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Retired Navy Captain Gives Advice for Hiring Veterans

2023-11-05 – BE&O RYB

A post-military career for a veteran can be volatile and frustrating. In an effort to make the transition from life in the service to civilian employment easier, retired United States Navy Captain William Toti has authored the book From CO to CEO: A Practical Guide for Transitioning from Military to Industry Leadership

Toti says employment instability in a post-military career is one of the biggest causes of stress for a veteran. He adds that upwards of 50% of transitioning veterans leave their first job out of the military within two years. There are several factors for this startling failure rate, and Toti says the military is one of them.  

“The military set up their transitioning veterans for failure,” Toti says. By often overstating and exaggerating how military experience can be applied in the private sector, Toti says the military is teaching the wrong things to soldiers entering the workforce. He says military experience may not always translate to a civilian career.    

One example is when it comes to leadership. “Everybody who leaves the military thinks they are great leaders,” Toti says. However, the leadership skills learned in the military may not translate well in the civilian workforce, a space where, if given an order or directive they don’t like, employees can walk off the job—something not so easily done in the middle of an ocean on a nuclear submarine. 

Another challenging adjustment is reviews and criticism. Toti says private industry reviews are different from those in the military because they are more harsh. Retired veterans may find this difficult and think their work is underappreciated.  

However, Toti says those transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce are extremely loyal and flexible. They are not as quick to quit or give up on a task, and their ability to work in a challenging environment is unmatched by their civilian counterparts. 

Toti, who went from officer to captain while serving three tours on the USS Indianapolis nuclear submarine, says he wrote the book to highlight some of the mistakes he made when transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce. He hopes his failures can be turned into lessons for current and future military personnel.