Member log on: Username Password

Transition Thoughts - by Tom Lindbald

Tom Lindbald served as an officer in the Marine Corps for 22 years, and since 2002 has been working in the private sector in business development and proposal management. Here’s what Tom has to say about transitioning to civilian employment:


Welcome to “the world beyond” your Government service. No doubt you have gone through the gamut of “life after” transition courses provided by your Service or Agency. Here are a few tidbits that are not usually covered in those retirement classes. Read and heed!

Am I Employable?

Get over it! You are worth a lot, and everything that made you successful before will help you in your next chapter of life. YOU ARE IN THE DRIVER SEAT!

NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE YOU A JOB FOR JUST BREATHING OXYGEN - you need to find your own hookups (or maybe they will be seeking you like an IR missile).

Talk to people – find out what they do – practice your interview techniques.

Focus on things you enjoy doing – you’ll be happier that way! Talk to your wife about what her true desires are and what she thinks your strengths and weaknesses are.

Most guys change jobs 2-3 times in the first 5 years after retirement – probably reflects poor planning and changing interests. More likely though, you haven’t thought about “what you wanted to be when you grew up” since about high school and want to find something with meaning to your life.

Your security tickets, contacts, education, and recent experiences are your aces – play them carefully for your advantage.

Very few “strategic hires” occur. Things won’t heat up till you are 30-45 days from being available to work! Everyone wants to know “when are you available to go to work” – it is a screening technique for interview process start.

Don’t jump on the first pretty deal that walks along – there might be others out there. Do your research, work your network hard and sell yourself – your future is at stake.

Get Trained

Good courses are the Navy Ruehlin Course and MOAA’s “Marketing Yourself for a Second Career” ( Use them to focus on retirement, and not do your job at night/afternoon. Need to have your goals thought out and resume ready before you start, else it’s going to be rough! The 30 Year Col’s TAP at Quantico is reputed to be worthwhile

TAP goes after you submit your diary entry, take it 2x if you can – though you will be intermingled with the Cpls, so you’re best info is Ruehlin. USAA Retirement class largely mirrors USMC TAP (or reverse)

Take the VA Benefit Class twice if possible, and act on the information immediately!

Join Marine Executive Association ( – go to their luncheons at Henderson Hall and Quantico, CLNC or CPEN to network. Similarly go to the MCA Retired O luncheons and network with the younger guys. Both are helpful groups – Marines will take care of Marines who want to be helped.

Do Your Homework!

Update your resume constantly, always have one available. Prepare a general resume, and then tailor it to the job you are interviewing for based on your research. If they ask you for your resume again, update it based on your initial research and conversations to tailor it to what they are specifically sending you a message on. Everyone expects you to be at least marginally computer-literate. It is bad form to send a “general” resume to a specific job opportunity. Reduce it to only what is pertinent and keep it to two pages.

Profile companies and contacts you’d like to work with/for. Download the company annual report and prepare for interviews by watching their news briefs on web and business pages for recent awards of contracts and trends. Check-out company web-pages for job listings – Break into the “hidden market” through networking.

Follow-up your contacts with notes, letters (either hand-written or typed) and phone-calls – don’t let them go fallow. At a minimum, send an acknowledgement appreciation email, but the “tactile” advantages of a hard-copy note/letter make you stand out.

Good ideas can be found at:

  • Knock Em Dead 2006: The Ultimate Job Seekers Guide by Martin John Yate
  • Resumes that Knock ‘em Dead, ibid
  • Knock em Dead 2004: Great answers to over 200 tough interview questions, ibid –particularly good questions to study in advance!
  • Cover letters that knock em dead, ibid

Get 2-3 References, slip them your resume, keep them informed who you are interviewing with and what you’d like them to say (lot of times it will be a cold call while they are in the office, so some talking points on a 3x5 card might help them to say the right things)

Penalty Box

Be sure you understand what you can and cannot do as you leave government service. Many have one-year restrictions; Source Selection Authorities typically have lifetime prohibitions as well. Make good friends with your JAG. The rules are constantly changing, and you need to know what is actually in effect that applies to you. These limitations can profoundly affect your ability to take your next job and then do well in it. Consult Lawyers on any Conflict of Interest you might have as an acquisition or contract approval authority, if you did that in the last 5 years. This will influence your marketability and utility.


