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Brass tactics: Gen. Casey's advice for transitioning vets

Success tips include confidence, networking and exercise

Jun. 9, 2014 - 04:39PM   |  
Retired Army Gen. George Casey has six tips for success as a civilian.
Retired Army Gen. George Casey has six tips for success as a civilian. (Staff)
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Troops leaving the military benefit from a country that is supportive and appreciative of their service as well as military training that has equipped them well to deal with the uncertainties presented by the modern world, says retired Gen. George Casey, a former Army chief of staff. He delivered his “six tips” for success as a civilian at this year’s Student Veterans of America annual meeting.

First and foremost, “Don’t sell yourself short,” Casey said. He recalled a recent survey in which CEOs said they wanted employees who could solve complex problems, work as a team, demonstrate a strong work ethic and practice good values. “Any of that sound familiar to you? That’s you,” Casey said. “So use that, and above all, believe in yourselves.” More of his tips to help you shine as a civilian:

“Learn to ask for and accept help.” After years of taking and giving orders to accomplish a greater goal, asking for assistance for yourself can feel awkward. “Get over it,” Casey said. “There are all kinds of people out there — at the university, in the veterans administration, in the local community — that are looking to help.”

“Build and use a network.” There are social networking sites, business networking sites, even networking sites specifically for veterans to connect with other veterans, Casey said. “So get connected, stay connected, and when you’re ready, give back a little bit, and help some of the others.”

“Stay fit.” Veterans come from “a culture of fitness” in the military, and they should be sure to maintain that when they transition to civilian life and even set the example for others.

“Be bold.” Be skeptical of any no-risk propositions, Casey said. “It’s all trial and error. ... And when you read biographies of some of these successful businessmen, they all have a few swings and misses. And you’re not going to be successful unless you take a shot at it.”

“Graduate.” It’s not just about you. Whether vets make good use of their education benefits affects how those benefits are handled and funded in Washington, Casey said. And there aren’t many Nobel laureates or Supreme Court justices without bachelor’s degrees. “You’ve got to graduate, not only to help the people coming after you, but the country needs you. We need leaders like you, both in the public sector, and in the private sector,” he said.

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