Are you a veteran that’s been struggling to find a new job after leaving the military? Or maybe you’ve had some medical/mental health issues that have interfered with you being able to hold down a job? And now you are a part of that group of veterans that does nothing but complain – complaining about no one respecting your service, complaining about the system being rigged, complaining about the VA, just complaining about EVERYTHING!! If you aren’t in that category, chances are you know a few of them, right? It’s like OMG shut up already! I was that person for a short bit so I completely understand and get it. It’s not fair! I served my country. I risked everything and now my country doesn’t give two squats about me. Sound familiar? Let me let you in on a little secret. Once you stop your whining and complaining, step back and fully assess your situation AND your options, you CAN find much success – as a veteran entrepreneur. See how veteran entrepreneurs are finding their purpose and kicking ass in the civilian ranks!
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I remember a time (while still on active duty) when I so looked forward to the day I could be a civilian again. My Shipmates who had their walking papers would boast daily “6 days and a wake-up” or however many days until their discharge date and I just couldn’t wait for the day I could use that line. That day finally came – in the form of a medical retirement – and I couldn’t get the front gate fast enough! Finally! I’m a free woman! I can do whatever the heck I want, right? WRONG!! The reality of transition hit me like a brick wall, leaving me nearly homeless and often suicidal, and strung out on about 6 different military-prescribed meds! For right at a year, I struggled desperately to find a new job to pay the mortgage on the new house I’d bought and provide for my two kids and preserve my sanity. In the eleventh month, just after I’d received my last unemployment payment, I got hired to help vets find a job – OH THE IRONY OF THAT!! After a little over two years of learning everything I could from the opportunities that job afforded me (meeting people, connecting with other vets, and much more), I finally had enough. I had some personal stuff mounting (mental health related) and honestly just felt as though I had so much more to offer (and better ideas) that what this job was allowing me to do. I ended up taking medical (FMLA) leave and eventually had to resign.
After I got my mental health stuff squared away, I took another position in my military and education field. My background is actually emergency and disaster management. Although I enjoyed some parts of that job, I still just felt like I wasn’t “doing all I could” and I thrive on being challenged. I’m sure that sounds familiar! In the military, we are challenged almost daily. Anywho, I left after 8 months and found myself unemployed again. Now what? I pitied around for another short bit (and prayed a LOT). One day it just hit me – stop working for others and start working for yourself!
By the way, check out this post from my other site which is a faith-based approach to getting your head out of your butt!
I honestly had never even considered the idea of being an entrepreneur. I’d attended seminars on the topic in the past as part of my job helping vets but never thought the information could apply to me. I was playing around with my Cricut one day (that’s a machine that crafters use to make cards and other stuff) making a shadowbox for myself. I thought about how if I wanted a more feminine one, maybe other women vets did to so I looked into starting a business making them and some other stuff. I found that the VA’s Vocational Rehab program actually had a track for helping vets start their own businesses so I proceeded with applying. Long story short, we all know the VA sucks and Voc Rehab counselors (for the most part) are no different than the employees at the clinic. Let’s just say I’m still waiting to hear back from my assigned counselor (I applied in February 2017 and as of this writing it is January 2018). In order to really get started with that business, I did need help with the financial start-up costs and without the Voc Rehab program, I didn’t have the funds to support it. Instead of spending my energy wasting time on the VA, I decided to figure out a Plan B.
Some have told me I should have stayed on the VA about it and kept fighting for my benefits. Here’s the deal – the people who spend all of their time and efforts fighting a lost cause also waste precious time that could have been spent working on their Plan B. I haven’t given up on my application (I’ve actually filed a Congressional Inquiry into it), but I’ve also learned to pick my battles and I DECIDE how much of energy goes to more important things. Focus your energy on what you CAN change at this moment.
