“Dance v the One that Brung Ya”:

Using Informational Interviews to enable Career Transition

Col. John Buckley, U.S. benidormclubdeportivo.org, Retired

Article published on: October 21, 2016

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U.S. benidormclubdeportivo.org Reserve first Sgt. Tomeka Johnson, an elderly enlisted because that Headquarters and also Headquarters company of 200th armed forces Police Command, dances during the tie-breaking dance turn off after the military Warrior jobs training at Laudrick Creek armed forces Reservation, Md., Sept. 10. The training, held during September's battle Assembly, included stations spanning Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and also Nuclear attack; 9-Line medical Evacuation; search of a suspect; individual movement techniques and others. (U.S. Military Reserve picture by employee Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti/released)

When ns was a university athlete researching to it is in a coach, a professor provided me some advice for developing game-day strategies. The told me a story around legendary Texas football coach Darrell Royal. As soon as asked around his strategy because that college football games, Coach Royal frequently said, “You dance with the one that brung ya.” He meant he would usage players and plays that had been effective in previous wins.

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Similarly, my benidormclubdeportivo.org supervisors and also career mentors recommend me to depend on my benidormclubdeportivo.org culture and training as soon as confronting professional also as an individual issues. They meant I should use those an abilities that have been successful for me in the past. And, when mentoring a young major during my final deployment to Iraq, I listed similar advice on just how he should manage his expert and personal matters. I said, “dance through the one who brung ya.” if replaying mine counseling session with this major, ns realized I need to listen come my own advice as I faced my retirement and also prepared to transition into the private sector. I have to rely on my years of successful operational-planning endure to use structure come this problem and reduce uncertainty, retain an individual flexibility, envision a preferred future, and also outline efficient ways to bring that future about.

I knew I had to establish an approach to my private sector change that would store me moving in the appropriate direction, but I did not recognize where come begin. So, I just started do lists, organizing thoughts, and outlining steps to aid me define this complex and unfamiliar environment. I created a vision: successfully change into the personal sector. I established my skills that had potential usage in the exclusive sector, framed mine employability, scratched the end an initial method towards achieving my vision, and also got to work transforming my vision right into reality.

In the end, completely informational interviewing through my to work planning allowed me come successfully shift into the exclusive sector. Interesting way enough, ns accidently found this career expedition tool that all transitioning organization members have to be familiar with. Like me, they need to learn exactly how to apply informational interviewing to enhance their transition. Therefore, I existing this missive as an example of just how to leverage informational interviews to benefit other soldiers during their shift planning.

Define the operation Environment

I adhered to my very own advice come the major, and I decided to use operational to plan to my “mission” of transitioning right into the private sector. My first step to be to define the operating environment. I started studying the various materials of my transition. Ns spoke with representatives indigenous the environment Adjutant General’s Office, Retirement Branch, and also the housing Office, and also the values advisor, and also I attended the transition Assistance regimen to learn an ext about finding an ideal employment after ~ the benidormclubdeportivo.org. I figured out a regional realtor. I spoke to mine financial advisor to see exactly how I could ideal protect mine family and myself during this transition. I even started analysis magazines about where to retire. My initiatives to characterize my operating setting helped to alleviate some of mine uncertainty. However, I had actually an information void when it came to identifying feasible employment. I knew I required to begin filling it in quickly, so I started searching project announcements to uncover what work I could do.

I sifted with LinkedIn and also USAJOBS, and I supplied TheLadders and also various other tools to also help in my search.<1> ns discovered many listings that required specific an abilities I possessed. I uncovered job openings in areas I to be interested in settling, and also I discovered openings in big-name firms and also in small, unknown companies, and also in government contracting businesses located right outside the front door of mine fort. However, back I gained extensive proof of present opportunities, my research study was not totally fulfilling. My unfocused research study into possible jobs I might do bore an overfill of information, but certainly not actionable intelligence. My initiatives up come that allude seemed futile. My information gap increased together did my frustration, which almost caused me to hurt my very first rule together an work planner: “remain unemotional.”