Update your Power of Attorney & Wills. Their free from base legal while on active duty – it costs big $$ later.

Job Fairs

MOAA Job Fair coming 1st week of May at Washington Convention Center. Good trial run, but generally a cattle call: all they want is your resume to put in a data-base, know what your current clearance is and when you are available. The easiest play is to treat them as a “Happy Hour” or reception. Dress for the role, have plenty of resumes and business cards. You’re not going to get the ideal job here, but you may get some job offers off-the-cuff. Lower your expectations, and have some “fun”.

Take Time Off after You Retire to Reset Your Clock

Have a retirement ceremony. Let the people who have served with you enjoy the event. But let it serve as a reminder that you are not and cannot go back to work in the service again. Don’t start work immediately after retirement – you’ll regret it! Make a plan and stick to it, or have them make it worth your while, if you break your plan. Use your leave and enjoy – you’ll start vacation plans with zero. They normally build by hours and a great company program for vacation days is 15 days annually! You can’t work on billable hours while on PTAD, and you can do so while on terminal leave, but somewhat unseemly or sticky if you have to make client calls, especially with your former office or peers – they still remember your retirement bash and plans. Best to gauge it so you aren’t overlapping too much to avoid conflict of interest.

Henderson Hall offers 5-weeks PTAD for the “20 day PTAD” ruling – requires you to check-in/out on PTAD one day out of 5; weekends and holidays don’t count. If looking to re-locate out of area – its 20 consecutive days (including weekends/holidays). Other commands policies vary.

You’ve worked hard for 20-30 years and have a lot of stress/strain, etc. Decompress, but don’t stay out of the market too long as your value plummets with time.

Retirement Physical

Document everything that is wrong with you on your “final physical.”

Don’t omit any ache or ailment. This influences your VA disability compensation. Take advantage of the DiLorenzo (if at the Pentagon) advanced VA application process – it will cut 6-8 months off process.

Take the Henderson Hall VA class (1-day one put on by Ron Bell from local VA office – do it now!). Get DAV or other Vet Svc Org. to review your med record, and then get scheduled with DiLorenzo Clinic’s pilot program to submit your VA claim early (otherwise it takes a year). Join a Vet Service Org (like DAV), and have them work over your med record and VA application BEFORE you do your final physical and submit paperwork to VA. DAV is a particularly good and aggressive advocate for retirees.

Make sure you document everything that ails you on your final physical – don’t be shy – the 5-page questionnaire is there for a reason – it takes a long time to clear through all the specialists, but you won’t regret it for a minute – you might discover some stuff you’d regret big time later – others have discovered tumors or other serious problems at their physical, which resulted in delays to your plans while they try to make you whole again – also helps make case for a VA compensation claim later. 


When you leave the government, either go for a clean break to something entirely new, or stay in as deep as you can (where your expertise and clearances are worth the most), but don’t go halfway – it gets too frustrating. 


Companies are more interested in what you have done in the government in the last five years than they are in previous years. Write your résumé accordingly, and don’t follow Résumés for Dummies – use the model advocated in the transition course. Samples available upon request. If you are looking at defense related companies do not “civilianize” the resume. Most people screening your resume are former military and will try to convert it back into a billet they understand.

If defense / government related, highlight your quals and clearance, current or past/eligible. Update your security investigation and hopefully get DISA to act on it before you retire. TS/SBI is worth $10-20K more in salary. If defense / government related, an employee with no clearance is marginally useful. The key is getting a job before your effective retirement date so they can transfer your clearance over, otherwise you start over! If strictly civilian, military quals, clearances, medals mean little… highlight dollar metrics.

Always have an electronic resume available. You never know when your dream job will knock at your door. 

Business Cards

Have something to exchange with the people you meet. It is the only evidence that you have of the meeting for the most part. Get the “card swap” out of the way early… you won’t fumble it later. Treat others’ cards with respect… it represents that person until you spend some time with them. Take time and (at least) act like you take it seriously and are trying to understand his job with respect.


Meetings with others can be stressful, but remember that the employer would not be spending the time and energy meeting with you if you were not already qualified for the position. You as the “interviewee” have power in the interview relationship. The company has to sell itself to you as well. The interview is preventing the person from doing something else, so you are competitive by just being there. Relax, mirror the body language of the interviewer and have some fun. Check your zipper.