During this time I had started a blog for fun. I’d hope to use it as a way to connect more women vets but that never happened. One day while playing around on Pinterest, I came across a pin that led me to an article about how to monetize a blog. WHAT? You can actually make money with a blog? So I got to researching and found that YES YOU CAN! Check out this post I wrote about it as an option for Vets. Anywho, as with everything I do, I went full throttle, balls to the wall with it and completely revamped the blog, monetized it – and launched a second blog the following month. As I researched more about blogging, I came across a few Facebook groups for vets in business and found there was entire military/veteran blogger community out there!
Since leaving the paid job of helping vets find employment, I’ve stayed very active in helping veterans in my community. While I do sometimes come across a veteran that truly has the “Watch this sh*t” mentality of not taking “NO” for an answer and have their end-goal in sight, the reality is that the majority of vets that I come across have succumbed to the “whoa is me” mentality. The lack of purpose and lack of value that follows the departure from service has detrimental effects that lead to more intense mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide. I see it every day and almost fell victim to it myself. Where once you were in charge of millions of dollars of equipment and led teams (into battle or elsewhere), now you are insignificant and a nobody. Once, you were the “go-to” subject matter expert on any given topic and now you can’t even feed your kids. What the hell? I’m here to tell you that almost ALL of us have gone, are going, or will go through it but figuring out your new identity and purpose IS the key to making through the transition.
Some of what I’m about drop on you is really going to piss some of you off but you need to hear this. I thought long and hard about writing this post based on my almost 7 years of experience going through my own struggles, working with veterans, and now succeeding in my civilian life. I’m going to share some PROVEN tips and strategies that, if you are up to it (in military lingo that would be called “un-f*ck yourself”), can help you find your purpose again and truly change the course of your life and livelihood.
Check out the video below, from fellow veteran Korey Shaffer of Til Valhalla Project who has gone through his own struggles but finally figured out the missing link of finding purpose again.
Many, Ok, MOST vets come out with the idea and mentality that society “owes” them something. When they can’t get hired and/or society doesn’t roll out the red carpet for them, they get angry and focus all their energy on complaining about it. I see it every single day in the veteran Facebook groups that follow. I see some vets in multiple groups complaining the same song as well as complaining on their personal profiles. Imagine what they could accomplish if they put just a fraction of that energy and effort into their own “Plan B”? News flash – you are no longer in the military so suck it the hell up and find your new purpose! I know that might piss some of you off but those who’ve been there and are now succeeding will totally agree with me. Your rank doesn’t follow you out here and (you may want to sit down for this) no one, aside from other vets, cares about where you served or how awesome you WERE at what you did in the military.
** I need to mention here that if you are struggling with PTSD/TBI or any of the related conditions, my “suck it up” conversation to you is to GO GET HELP! I want to stress that I’m not telling someone with untreated PTSD to stop whining. But you do need to get over your pride and seek help. You are not alone in your struggles and there are many Brothers and Sisters out there that you CAN talk to and get connected to the help you need. But you do need to square yourself away by doing what needs to be done to get yourself back on track. **
Here is a tip – Ever heard of the group Five Finger Death Punch? One of my all-time favorite groups ever! Listen to the words of the song “Back for More. – referenced in the image above.”
I stress the importance of finding a new tribe after leaving the military to every vet I come in contact with. The tribe you once had in the military is, for the most part, gone. You thrive on being part of a team. A team of others who have your back and look out for your best interests. Once you leave that world, you MUST find a new one. Those who never seek out and find a tribe can fall further and further into depression and, unfortunately, that often leads to suicide. Find a tribe of others who are like you and have a desire to succeed. Don’t know where to start? If you truly desire to be a part of a “Watch this sh*t” community Join the Vetrepreneur Tribe on Facebook. This is a private group made up entirely of veterans who are or plan to succeed in business. You don’t even need to know “what you want to be when you grow up” to join the group. The idea is that many of them do have the experience and are willing to share it to help you and/or give you some ideas that you probably never would have come up with on your own. It is also a “no whining zone” meaning if you don’t have something positive to contribute then STHU and take notes! Just sit back in the shadows and LISTEN and LEARN!