I determined I essential to talk to old friends and colleagues that had effectively transitioned right into the private sector to see how they did it. I thought that if lock could change successfully, climate I definitely could. Possibly they could assist me small my focus and guide me to find what skills I have to leverage, or perhaps they might suggest whereby I can pursue jobs.

I began contacting old infantrymen—former colleagues, bosses, and also subordinates—and notified them of my pending transition. I solicited their support, and also each one enthusiastically available their assistance. They mutual résumés and detailed lessons learned indigenous their own transitions. Some advised me that networking, quite than résumé writing, would aid me discover a job. I heard around compensation packages; the an excellent travel benefits they to be enjoying; the benefits and pitfalls of working as a government contractor; the tricks to using USAJOBS; just how to leverage TRICARE (the health care program that the U.S. Department of Defense) in value negotiations; the trials and tribulations of personal consulting; and also the prestige of service cards, note cards, and professional correspondence. Yet, even after this duration of research, ns still feel unprepared because that my transition, because I to be still unsure of which project to pursue.

Writing a Résumé

I chose it was time to start writing a résumé of mine own, yet I struggled a bit with summarizing mine career. I examined example résumés from my former colleagues. Ns rummaged v my old performance reports and awards citations, and I cut and pasted several success straight into my résumé. My first draft was an ext than four pages long. However, many thanks to one former colleague, Karen, a chairman of a corporation based in Washington, D.C., i got fantastic advice ~ above arranging mine thoughts. She guidance aided me mitigate the size of mine résumé.

She called me I had to write for my audience. Karen recommend me to eliminate the armed forces jargon and use language a service leader or recruiter through no benidormclubdeportivo.org experience would understand. She likewise said I have to identify personal core competencies and also align lock with certain professional competencies. Ns am one infantryman—a standard “jack of every trades, grasp of none.” I come up with fifteen competencies. “Narrow them down to four and get earlier with me tomorrow,” she snapped together she hung up the phone.

I reworded mine skills, categorized them, and reduced my perform of competencies. I sent out my amendment résumé to Karen the following morning and also received she approval. She explained that my résumé was not done, though. It was just a draft, or together she dubbed it, a “baseline.” She counseled me to compose a brand brand-new résumé because that each place to which i was applying. She said, “Your résumé should reflect the place you are pursuing. You have to highlight the knowledge and all skills, experiences, and also abilities required for the one details job you space pursuing. Friend should deal with only those listed in the job description—nothing more!” In various other words, she told me to associate my an abilities precisely through those detailed in the job description.

Despite the optimistic feedback native my former colleague, her last little of advice left me emotion uncertain. It also seemed like an awful many work.


I had actually a clear picture of mine environment, and a kind résumé effectively framing my employability. I assumed all I needed to execute at this suggest was uncover an amazing job notice listing demands I met and include the appropriate an abilities in mine résumé.

The next day, i called another former partner of mine, Wayne, a windy affairs manager in Texas. Ns asked him exactly how he set his personal interests and competencies through his brand-new job. He stated he didn’t have to. Wayne claimed he started talking come a girlfriend of his after church one Sunday who additionally happened to be a organization leader in his community. By chance, this conversation led Wayne to a very enjoyable brand-new career. Wayne stated he started asking this gentleman some questions concerning his job choice: “What education, experience, and credentials were necessary? which career-related organizations and also agencies are the best with which to network in the community?” Then, they began comparing their careers, education, and credentials, and also they uncovered a few similarities. One thing caused another, and Wayne got some advice and also a call number. The remainder was history.

Later, Greg, a exclusive consultant in san Antonio and also one the my shift mentors, dubbed me and also revealed a comparable story. He to be at a party sponsored by his wife’s employer, when he began talking come a consultant. Greg picked this gentleman’s brain about his job field. “How did you build your credentials as a trusted advisor? exactly how did you retain your security clearance? just how do you identify what to charge a client for her services?” Greg listened intently, and also soon started establishing his very own credentials and building his own clientele. He is currently a successful private consultant.

Another friend, Mike, a defense analyst based in Florida, concerned Kansas City for the day and also I met him for lunch. The revealed a similar story on just how he made decision a 2nd career. The did it by talking to people. The vital for the was talk to service leaders in fields that interested him. The emphasized the these specialists were not former military leaders. He found professionals who invested their whole careers working in their areas of attention in the private sector. He followed many leads to effective professionals, simply to learn more about specific career fields and companies.