Prepare a 30-second commercial that describes what your goal is; and your key skills; practice—practice—practice. Have about five bullets/examples that are relevant, and keep coming back to them; they will keep you disciplined. Stay on message, and bring them back to your commercial or pivot/adapt based on the ebb-flow of interview/discussion – don’t leave without them getting your message. After your thirty second “commercial”, stop talking! Let the interviewer talk. 

It Ain’t the Job

Industry jobs are 100% personality driven. The #1 guide for your first job should be the people you will be working with. Pay, perks, location, hours, even the job itself are all secondary. Moreover, you will find that your company’s organization, jobs, promotions, and operating procedures are all personality driven. There is no formal training process similar to what the military has developed in order to accommodate high turnover. This means there are no rules except what your boss invents. Beware. The best preparation for your new job is to watch re-runs of Survivor

There are more than enough jobs out there that you can adequately fill and get compensated well at. Find a spot that you will not mind spending your waking hours at.

Work around Age Discrimination

Some older workers are still drawing the short stick when it comes to finding a new or better job. Research shows that some bias against candidates because of their age begins as early as the 45 year mark. How can you protect yourself from ageism? Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to eliminate such bias, but the following four steps can provide an important measure of protection.

1.     Be at the state-of-the-art in your profession, craft or trade -- not the same as having lots of experience or time on-the-job. In today’s technological workplace, being up-to-date means having both the latest knowledge and skills in your field and the wisdom and insight to apply those skills effectively in the workplace. Continuous knowledge acquisition is now a part your job and essential to average, let alone superior, performance.

2.     Maximize the employer’s return on its investment in you. Competing for a new position is not an exercise in describing your skills and experience; it’s a contest to convince an employer that you will make a more valuable contribution to its success than other candidates. Figure out what the employer expects from the job and then convince the recruiter and hiring manager that you can and will provide it. The key is not proving that you can do a job, but instead, proving that you can produce the results the employer needs and do so on time, within budget, and to the highest standard of quality.

3.     Work beyond your position description. Those who establish a track record of seeing their role larger rather than smaller in an organization—those who are flexible and creative enough to work outside the box of traditional job definitions—give themselves a significant competitive advantage in the job market. All organizations today are struggling to control labor costs, so they are looking for employees who are able and willing to contribute more than “their fair share” of the work.

4.     Look and be physically fit for your age. When a youthful person is out of shape, they’re simply viewed as lazy; when an older person is unfit, they’re pigeonholed as worn out. That doesn’t mean that you have to compete on the company softball team or pump iron in the gym after work, but it does mean that you have to be healthy enough to meet all performance requirements of your position—whether that involves physical capacity or simply the stamina to show up every day and work late or on weekends to finish a special assignment. It may or may not be right, but physical fitness is a key component of career fitness in the American workplace, and “older workers” don’t get a pass.


Stay in touch with, or at least cognizant of pretty much every person you have helped or can help. EVERYONE appreciates something their way that is useful to them. Every referral, business or personal, that comes your way is easier that going out “mining”. Be Prepared in all forums to relate that you are interested in…looking to retire and available to work around when?… - palm the cards, do the research, contact and follow-up. Don’t be a MAYTAG repair man waiting for that call – develop those contacts within 48-hours of making it, else it will go cold.

What Are You Worth?

It depends on locality and how hard you want to work. Sales jobs may pay more, but you may have to work harder. Being carried on overhead is rare, but then compensation is pegged according to what you bring to the table!

People with PPBS, business, JCIDS, and Acquisition experience are more valuable than operators.

Look up a company’s GSA schedule on the web and divide by the hourly off-site rate by 2-2.5 for a gauge on what you get in hourly salary (you bill “loaded” hours, get paid once monthly generally). Salary is dependent on company, experience, locality and job title/requirements-It is rare to replace your total active duty pay (Base Pay+BAH+BAS, etc.) right off the bat. In No. Virginia, there is a salary line at the Occoquan; those above get roughly 10-15% more based on locality; other states considerably less. 