Now that you’ve got your head on right and are absorbing everything you can from other successful veterans, it’s time to work on your Plan B. As a veteran, you hold so many skills that it puts most civilians to shame. You are literally a vessel of opportunity just waiting to happen! What do you know about? What do you do well that others come to you for help with? What is your passion? What are your hobbies? The answer to any one of those questions could be your golden ticket to success! Hey, I was a Master-at-Arms Chief in the Navy. That translates to I know a lot about law enforcement, anti-terrorism, physical security, and I know how to tell people what to do! Who’d have thought I’d make a career as a blogger and also earn money by playing around on Pinterest?
Something else to keep in mind that being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean having a brick and mortar location – aka needing lots of money to get started. The internet has made it possible to have a fully functioning and profitable business from the comfort of your home. Blogger, social media manager, Consultant, Financial Advisor, Book Author, Teacher, and Online Store are all things that can be done with just a computer an internet connection.
I’ve met so many vets (men and women) who’ve taken the blogger route (as well as expanded their income with multiple streams). If you think that could be you, here is a good place to start. Here is a post I wrote about Becoming a Veteran Blogger along with links to some great blogs written by vets! If you are an expert (or think you are an expert) at literally any topic, you can blog about it AND earn money from it. Many bloggers add to their blog income by creating courses to teach others a variety of things. I’m currently working on a few courses (some free and some paid) to teach others how to start a blog and how to do Pinterest affiliate marketing. If you think that might be your thing, Teachable is a great platform to get started.
Podcasts and Vlogs (video blogs such as on Youtube) are also becoming increasingly popular avenues of revenue. Check out Suit Soldier by Army veteran/Vetrepreneur Christopher Coker.
Most of us hated English class back in high school, right? In the military, many of us had to write instructions, training plans and various other types of correspondence – which means we CAN write. So many veterans have decided to put their experience and training to work for them by writing a book (can be print or downloadable). Don’t believe me? CHECK THIS OUT! Is there something that you are good at that you often teach others (like showing your friends how to do this or that)? Take what you know HOW to do and turn it into a course that you can sell! Humans go to the internet for EVERYTHING! How to cook. How to change an alternator. How to train a dog to sit. How to clean a handgun. I could keep going! WHAT DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO that you can share with others?
Online storefronts are great because you don’t need a physical storefront which can cost money you don’t have! Much of your business can be conducted from your smartphone if your computer isn’t available. Whether it is selling stuff you actually make yourself or use dropshipping for products made elsewhere, people will always want STUFF.
Maybe you really want to have an actual physical location type of business. If you have the funds to commit to it – great! If not, there are plenty of options for financing but DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! If you don’t have the funds in savings and are unable to secure a business loan, consider starting with an online-only presence first and build up until you can afford to move to your own location. Many businesses have started in living rooms and garages!
That’s it! Just do it. You were made to succeed and your military service proved that! So square yourself away, make a plan and MAKE IT HAPPEN! Yeah, you may fail a couple of times but you are failing yourself (and your family) if you don’t even try because the worst failure of all is to never try. The bottom line is this – you can stay where you are, unhappy, broke, feeling sorry for yourself and not providing the best life you can for your family – OR – you can have a good life. Yes, it will take work and you may need to even implement other letters of the alphabet but YOU ARE CAPABLE OF DOING IT!
In addition to getting connected to the Vetrepreneur Tribe, be sure to also read Veteran Entrepreneur Resources Jackpot – which covers some great programs to help veterans get started on the Vetrepreneur Journey! Also, I’m in the process of finishing up my Veteran Resource Toolbox, so be sure to sign up below for my email list so you don’t miss out on new posts and information! Here are some more Military/Veteran Entrepreneur Facebook communities you need to get connected to for resources and inspiration: