government and military organizations.

Next you need to begin a correlation of people, organizations and things (technology, products, services, concepts) that are related to each of the items above. List all associates and friends who are currently working in the industry. Associate them with their organization and locations — their company may not need you but they could be knowledgeable about other opportunities in a geographic region.

The Internet can also help you identify resources relevant to your search for positions worthy of being a government or military senior. Just google different job titles and places that you would like to work. You should find many opportunities that you never previously knew existed.


William Golden

Got a resume? Send it to us:

ADVICE/Bill G sez – About including past income on your resume

QUESTION: I sometimes receive resumes with past incomes included on them. Should this be done? Can it help or harm?

ANSWER: Remove how much you earned from your resume! It can definitely harm you in various ways.

In the good ol’days of 5-10 years ago, employers often asked for a salary history. Yet, even then this was fairly rare.

Improving income usually reflected your true value. If you were good then you were moving up the income ladder. That mattered more than job titles and annual evalution reports. Now, now so much.

Incomes have flattened. Incomes have fallen for many since 2012, even in the defense market sector. Sometimes significantly. Including your income on your resume can actually scare away employers. Leave all money matters open to conversation once an employer seems serious about you.

Never give away negotiating points by showing some of your cards face up until you have to!

Best regards,
Bill Golden

About Career Fairs and Event Recruiters

IntelligenceCareers.comRecruiters, Career Fairs and Finding Success

About Recruiters / Meet Our Recruiters

Recruiters that you meet at career fairs come in three varieties:

  • Hunters – looking for a key hire, or 2, or 3. If the company seems right, but the recruiter ignores you, then get their literature and go to the corporate website.
  • Farmers – These recruiters seem genuinely interested in you, and everyone else they meet. Never walk away from a smile. These recruiters are looking for talent that they can grow.
  • Vacuum Cleaners – Some companies have lots of jobs and send out recruiters to just collect as many resumes as possible for post-event evaluation. Easy to spot as these recruiters generally avoid conversation, don’t discuss specific positions, and provide you with a generic ‘go to our website’ brochure or business card. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have tons of great jobs … but what does a vacuum cleaner know?! Get some corporate literature and follow up via the web.

Understanding Companies & Organizations

Defense Industry organizations do lots of things.

  • NEVER assume that the name of a company is a good indicator of what a company does. We know technology companies with no technology, and analytic organizations that never seem to hire analysts. Talk to them all.
  • Small companies often pay as well as large companies. Large companies may seem to offer more benefits and greater benefit … but often you are just a number. Small to medium-sized companies may actually appreciate you more. They do not have the flexible to hire tons of people so they like to hire and use you for your flexibility. Explore them all.
  • Everyone needs cleared administrative assistants, marketers, business developers, etc. … although these positions are often not advertised or listed on corporate literature. Ask. What have you got to lose?

Finding Success

You are a product. Be prepared to present yourself.

  • Know your skills. Be prepared: ‘I am seeking a junior (mid-level, senior-level) position as ___.’ Yes, you need to fill in the blank.
  • Know your value. Have a confident answer: I am seeking something between $X-Z. (We will have a career advisor on hand to help you figure out how many $$ you should be asking for. Ask for Wally).
  • Focus a recruiter’s attention. Before talking to a recruiter, read a piece of corporate literature, visit a company’s website, or scan the exhibition display board for a listing of the skills needed. Tell a recruiter, ‘I am interested in a junior/mid-level/senior position as ____, which your company has listed (advertised or posted on their website, etc.)

Best regards,
Bill Golden

Meet Our Recruiters at Events

View Many Different Kinds of Career Events

Career Events

13 Things That Affect You Getting a Security Clearance

IntelligenceCareers.comInterim Clearances for
Industrial Personnel
(Defense Contractors)

All applicants for a personnel security clearance submitted by a cleared contractor will be routinely considered for an interim eligibility. An interim eligibility is usually granted within five days after the clearance application is submitted. An interim eligibility will permit the individual to have access to most of the classified information needed to perform his or her duties. The interim eligibility is made concurrently with the initiation of the investigation and will generally remain in effect until an investigation is completed, at which time the applicant is considered for a final eligibility.

