Is advice helping or hurting your transition?

From | By Lida Citroën

Question: I’m leaving the Army in 3 months, and I’m overwhelmed with suggestions and advice from people around me. How do I know what to act upon and what to let go?

Answer: Good for you that you’ve got people in your life who are willing to offer you advice! Let’s assume the people in your life mean well as they offer you guidance, suggestions, ideas, business offers and advice about your transition from the military. As you sift through their recommendations, here are five things to ask yourself:

  1. Does the person offering the advice have enough context for their suggestions? Sometimes, we get advice from teachers in the TAP program, at job fairs or from family friends. Consider whether the person giving you the ideas knows you and your situation well enough to make their claims: Have they been where you are? Are their goals similar to yours? Do they have access to resources and people that give them credibility?

  2. Are they bitter because their transition wasn’t smooth? Unfortunately, you will run into veterans who did not have a positive experience leaving the military. Their perspective might be tainted with this experience, thus coloring their advice to you.

  3. Are they overly optimistic because their transition was easy? Similarly, if the person offering advice to you had a seamless transition from a military to civilian career, this can cloud their judgement on what the process really entails, how it works and what it takes to be successful in the private sector.

  4. Is their advice helping or hurting? Someone else’s views and vision can actually make you nervous and confused. Listen to your body if you find yourself becoming anxious as they share advice: Is it because you’re excited at the possibilities they’re describing or is their advice off track, making you confused and unsettled?

  5. Are they offering specific action items or painting a broad picture? Being able to see the entirety of someone’s vision is helpful to get the big picture, but if they aren’t offering specific steps to get there, you might be left confused. Similarly, if the advice is all tactics and no vision, you might not be fully enlisted in the vision of their message.


Someone offering you counsel is doing just that — offering. They aren’t telling you or insisting you follow their suggestions. To receive advice, it’s best to:

  • Have a plan and use the advice to test the plan. Advice is not the same as a mandate. They are offering you their ideas. The best way to take in these ideas is to have a sense of who you are and where you’re heading and then use their recommendations to “test” or “vet” your plan. Otherwise, everyone’s advice can feel like a course you’re expected to pursue and you can get stuck in analysis paralysis.

  • Say “thank you.” Whenever someone offers you their time and effort, regardless of whether it was helpful or not, show appreciation. If you’re not going to act on their advice, don’t mislead them into thinking you are. If you are going to take their advice, perhaps leave the door open for you to return to them for additional guidance in the future.

  • Look for patterns in the advice. Hopefully you will gather advice from many people, across industries and backgrounds. Consider the patterns that emerge from the advice you’re receiving. For instance, are most of your advisors suggesting you go back to school before starting your own business? This could indicate they see a lack of skills or training needed for you to be successful.

Receiving advice is a gift. Sometimes you just have to weed through some not-so-helpful advice to find the advice that’s right for you in your situation. Take in all the advice you are given and put it through your personal brand filter to determine which you should follow to have a successful transition.