Dmitry Rukhlin is one of our Veterati mentors and is a highly regarded member of the veteran community. His commitment to serving veterans led him to write about his own transition in Leaving Active Duty: Real-life Stories and Advice for Junior Military Officers. Dmitry graduated from the U.S Naval Academy in 2004 and is now the Chief Operating Officer of Kraus USA Inc.
Q: What is the most important thing for a successful transition?
A: Above all else, be flexible. Don’t go after one job, one location, one pay range or even one way of being compensated (hourly vs. salary vs. commission). You never know what will come up. Something may surprise you in being more appealing than you thought.
Q: If you had to do it over again, what’s one thing you would change?
I would definitely talk to a financial planner. Getting out, I didn’t fully understand the tax consequences I would face or how much I’d have to put away for retirement. The military made these things easy, but they changed once I was discharged. It helps to know and plan for them in advance.
Q: Are there any resources, tools or programs that contributed significantly to your transition which you would recommend?
I found TAP to be useful. Also, the guidance and information I got from recruiters was useful. Beyond that, I would highly recommend reading The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins. This book has specific actions to take in the first three months of being employed to be successful at a job. I also would suggest my book, Leaving Active Duty: Real Life Stories and Advice for Junior Military Officers. I’ve compiled all my own lessons learned and those of others in it.
Q: Did you use a headhunter? If so, describe your experience. If not, how did you get your job?
A: I used several recruiters, but ultimately got my first job through Orion International. Great people. Chris Hurst sent me a description of the job and company. I would let him know if I was interested, and he would set up the interview. All companies I interviewed with wanted to do a phone interview first and then made the call whether or not to invite me for a second round in person. I would then get a debrief after each interview. The most useful debriefs were the least pleasant. Those were the ones where I was told I was “arrogant” or “didn’t have enough energy.” I used that feedback to tailor my approach for future interviews.
Some recruiters have limited opportunities depending on where you want to settle. Lucas Group didn’t have much in the NYC area, for example. But they’re big in other parts of the country.
Q: Describe your preparation for interviews. During the interview(s), does any one aspect stand out as being more important?
A: I used the information and question packets provided by recruiters. I wrote the questions down on note cards with my answers on the back. After each interview, I’d add to my note cards stack and revise my answers if I felt that was needed. Having prepared answers gave me confidence. At the interviews, I often would add to or subtract from those answers, but the fact that I had them gave me a core to work with and that made me more composed.
Q: What would you tell someone that is on the fence about transitioning?
A: I’d say consider two things: the lifestyle you want first and the benefits second. If you (and your spouse and children, if applicable) don’t mind moving around a lot, not being with extended family and can deal with deployments, then you will find few jobs with better pay and benefits than the military. However, if you have an honest discussion with yourself and your family and are not willing to deal with the lifestyle trade-offs, then you should seriously consider transitioning. I’ve seen many families dragged through the military lifestyle, and it’s caused personal and professional problems for service members. On the contrary, I’ve seen very well-adjusted families succeed both in the military and outside of it. You just have to be honest with yourself about what you think you can and want to handle.
Q: Any final thoughts or advice on the transition process?
A: Don’t overthink it. Making the decision was very stressful for me because of the amount of time I spent thinking about it and mulling it over in my mind. Make a decision. If it turns out to be the wrong one, so what? Just change course and press forward. Your energy is better spent on fixing current problems then addressing multiple hypothetical ones in your own mind that haven’t materialized yet.
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