Unlike the military everything is generally negotiable. Use the worksheet to compare and negotiate counter-offers. Don’t be afraid to counter-offer or make a conditional acceptance- they put a lot of effort into recruiting you and the serious one won’t want to let you get away. Vacation, telecommuting, salary, bonus (pre-tax, or after-tax), etc. Benefits such as med/dental/401K/Pension are standard and not likely negotiable (save maybe Stock vesting). If you don’t negotiate or clarify, you get the standard package – you’ll know when to stop negotiating. can give you some brackets depending on the job title. It depends on your skills, how you sell yourself & negotiate 

Negotiating requires some poker skill, but more importantly knowing your worth (be careful not to over-value yourself), what industry comps are and what value you are bringing to the company to get what you want. Don’t undervalue or overvalue… it shows that you are ill-prepared. Know the band of pay for similar positions.

If Stock is offered as an incentive, clarify if it is stock whether it is openly traded, or restricted stock, what happens should you leave (e.g. you have to cash restricted stock in), and when dividends/vesture takes place! 

For those who aspire to be an SES; few are chosen, and it’s largely like making BGen – who you know, what you have to offer, and when opportunity comes around. SES’s in the DoN are selected at the service level, and have to be approved by DoN and OMB – can take 6 months to a year. GS-15, step 10 makes more than an SES-1. In either case, don’t plan on getting promoted again anytime soon, as the people you leaped over are going to take it out on you, as well as the long-term civil service guys. Be alert to who are the mentors for civil service – everyone has one.

Be Cognizant of the Intangibles

(See the Compensation table attached – use it to compare amongst jobs.)

Assess your needs for life-insurance and supplemental med insurance. MOAA, MCA, and other vet service org’s offer plans – do some life-cycle comps before you jump. SGLI was cheap; it terminates on retirement. Most people will accept your final physical for medical clearance on new insurance if within 60-days of retirement. Do comparisons on life-cycle costs – something cheap now may balloon to something big later in terms of premium.

Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) is strictly life insurance. Make your own decision, but if you decline, you better have a lot of life-insurance if you have a family. The cost is 6.5% of your retired pay or roughly $350/month for wife + kids – she’ll get 55% of base pay (inflation adjusted) if you die first. Effective Aug. 1, 2013, most Survivor Benefit Plan annuitants over the age of 55 are no longer required to complete and submit an annual Certificate of Eligibility to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. DFAS is no longer required to deduct DIC payments from monthly SBP annuities, if a person is entitled to both benefits and has remarried after age 57.

Be alert during the HR pitch which precedes your interview –will be a fire-hose of information – first and last time to ask general and specific questions, that will get uncomfortable during negotiations – treat it as information gathering – come prepared

Watch out for guys who hide behind generalities! Some count Fed holidays as vacation days figuring you’ll make that up as comp time (you won’t get paid overtime).

Vacation plans vary – 2 weeks is min; negotiate for more if you can, but don’t get too greedy- its work after all, and billable hours is how you make your living.


The biggest single obstacle that keeps most people from being “successful” in their first job after government service is that they cannot adjust to the fact that they have to do real work. No more kibitzing from on high, providing policy inputs with no accountability, being the Wing King and letting the troops do the work. Once your new employer gets you off the street and away from their competitors, you become just another mouth to feed. You have to be constantly showing them that you are worth what they are paying you.

Value Added

Your government training is rarely found on the outside. Take advantage of it. Remember that your new contemporaries 1) may not have it themselves, 2) might not know that you have it, and 3) wouldn’t want you to take advantage of it at their expense if they knew you had it. You have to take the initiative. Those who have done that have done well. One of the benefits of military service is having successfully performed jobs/duties that you were minimally, (if that) prepared to perform. Watches, staff jobs, command, etc. That your generalist abilities were able to successfully complete them is noticeable.

Actually DO something. There is a tendency to talk a thing to death and avoid commitment to actually risk action. Your ability to actually complete things will be noticeable.


Go easy on moving your I-love-me stuff into the office in your first week on the job. The average government retiree doesn’t settle in until the third company.


Within your new company, reorganizations will be a never-ending process. What you see in front of you when you come on board is unlikely to look the same a year later. At the same time, reorgs almost always open more doors than they close. Expect them and get the jump on them.

