Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging, but with the right mindset and preparation, it can also be a fulfilling experience. With May being Military Appreciation Month, we spoke to three veterans, Amber Rodgers (Maj.), Angela Burd (MSG), and Jerome Simmons (SGM), about their experiences transitioning to civilian life and how their military background has helped them in their current roles at Magellan Federal.
They each offer valuable insights on overcoming challenges and making the most of the transition, including setting attainable goals, building new habits, and staying connected with the military community. Whether you’re a veteran, caregiver, or spouse, their advice can help you navigate this exciting but daunting time in your life.
Q: Are you a veteran, caregiver, or spouse?
Amber Rodgers: Veteran and spouse
Angela Burd: Veteran
Jerome Simmons: Veteran
Q: What’s your branch of service?
Amber Rodgers: Air Force
Angela Burd: U.S. Army
Jerome Simmons: U.S. Army
Q: How many years of service do you have?
Amber Rodgers: 10
Angela Burd: 27
Jerome Simmons: 30
Q: What was your experience transitioning from military to civilian life leading up to your role at Magellan Federal?
Amber Rodgers: It was a quick 3-week transition from active duty to civilian life and my Magellan role!
Angela Burd: I retired in 2021, and the transition was smooth. I had a lot of time to prepare. The military sets you up for success through the transition assistance program. I researched employment in the civilian sector because I believed I wanted a drastic change from the military in my second career. But after a few months as a civilian, I realized I greatly missed the military community. I knew I still had a desire to “serve” in some capacity. Then I came across the job posting for MFLC recruiting, and it felt like an amazing opportunity to put my military experience to great use!
Jerome Simmons: My transition has been tough to the point that I’m still up at 04:00 a.m. every day. I took a break for the first 90 days, which did not last because I ran out of things to do. I started working a contract job at Fort Bliss, TX, to stay active and still give back to the Soldiers. The job that I currently have is a true blessing allowing me to give back once again.
Q: What challenges did you face during your transition, and how did you overcome them?
Amber Rodgers: I initially struggled with not feeling busy enough, I was overwhelmed during active duty and trying to be present for my family, and then it all stopped when I got out. I couldn’t remember when I’d only worked an 8hr day. I focused on spending that “extra” time with my family, being outside, and finding hobbies.
Angela Burd: My greatest challenge was transitioning from being a leader and expert in my field to starting over and learning civilian aspects of the workforce. I needed to recognize that I would not initially come into the workforce at the “rank” I previously held; that I needed to establish myself as a valuable employee and learn, grow, and challenge myself to work toward new goals.
Jerome Simmons: The first challenge I faced was not being in charge anymore. I did a lot of cycling and CrossFit to take my mind off the pressure of not leading Soldiers!
Q: How do you think your military experience has prepared you for your role at Magellan Federal?
Amber Rodgers: The military prepared me to lead people, problem-solve, and think strategically.
Angela Burd: I can appreciate the mission and recognize the value of Magellan Federal from the angle of the service member. Additionally, I recruit Military and Family Life Counselors. I feel that my prior service lends to the credibility of who we are and what we do. I appreciate the counselors because so many times throughout my years of service, I now recognize that I could have used an MFLC!
Jerome Simmons: My experience with the Army has made it easy for me to network with Green Suiters (Army) and other organizations on the installation.
Q: What skills did you learn in the military that you feel are particularly valuable in your current position?
Amber Rodgers: Time management, setting goals, communicating expectations, giving and receiving feedback, and accountability.
Angela Burd: Adaptability. I have learned to make the best of plans but be ready at any time for a change in mission. All candidates are different and the ability to adapt can assist in keeping great candidates interested in our roles and ultimately filling our ranks with the right employees to serve our service members and their families.
Jerome Simmons: Leading and patience are two great skills that I’ve learned.
Q7: How do you stay connected with the military community while working in a civilian role?
Amber Rodgers: I serve in the Air National Guard.
Angela Burd: I had a great bond with my team of Soldiers, my leadership, and their families. Many have become lifelong friends who still come to me for advice from when I was in their positions. It is a great feeling to know that my work remains valued and worthy of recognition even after being gone for two years.
Jerome Simmons: I have a ton of old Soldiers, civilians, and leaders that stay in touch with me monthly for mentorship and mentee.
Q8: What advice would you give to someone who is currently transitioning from military to civilian life?
Amber Rodgers: Acknowledge that “it’s different,” normalize the transition of old habits, and explore how to build new habits. Find the similarities and find excitement in the differences. Take time for yourself and recognize that this is a transition for your family, too, don’t forget them!
Angela Burd: Start planning early. Set attainable goals for yourself with realistic timelines. Include your family in your plans. Ask questions, build connections, and network! Be realistic about what you want in a role. You may fail a time or two and need to reassess your goals, but that’s OK! The military community is always there to pick you up, and your training taught you to be resilient so you will eventually succeed!
Jerome Simmons: Please, please establish some type of support channel, whether it be military or civilian, that would push and motivate you!