Maybe the was magnificent intervention, as in Wayne’s case. Probably it was pure luck choose it was for Greg. Or, to be there something come this informal approach as said by Mike? There were some common threads in all three. The first was straight engagement with others. Ns was specific my irish luck would not help me, but I figured the “gift the gab” simply might—so I decided I would shot to talk to people. The 2nd thread to be their emphasis on a career fairly than simply a job. A job is one activity, yet a job is a life-long ambition. I definitely preferred to set myself increase in a new career. I returned to my LinkedIn contacts to find someone whose career interested me. I began with Matt, a an elderly manager in executive, management communications.

I had not prepared myself because that my conversation through him, yet I spent thirty minute asking about his career, his workplace, and how he arisen his management skills. My questions were as well unspecific, though, so ns did not obtain many useful answers. Give thanks to goodness Matt was a friend. I think that is why he to be kind enough not to tell me i was wasting his time.

Next, I called Ronnie to examine on his beloved Texas A&M Aggies, and later I invested the afternoon grilling hamburgers with Steve. Since they were both friends of mine, i again did not prepare my inquiries with any intention, nor with any kind of investigative objective relative come their jobs or careers. The conversations to be beneficial, however, since I learned about the environments in which they worked. I also increased my private sector and also business lexicon, and also discovered the prestige of details competencies in their corresponding fields.

I felt ns was gaining momentum in my transition strategy when I reached out to another former colleague, Bob. He had actually retired as a colonel numerous years earlier and had due to the fact that gained vast professional suffer in multiple sectors. Us met because that coffee, and also he notified me that a new nonprofit company he and his partner were creating. The function of this nonprofit was to assist military veterans through their transition into the personal sector. Bob asked me come schedule a conference the complying with week with him and his partner, Rolly, to talk in detail about my shift and their organization.

Refining the Approach

Relying on my military training experiences, I chose to do a rapid after-action evaluation (AAR) of my transition preparation performance before I met v Bob and also Rolly. A great analysis that my shift planning would determine my strengths and also weaknesses, and where I can use Bob and Rolly’s help. I as such identified some locations to enhance upon and to adjust, relative to my change approach. These principles were fresh in my mind as soon as I met Bob and Rolly:

when considering my transition problem, I had actually incorrectly defined it. The inquiry I began with, “What job might I do?” to be wrong. A task is just a tactical objective. My end state can not be around getting a job. Instead, it had to be strategy in nature, and also be about succeeding in a brand-new career. The inquiry should have been, “What career will I pursue?” I also realized that my vision was focused only on temporary goals. In various other words, it also was oriented on tactics. I essential to revise my vision to be strategy in nature and more accurately reflect mine desire to accomplish lifelong goals. I had actually to shape a brand-new career. This idea to be reinforced in a Syracuse University examine noting that fifty percent of transitioning armed forces veterans left their an initial job in their an initial year—and almost 75 percent in ~ their first eighteen months.<2> the was due to the fact that military veterans to be jumping into the first job that come along, which to be a shortsighted approach. My vision have to not have been about successfully transitioning. Instead, my vision should have actually been succeeding in a private sector career that I will enjoy. I essential to identify career areas that would meet my passion and interests, and permit me to showcase my skills, knowledge, abilities, and also attributes. They had actually to be fields in which i would reap the linked endeavors. I had actually to understand their requirements, work-related environments, challenges, lifestyles, development opportunities, forced certifications, and possible pitfalls. To properly perform this, I had actually to fill my details gaps with expertise I did not have actually at that time. I had to collect it native others. From this epiphany, i realized mine LinkedIn network had come to be nothing much more than a 2nd Facebook page. Mine network consisted just of previous military personnel. I essential to increase my relationships to include civilian professionals. That was crucial that ns find civilization who operated their whole lives in career fields I wanted to pursue. Together I learned indigenous Mike, I needed to asking them concerns to aid me find out the things I required to know. I needed to better prepare for my “interrogations,” and also focus my questions to collection relevant details on certain career fields. Obtaining knowledge that the career fields would aid me logically analysis the information and produce actionable intelligence toward detect employment within my preferred career field. Prior to these “interrogations,” I required to learn about the civilization I to be meeting, and about their businesses or corporations. I had to be considerate sufficient to recognize something around their backgrounds, your accomplishments, and their company cultures. I also had to take into account that they also would have actually an objective for participating in our discussion. Finally, ns realized I had missed a step in this operational-planning effort. I had actually not developed any type of courses of action to consider. Shifting to a strategy vision would permit me to construct career options, or process of action. Thinking through the feasibility, acceptability, and suitability that these courses of action would also allow me to determine branches and sequels to my transition. My military career taught me that branches and sequels were an essential components of an operational plan. The planning walk not protect against at the an initial objective. You need to be postured to make use of success or confront any kind of potential challenge to her progress. My shift planning to be no different. I had to envision how to advancement in a job in bespeak to it is in successful. Now, i was all set for mine meeting.