Business Development, Part I

You can’t do good BD in your first year on the outside, especially if you are in a penalty box. BD is not the same as anything else – beware your compensation plan. Talk with someone who has been through this and survived

Business Development, Part II

Beware the “bonus trap.” Big-bonus compensation plans for marketers and BD types often have a hidden catch: the bonus may not be payable until after the work is finally billed. This means you could be laid off after you win “the big one” and you would never see the bonus – nor would you have any recourse to “future earnings” unless your contract specified a buy-out option for a deferred bonus. 

Business Development, Part III

If you are given a new market to chase, some rules of thumb (ROE):

  • It will take 12 to 18 months of effort before you rack up your first win.
  • It is rare to win on your first or even second proposal.
  • Making a smart “no-bid” decision is as valuable as making the right “bid” decision.

Mergers and Buyouts

There are no medium-sized fish; companies between $20M and $150M don’t survive. This affects you when it comes to buying out and being bought out. Watch the press on who is buying whom. It isn’t always easy to find the information, but it’s well worth the research. Make sure you understand your employment agreement and what happens to you and your benefits in the event of a buyout/merger.

Health Care

Companies have no incentive to keep an eye on your benefits. Ex-military people need to know how to assess corporate health care. With health care costs increasing, companies are transferring more and more costs to the employees. Before you accept a job offer, know what your cost-sharing arrangements will be. If you are in an area serviced by military hospitals and a strong TRICARE network, the military health care is generally better service than you can get as a benefit for your company. Get as much done prior to walking out the door. Dental care is limited (Delta Dental, for example, to $1000 per year) … get all the family squared away before hitting the street.

You’ll lose Dental on retirement; TRICARE offers Dental, but its costs are usually higher than a company sponsored plan- take care of your teeth before you exit, along with the rest of your med requirements!

TRICARE automatically converts from Prime to Standard unless you re-submit paperwork 30 days prior to your retirement date- don’t plan on VA taking care of you after you retire unless it is service connected. Contact your desired TRICARE clinic before you retire! With Reservists and National Guard members on active duty, most clinics are NOT enrolling retirees. Prime will give you access to doctors in town, but you will have to do a whole lot of legwork for referrals and appointments – you may not be able to use the one-stop shopping at the clinic.


This proof of service is necessary when trying for government jobs. Request online. Great news for veterans - The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has the following website to gain access to your DD-214 online: This will cut the waiting time for copies of your DD 214 and will be particularly helpful if you need a copy of your DD-214 for employment purposes. Make a PDF copy so you can include with an electronic email.

VA Disability Compensation Payments

They are based on disability rating and dependents; until concurrent receipt comes into effect, VA payments reduce retired pay 1:1. Concurrent receipt is potentially on the horizon. VA Compensation is tax free. This could significantly reduce your tax burden. Review the VA disability rating guide. You have 1 year from your retirement date to submit your paperwork. You will end up having to do some re-work on physicals at VA center. Have DAV screen your record first and assist in forms!!!

Figure out your PT plan. Companies will generally NOT have facilities nearby and actually expect you to work during the day. Determine how you are going to manage your life health plan either before or after work. Or you will put on retirement weight. Remember to take a long view though, and the PT is for health reasons and not for a PFT evaluation.


Dress for success. Get at least 2 high-quality interview suits (not sport coat). You can get more accessories later. Generally, you’ll need four or five suits. It’s the uniform for business. If you don’t like wearing a suit, find a job that doesn’t require it. Don’t wear your uniform to an interview, even if it is a short notice cold call. Observe the contractors who work at what you are interested in for their business attire, and how it shapes your perceptions as a customer. Start off with white shirts, conservative subdued ties – you’re not there to make a power statement – do your homework on attire at the office so you feel comfortable fitting in. 

Keep an interview suit at the office, along with your resume and talking points – never know when that cold-call is going to come.

Get a good quality rain coat (not your military one!); by the way, you can use umbrellas now! You won’t need a wool top-coat right away, unless you are in a colder climate than No. VA.

Print some business cards that don’t have all your office information on it to pass around

Get some comfortable clothes… you’ll be in them all day. If you are in front of customers, you’ll generally be in a SUIT (not sport coat). Think about good shoes and resole them so you don’t have to break in new ones often.


