Career transition calls for research, planning

Dear J.T. & Dale: I am a retiring from the U.S. Navy as a senior officer in logistics and operations. I am looking to a whole new chapter, outside federal or military service. My strength is problem solving and large team leadership. However, it seems my problem with civilian companies is that I may be too much of a generalist and not specialized, but that is how the USN has utilized me over my career. I’d appreciate any suggestions or tips on marketing myself to civilian industry. – Martin

J.T.: First, thank you for your service. As you move ahead, transitioning can feel daunting, especially if you are seen as a generalist when most private sector employers have a specific problem or pain they need alleviated, and they want a specialist who knows how to solve it.

DALE: I love that connection you just made between being a “specialist” and solving “specific” problems – both those words come from the Latin word for “species.” So if they hear you’re not a specialist, it’s another way of saying you’re not the right species of manager that they need. And there’s another verbal connection that’s relevant, the one between “generalist” and “generic.” You do NOT want to be a generic leader, or a generic anything. So you’re going to have to figure out how to make the connection for corporate hiring managers. You want your new corporate gig to seem like the logical evolution of your career. After all, they’re looking to get help, not give it. It’s on you to make the transition make sense to them.

J.T.: A couple of suggestions: (1) Are you following a job search plan? You should definitely create a bucket list of employers and do some informational interviewing to help you identify the types of problems you could solve at the companies you admire.

(2) You should reach out to a few folks who once did the same work you did in the military and see what they are doing now. If you use a site like, you can search for people with the same military title you had and locate their LinkedIn profiles. Ask them to connect with a customized invite explaining you did the same role and then see if they might hop on the phone for a call to discuss. I promise, once you can target roles in the private sector that play to your strengths, it will be easier to sell your value to them!

Dear J.T. & Dale: I have anxiety and my doctor suggested I get a dog. Which I did. But now I hate leaving him home alone all day. I want to ask my company if they’d agree to let me bring him to work. But if I mention he is for my health, I’m worried they’ll treat me differently and it may hurt my career. – Brenna

DALE: One stinking peacock on a plane and a shadow fell over the whole notion of therapy animals. So, at least for now, it will be hard to be taken seriously if you approach bringing the dog for medical issues. Further, all your co-workers are going to ask why you’re allowed to bring him, and that means you’re going to be talking about your anxiety and, say it ain’t so, but that can’t be good for your image at the company.

J.T.: I would start by checking with HR to see if the company has ever considered allowing employees to bring pets to work as a general benefit. There are some legalities around it that they might not want to take on. (For instance, whether their landlord allows it, insurance in the event the dog bites someone or gets hurt on site, etc.) You could then inquire about dogs for anxiety, but I agree with Dale that this could affect your career. Honestly, my advice is to research companies that allow dogs at work and then look for a new job with them. It’s much easier to join a company with the existing benefit than to try to get your employer to create it.

Email Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell and Dale Dauten at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2018 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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