Informational Interviews

During my meeting through Bob and Rolly, their guidance and also counsel reinforced whatever I had just concluded in my own an individual AAR. Furthermore, they put a surname to what i was doing. Bob notified me that these “interrogation” sessions ns was conducting were referred to as informational interviews. During these meetings, a task seeker looks because that advice on his or she potential career, learns around the industry, and gains knowledge about the corporate culture of a potential future workplace. In ~ the exact same time, the employed specialists learn around the job seeker, referee his or her professional potential, determine exactly how well that or she will fit in the this firm culture, and also build your candidate pool for future hires.<3>

What I necessary to perform in my “dance v the one who brung ya,” to be to build a collection setup to assistance my transition planning. To totally integrate informational interviewing right into my operational-planning effort, I essential to determine what an essential information ns was missing. Law this would enable me to emphasis my informational interviews through professionals, continually feed helpful information into my plan effort, and allow me to make timely decisions follow me the way to a successful new career.

My new leading question, or mine newly identified problem, helped me work out on 4 courses the action—career fields—that appeared best aligned v my passion, interests, skills, knowledge, abilities, and attributes. Specifying those career fields enabled me to narrow the focus of my initiatives to a much much more manageable level. I was climate able to purposefully search for the best professionals—those who had vast experience in one of my four chosen career fields. I began to study these career fields as I ready for systematic informational interviews through these professionals.

My very first interview came quickly and unexpectedly. ~ viewing Ted’s profile on LinkedIn, I obtained a quite curt note from him asking me why I regarded his profile. Ns told him i was prepare to transition into a brand-new career. Ns was intrigued by his file and provided some distinct similarities through my own. I said I was interested in pursuing a company consulting career such together his, and wondered if he could be ready to offer some advice. His prize surprised me, and also his interview has actually been my most systematic to date. We met for breakfast and also had a exorbitant conversation about his career and also his career choices, and also some difficulties he faced. His insights were specifically beneficial. Ted noted recommendations on education, certifications, and specialized training the would ideal prepare me because that his field. He argued projects ns could finish that might also be helpful, expert organizations to increase my network in this field, and other world with who I have to engage. Thankfully, that took the moment to review my résumé and detailed candid, brutal, and disheartening, but terrific recommendations. My greatest takeaway indigenous this engagement was the I required to be more humble in mine approach and also incorporate that in the tone of my résumé.

Another the my career interests is executive, management communication, so i arranged to interview a brand-new contact, Michael, who was a successful senior communication consultant for a major corporation in Kansas City. He was fascinated the a “war hero” would desire to questioning his opinion top top anything. Us met for lunch, and also he ongoing to gush in wonderment regarding why a differentiated military guy would look for his advice. Once the excitement passed, I had the ability to ask part probing questions, come which Michael listed tremendous answers. He discussed that he knew very couple of military personnel. One previous military contact he had actually was the dean of academics at a nearby university. I then stated that, ironically, one more of my experienced interests to be education. Michael got his friend on the phone and arranged for me to fulfill the university president, the dean that academics, and the strong director.

