Nick Ripplinger

  Nick Ripplinger


Transitions are never easy, and it has been said that leaving the military can be one of the hardest transitions one can make. When a person leaves the military, they are leaving a life of stability where their necessities such as housing, home goods, and clothing are all provided to them by their service organization. They are leaving leaders who were involved in both their professional life and their personal success. I recently had the opportunity to interview Tiye Young, a United States Army Officer with a combined 10 years of service between her time in ROTC and Active Duty.

Tiye started the conversation by stating how difficult it was for her to decide to leave the military. She originally planned on serving for 20 years, the length of service required for a full retirement. However, over the course of her service, she decided to follow her passion and make a drastic change to embark on a journey to become a medical doctor. Leaving the life of stability the military offered her for a life of long hours in the classroom, endless homework, massive debt, and the uncertainty that she would even be accepted into a medical program were all factors that made this decision so daunting.

I really wanted to discover what fears she had and what she did to overcome them. Tiye’s biggest fears revolved around money. Many other service members also fear financial challenges because they are leaving a stable paycheck on the first and fifteenth of every month. Her biggest concern was not being financially prepared. Had she saved enough? Would she earn enough? Where would the money come from? In order to wrap her head around all of these questions, Tiye took action and attended a two-week-long budget class provided by the Army. But she didn’t stop there. Tiye hired a financial planner and worked with her bank’s budget analyst to create a viable plan to make the transition work for her. Tiye cites taking action as the number one factor in her successful transition.

Taking action. It sounds so easy, but where do you start? I wanted to find out what other actions Tiye took that made her transition a success. Below are her eight suggestions for a smooth transition.

1. Plan 18 months in advance

“You have to become the person you want to be before you get out of the military.” Tiye suggested that 18 months is enough time to get all of your affairs in order, all of your documentation in place, and develop and lay the foundation to a solid transition plan.

2. Don’t let anyone tell you no!

“During the transition, you have to be selfish. You are making this transition for you, so you have to fight for yourself.” In the military, you can expect certain things will be taken care of without having to get involved. That is not the case during the transition process. You have to be involved and active in every step of the process and you cannot afford to take no for an answer. Tiye also said “You wouldn’t tell yourself no when trying to achieve a goal, so why would you let anyone else?”

3. No phone calls

Although it isn’t always possible, Tiye said she had more success getting the answer she wanted or needed when she had the conversation face to face. She even went as far as driving three hours to discuss her school application in person rather than on the phone. “It is so much easier for a person to say no on the phone than it is when you are looking the other person in the eyes,” says Tiye.

4. Get organized

This is one place where I got the privilege to see Tiye in action with her personal transition folder. It was immaculately organized and well put together. There were tabs for each part of her transition. The financial section had her credit report, her last several pay stubs, a list of all of her bills, and the budget she put together with her bank. Every meeting and every conversation was documented in that folder, as well. Tiye said, “I wasn’t always this organized. I had to become this way in order to be successful during this transition.”

5. Negotiate everything you can

“I was able to rent my apartment for only 30% of the standard price, because I went into the office, built a relationship, shared my story, and negotiated with them.” That is a powerful statement. Most people are willing to help others if they know the need and if they are able. Tiye built the relationship and once she shared her story, the leasing company was able and willing to help her because they knew the whole story. She wasn’t just another applicant in their eyes.

6. Things fall apart – have a plan

Tiye’s original housing plan fell apart and she had to create a new one. This is not uncommon and it usually happens to at least one part of a master plan that includes so many moving pieces. However, Tiye was able to recover because she started the process early. She had additional time to create and execute a new plan, and was able to secure housing within 30 days and prior to her last day in the Army. It pays to have a backup plan, especially if you have the time to execute it.

7. Stay humble

“You have to invest in yourself and you have to be fully invested in your goals. This includes asking for help and thinking nothing is beneath you,” explains Tiye. Staying humble after a successful military career isn’t the easiest thing in the world for many service members. However, staying humble and asking for help has opened several doors for Tiye during her transition, even doors she didn’t know existed.

8. Find a way to give back

“The world is a big place and no matter what you have going on in life, you still have to find a way to give back,” says Tiye. She also suggested that in order to fully give back, you have to find a project that is near and dear to your heart. Tiye did just that with an organization called Final Salute that provides resources and housing to homeless women veterans. Tiye used her natural resources to compete in the Ms. Veteran American as a fundraiser for Final Salute. She won the “You Wore it Best” award for the dress competition and finished the competition as the first runner up.

Transition, no matter what shape or form it is, and no matter whether it’s personal or professional, can be a very difficult time. It can be stressful and you may have to overcome some long-standing fears. You are taking a leap of faith into the unknown and things will not always be under your control. However, by tailoring Tiye’s proven suggestions, your transition can be smoother with a better chance of success.

Veteran Nick Ripplinger is the #1 Best Selling author of Front Line Leadership – Applying Military Strategies to Everyday Business, the founder of Front Line Leadership LLC, a leadership training and development company, and the president of Battle Sight Technologies, a leading rapid commercialization firm focused on dual use technologies that supports the warfighter, first responder, emergency management professional, and commercial markets. Nick has dedicated a percentage of his time and resources to assist veterans in transition by leveraging their military skills in the business world. He has been recognized as a Veteran of Influence by the Ohio State Assembly and the Dayton Business Journal and has received several other military and civilian awards for his work.

This article is reprinted from Issue #9 of
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