Beyond the Crossroads: Strategies for Navigating Life’s Transitions

Rick Huntington
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Life is full of transition periods. Whether you’re graduating high school or about to settle in for retirement, there are transitions at every corner of our lives. Often, these transitions are unpredictable—a car accident, a divorce, a layoff. Other times they are planned and happy occasions—marriage, children, graduations, a new job. Transitions, regardless of their nature, can plunge our lives into turmoil and overwhelm us with stress. Life-altering injuries can certainly shatter our worldviews and wreak havoc on our hopes for the future in both our personal and professional lives. 

In February of 2016, I experienced what would become the beginning of my life-altering transition. While I was attending training classes, I suffered a back injury that would propel my family and me into eighteen months of uncertainty, panic, and fear. My story is not unique. Hundreds, if not thousands of servicemembers—and civilians for that matter—experience life-changing injuries which pause, or even end their careers. It can force you to reevaluate and change every plan you’ve made for you and your family’s future.

Searching for a new job at any point can be a stressful and terrifying prospect. That is especially true when it is not your decision to begin with. Being told you can no longer serve your country or continue in the career you’ve held for the better part of ten, twenty, or even thirty years, can shatter one’s identity—I know it did mine. I know firsthand how easy it is to want to give up, to wallow in doubt and self-pity. It’s hard work to perform an honest self-assessment and create a whole new plan for your future, especially when you’ve spent years holding onto your old plans.  

Many of us have gone through what I’ve come to refer to as “forced transitions” in life. I have been lucky enough to learn from some amazing professionals, both in the military and out, who have mentored me and helped me along the way. And that is what I hope to do for you here.

So, let me share the lessons that I learned through trial and error—more error actually—so you might avoid the same years of uncertainty, panic, and fear that I experienced throughout my transition.

  1. Start now – Do not wait to begin your planning for the future until you need a job. Even though you may be depressed, sad, angry, or scared, take the first step on your next path. For some, that may be writing a resume. For others, it may be creating your first LinkedIn profile. I would recommend doing some self-assessments to identify what kind of work you’re good at and what kind of work you enjoy. Then identify where those two things overlap. 

  2. Research as much as you can Job titles, companies, industries, everything. This is not meant to overwhelm you but, rather, help you become informed on what the best path for you will be. Learn as much as you can. Take courses—LinkedIn has great resources to learn how to network, build your brand, and much more. Network. Start building relationships with people in your desired industry as early as possible using—you guessed it—LinkedIn. 

  3. Accept that some things may not work out Your first post-service job may not be your dream job. It may not even be a job you ever saw yourself doing. Do it anyway. If the first job isn’t the right fit, then at least you learn what you’re not looking for in a company, a team, or a position. Finding your path through the transitions of life isn’t always a straight line. In fact, it’s most often a twisted, stressful, cluster of missteps, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Even when things don’t work out, you can learn something and improve your future. 

  4. Seek support There are more people rooting for you than you know, and there are countless resources available to help you along this journey. There is hope at the end of the tunnel, but to reach it takes work and persistence. Remember, you are not alone! The team at Hire Heroes USA is here to help you every step of the way. 

Rick Huntington is a Transition Specialist at Hire Heroes USA.  You can register to connect with a dedicated career coach at