Interviewing the three officials in your offices developed a different scenario because that me. I essential to ensure lock realized best away that ns was there for firsthand information and frank advice around their corresponding career fields—I was not trying to find a job. I ready for every interview uniquely, and also each interview turned out to be various in tone and content. The president offered me valuable and candid advice, the dean immediately began developing job avenues for me, and also the strong director unintentionally discouraged me indigenous entering mine fourth and final career attention of collegiate athletics.

The interview at the college led me come Ed, an education professional with large experience in an additional education. That drove one hour to meet with me and also explain his job field. He described a common work week because that various education careers, and also explained the greatest rewards and frustrations associated with his career. The was additionally able come articulate because that me what skills and personal qualities to be most vital in second education. Of best value was his aid in translating countless of my benidormclubdeportivo.org experiences into competencies forced for an education and learning professional.

About four months from my retirement, my former colleague, Bob, notified me of an interesting opportunity the fit all four of mine career field interests. The arranged for an informational interview with Jeff, a talent director because that the company. Ns thoroughly ready myself because that this meeting, as I had actually learned to perform in many operational-planning efforts. I performed a “war game,” or a simulation of mine anticipated communication with Jeff, so I could visualize the flow of our interaction.

I prepared for probing questions by analysis a few relevant books. I studied the agency through both positive and an unfavorable lenses, and also researched Jeff v his LinkedIn file in stimulate to far better understand what was professionally vital to the business and also to him. I additionally researched work with comparable requirements to ascertain power standards and potential value ranges. Then, i rehearsed questioning the probing concerns I believed were vital to have actually answered; they would likewise demonstrate my understanding of the subject and the company, and also my attention in the employed staff opportunity. Additionally, i thought about and prepared answers because that the inquiries Jeff could ask me, and subsequent inquiries so i could achieve even deeper info on the subject. Finally, I ready the follow-up arrangement so I can think through the next steps that i would need to take, including submitting an application, adjusting mine résumé, and also writing give thanks to you notes.


Eventually, Jeff hired me. After an ext than thirty year in the military, I began a new career in the personal sector, however my achievement did not come effortlessly. By adhering to my very own advice come “dance v the one who brung ya,” I reduced my uncertainty, maintained my personal flexibility, and mitigated the threat to mine family and also me. Important to this conclusion was my capability to correctly structure mine problem and also narrow my focus to career fields that excited me and best leveraged mine skills, knowledge, and also abilities. Completely informational interviews into my operational-planning techniques ultimately developed an chance that led directly to my second career.

After refining my vision to focus strategically on a career instead of a job and adjusting my network, I focused my initiative on conducting systematic informational interviews that resulted in producing actionable intelligence. Follow me the way, ns interviewed consultants, project supervisors at significant corporations, regional account executives, recruiters, trainers, and chief executive police officers from neighborhood firms, and also I researched the founding principles of those firms. Ns met most of these people through a network ns built beginning with my friends, colleagues, former bosses, and also subordinates.

These specialists unwittingly taught me the terms and phrases vital for my résumé. I realized the résumé would not obtain me the job, but a concentrated and precise résumé was crucial to getting an invite to an interview. So, i spent hours replacing nearly every solitary military word and phrase in mine résumé with professional terms that a recruiter and also hiring manager would understand. Additionally, these professionals magnified my interview performances due to the fact that I had the ability to articulate matters in a manner family member to the career ns was pursuing, and to the certain industry and also corporation.

Hopefully, the lessons i share in this file will aid others successfully change from the military right into a private-sector career. I gone after my vision by using the operational-planning process and tools I had used my entire military career. Combined, they helped me resolve the immediate problem—making a transition into a brand-new career—and establish the framework for potential sequels (achieving success in my new career).

By combining my operational-planning specialization with well-planned informational interviews, I had the ability to gain critical insight right into my career interests in the personal sector. I was able to boost my understanding of the communities and also work environments consisting of these potential careers, and also to determine careers to avoid. The informational interviews led me to new relationships, permitting me to expand my network and also create a willing and also able cast of career mentors who at some point steered me come the opportunity of a lifetime.


1. “A war video game is a simulation involving two or an ext opposing forces using rules, data, and procedures designed come depict an really or assumed real-life situation.” Joint publication (JP) 1-02, thesaurus of Military and Associated state (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office , 2015).

