How do you go from Fighter to Writer? The last day of my time in the service is still ahead of me, yet in many ways I am living in the next chapter of my life. My career as an Army officer has been, comparably, calm and simple. My battles were more mental than physical. My challenges were more frustration than life or death. But, like the millions of men and women who have served in the last decade, I struggled with the transition to the civilian marketplace.
How do you take the skills and lessons learned in the military and translate that into a meaningful--and hopefully lucrative--career? Well, my suggestion is very simple. Use the tools you've been taught, and the skills you've mastered, to attack your new career just like a military operation.
Make a Plan
Since this is "Fighter to Writer," let's focus our efforts on the creative careers. When I set out to become a writer, to really sink my teeth into the profession, I used the lessons learned from the military to create a plan. Namely, I wrote an OPORD.
For those of you without a military background, OPORD stands for Operation Order. It is the standard 5-paragraph briefing structure taught to every Army officer and NCO. By adding some structure and guidance to every briefing, it ensures understanding and simplicity.
The paragraphs are as follows:
Situation: Where are you now? What is happening around you? What led you to this moment? Who are the enemy (obstacles) and what are their capabilities? Who are the friends or assets around you, and what are they doing concurrently?
Mission: Simple, 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why). What are you going to do, when, where, and why.
Execution: How are you going to do it? What are the key tasks? What is the End State? How are you getting from where you are to where you want to be?
Sustainment: What will you need to keep you going? What support will you require and from where will it come?
Command and Signal: Who is in charge? Who can you call for support or guidance?
When I first looked at the path to becoming a writer, it seemed impossible, but so many missions can look that way from the outside. I had to define my mission before I could really start. I had to locate and secure my resources and my support system. I had to give up preconceived notions once the reality (intelligence) proved different from my suppositions.
Once I had my mission, I waded in aggressively. I was certain that, by following my simple plan, I would find success in short order. But, like every military operation in history, the plan didn't make it past first contact. That's where my training really paid off.
Flexibility is, without a doubt, one of the most important skills I learned while in uniform. Things change, missions update, and the enemy doesn't sit around and wait for you to come find them. You have to be willing to adjust to the changes in your environment, in the industry itself.
The transition from Fighter to Writer is slow and steady. So rather than dump a truckload of information on your laps right now, let's take it one bite at a time.
Make a plan. Gather your resources. And let me know if you have questions.