The decision to issue or decline an interim eligibility is made by a DISCO adjudicator who considers 13 adjudicative guidelines. These same guidelines are also used by an adjudicator in considering whether to grant a final clearance. Common reasons for an interim declination:

1. Financial Considerations. For example, a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts.

2. Emotional, Mental and Personality Disorders. For example, information that suggests that an individual has a condition or treatment that may indicate a defect in judgment, reliability or stability.

3. Foreign Preference. For example, possession of a valid foreign passport.

4. Criminal Conduct. For example, felony arrests, multiple misdemeanor arrests or imprisonment for over one year.

5. Drug involvement. For example, recent drug use, illegal drug possession or drug dependence.

Not all of the above examples will result in the decline of an interim eligibility. There can be mitigating factors such as a particular behavior was not recent, or it was an isolated incident. Or, in the case of emotional, mental and personality disorders, mental health treatment for a temporary condition such as that caused by a death, illness or marital breakup.

Adjudicative Guidelines

Included with each guideline is an example of concerns that might prevent an adjudicator from issuing an interim eligibility. Again, these are examples and may not result in the decline of an interim eligibility if there are factors that mitigate the concerns.

1. Allegiance to the United States. An individual must be of unquestioned allegiance to the United States. The willingness to safeguard classified information is in doubt if there is any reason to suspect an individual’s allegiance to the United States. Example: membership in an organization that supports the overthrowing of the U.S. government.

2. Foreign influence. A security risk may exist when an individual’s immediate family, including cohabitants, and other persons to whom he or she may be bound by affection, influence, or obligation are not citizens of the United States or may be subject to duress. These situations could create the potential for foreign influence that could result in the compromise of classified information. Contacts with citizens of other countries or financial interests in other countries are also relevant to security determinations if they make an individual potentially vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or pressure. Example: foreign financial interest or employment that may affect the individual’s security responsibility.

3. Foreign preference. When an individual acts in such a way as to indicate a preference for a foreign country over the United States, then he or she may be prone to provide information or make decisions that are harmful to the interests of the United States. Example: possession of a valid foreign passport.

4. Sexual behavior. Sexual behavior is a security concern if it involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, may subject the individual to coercion, exploitation, or duress, or reflects lack of judgment or discretion. Sexual orientation or preference may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person’s eligibility for a security clearance. Example: arrests for a sexual related crime.

5. Personal conduct. Conduct involving questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, dishonesty or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations could indicate that the person may not properly safeguard classified information. Example: subject left previous employment due to fraud.

6. Financial considerations. An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds. Unexplained affluence is often linked to proceeds from financially profitable criminal acts. Example: a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts.

7. Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to the exercise of questionable judgment, unreliability, failure to control impulses, and increases the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information due to carelessness. Example: treatment for alcohol abuse.

8. Drug involvement. Improper or illegal involvement with drugs raises questions regarding an individual’s willingness or ability to protect classified information. Drug abuse or dependence may impair social or occupational functioning, increasing the risk of an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Example: recent drug use, illegal drug possession or drug dependence.

9. Psychological conditions. Emotional, mental and personality disorders can cause a significant deficit in an individual’s psychological, social and occupational functioning. These disorders are of security concern because they may indicate a defect in judgment, reliability or stability. Example: information that suggests that an individual has a condition or treatment that may indicate a defect in judgment, reliability or stability.

10. Criminal conduct. A history or pattern of criminal activity creates doubt about a person’s judgment, reliability and trustworthiness. Example: felony arrests, multiple misdemeanor arrests or imprisonment for over one year.

11. Handling protected information. Noncompliance with security regulations raises doubt about an individual’s trustworthiness, willingness and ability to safeguard classified information. Example: multiple security violations.

12. Outside activities. Involvement in certain types of outside employment or activities is of security concern if it poses a conflict with an individual’s security responsibilities and could create an increased risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Example: service or employment country or foreign national.

13. Use of Information Technology Systems. Noncompliance with rules, procedures, guidelines or regulations pertaining to information technology systems may raise security concerns about an individual’s trustworthiness, willingness, and ability to properly protect classified systems, networks, and information. Information Technology Systems include all related equipment used for the communication, transmission, processing, manipulation, and storage of classified or sensitive information. Example: viewing unauthorized web sites.

Security Clearances


For more information, visit:
Defense Security Service (DSS)
and learn about its very important role and impact regarding Defense Contractors