2. Edward O. Wilson, The meaning of human being Existence (Liveright Publishing, 2015), 56-57; young name Ford, climb of the Robots (Basic Books, 2015), 64-67.

3. For review of increasing defense R&D prices see: James Fallows, “The Tragedy the the American Military,” The Atlantic (Jan/Feb 2015), http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/12/the-tragedy-of-the-american-military/383516/. Fallows blames exponential prices on politics and corruption yet does not take into consideration that it is just more expensive to construct technologies that room ever more complex.

4. Military Research Laboratory, military Research Laboratory technical Strategy 2015-2035 (U.S. benidormclubdeportivo.org RDECOM, 2015).

5. Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. benidormclubdeportivo.org Operating Concept: success in a complicated World (Fort Eustis, VA: TRADOC, 31 October 2014); benidormclubdeportivo.org Capabilities Integration Center, Future war Division, “Strategic trends Analysis: The landscape of Future Conflict,” Unified quest Deep Future Wargame 2030-2040 (Fort Eustis, VA: benidormclubdeportivo.org Capabilities Integration Center, 20 November 2013).

6. Stephen D. Biddle, military Power: Explaining Victory and also Defeat in modern Battle (Princeton college Press, 2004).

7. Michael Howard and also John F. Jr. Guilmartin, Two historians in technology and war Monograph (Strategic researches Institute, U.S. Military War College, 1994), 21-22; Robert D. Jr. Hooker, American Landpower and also the Two-War construct (The institute of soil Warfare, association of the United claims benidormclubdeportivo.org, 2015).

8. Insights indigenous an industrial architecture class in ~ MIT see: Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, “Superiority by Arthur C Clarke,” skilled Reading series 18 (Fort Eustis, VA: military Capabilities Integration Center, 3 December 2014), http://www.arcic.benidormclubdeportivo.org.mil/LPD/professional-readings-archive.aspx?pageNo=6.

9. United states benidormclubdeportivo.org an unified Arms Center, The Human dimension White Paper: A frame for Optimizing person Performance (Fort Leavenworth, KS, 9 October 2014).

10. Peter P. Perla, The arts of Wargaming (United says Naval Institute, 1990).

11. The technical concept and also term is “cognitive artifact;” see, The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, accessed 2 July 2015, http://ai.ato.ms/MITECS/Entry/hutchins.

12. “If excellent carelessly, war gamings can seem to the football player to produce insights or conclusions that have actually a basis no an ext solid than that the a debate or play” native Kenneth Watman, “War Gaming and it’s function in examining the Future.” Brown newspaper of world Affairs X(1) (2003): 51-61.

13. Boy name Krieger, “Uncertainty Principles,” academic Minute (March 2015), http://academicminute.org/2015/03/martin-krieger-usc-uncertainty-principles/v.

14. Bruce W. Bennet, Samuel Gardiner, Daniel B. Fox, and Nicholas Witney, Theater evaluation and Modeling in an Era the Uncertainty: The Present and Future of war (Santa Monica, CA: edge Corporation, 1994).

15. For an example of battle gaming as experiment check out Ryan Kort, “UNIFIED difficulty 2014 Experimentation: Thinking clearly About the Future of armed Conflict” (Fort Eustis, VA: military Capabilities Integration facility 24 march 2015), http://www.arcic.benidormclubdeportivo.org.mil/Articles/cdld-Unified-Challenge-2014-Experimentation-Thinking-Clearly-About-the-Future-of-Armed-Conflict.aspx.

16. Peter P. Perla and also Ed McGrady, “Why Wargaming Works,” Naval battle College evaluation 64(3) (Summer 2011).

17. Christian Rudder, Dataclysm: who We space (When us Think No One’s Looking) Kindle Ed. (New York: Crown Publishers, 2015), place 128-146.

18. Kenneth Cukier, and also Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, “The climb of huge Data: how It’s transforming the means We Think around the World,” international Affairs 92(3) (2013).

19. IARPA. Sirius, accessed July 3, 2015, http://www.iarpa.gov/index.php/research-programs/sirius.

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20. I can find no benidormclubdeportivo.org Training Requirements and Resources mechanism course because that either an exercise planner or war video game planner.