Most companies will have a 401(k) plan that you will be eligible to join six to twelve months after you begin work. Many companies will match a percentage of what you pay into the plan, but you will not be entitled (“vested”) to the company’s contribution until three to five years after beginning employment. Be sure you understand your company’s plan. You may want to shop around. Always take the 401K matching as this is compensation that you will receive and is deducted from taxable income. You will be able to leave or move these amounts to another 401K or IRA, including the vested amount if you have reached the goals.


The only sure things in life are death and taxes…and the taxes can kill you. You are going to pay more in taxes than you ever did before. You will pay Federal and state taxes. (Virginia wants them quarterly). Get an accountant to look at what is going to happen, and change your withholding early, otherwise you are in for some nasty surprises.

Retired Pay is taxable for FITW, most SITW, and not for SSA/Medicare. 

When you retire and start to draw your military pension as well as salary from your second career, be very careful in setting your payroll deductions for income taxes. The tax withholding tables are based on two key assumptions:

  • You have only one income.
  • Based on the sliding tax scale, the first $25,000 or so is, for all practical purposes, tax exempt.

If you just use standard deductions, then at the end of the year, the net effect of having two incomes will be that no taxes were withheld on $25,000 of income, and you will now have an "out of pocket" expense at the higher marginal tax rate of 34%. How to avoid? Calculate what your tax liability will be in advance, and adjust withholding accordingly, so you don't end up facing an additional $10,000 or more in taxes come April 15th.

Retired Pay

Retired pay is based on your ADBD and for most of us senior guys highest pay; changes for younger guys (there are 3 systems currently) – Manpower recomputes it based on your OMPF Documents when you submit your diary – OCS doesn’t count; reserve time counts if a drilling reservist

Every additional month you stay on AD equates to roughly $50/month more in retirement if you are a 27 year Col under 2004 pay tables. Retired pay is paid (once) on 1st business day of month by Direct deposit; VA Compensation comes by check; can telephonically switch it to direct deposit by calling service office or on line at Terminate your allotments before you retire or they’ll carry over in to your retirement pay 

Pay attention to your retirement withholding. The government assumes that you are not working and the withholding will be excessively low… in the range of 3%. Pretty good for maximizing the pay, but a real surprise when you are doing your return with another job being taxed at 28%. IT WILL COST YOU MONEY. Ensure that you check how your pension is being taxed.

You may set your civilian employment compensation to higher deductibles including additional withholding amounts that may keep you from paying extra to the IRS at the time of your yearly tax filing.

Beyond that, while you’re checking your withholding, make sure you aren’t also a victim of excess Social Security withholding. With your two incomes, Uncle Sam could be double-dipping you for Social Security. . If you served in the military in 1957 through 1977, you are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay. If you served in the military in 1978 through 2001, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings, up to a maximum of $1,200 a year, for every $300 in active duty basic pay. After 2001, additional earnings are no longer credited. If you began your service after September 7, 1980, and did not complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings.


Now that you are out of government service, remember that when all else fails, you no longer have to tolerate an unsatisfactory situation. Remember, too, that people rarely leave bad companies but always leave bad bosses. You are not committed to the new job for a career. You have the advantage of having income from your retirement that will give you more options than the rest of your civilian counterparts. You are always only two weeks away from your next PCS, assignment, job or company. That is a healthy hole card. Don’t be afraid to play it.

Good News

Not to be crass, but you are about to learn how valuable your service to our Nation is – as soon as you begin drawing your retirement pay and using your retirement benefits. Enjoy your windfall – you have earned it!

Compensation Table

You can use the following table to compare salary and other perks and benefits provided by different employers.



Current Job




Base Salary





Bonus, Signing on















Company car or allowance





Cost of living increases





Corporate property, use of





Country Club





Company Telephone Card





Company Credit Card





Child Care (Tax impact)





Deferred Compensation





Dental Plan





Early Salary Review





Free parking/transit benefit





401K (qualified plan)





Flexible Reimbursement Account (Tax impact)





Group Accident Insurance





Health Physical










Incentive Pay





Life Insurance





Long-term disability pay





Medical plan










Profit sharing





Pension plan





Sick leave and pay





Stock options and Phantom stock










Travel Insurance





Tax, legal and financial Counsel





Tuition Reimbursement





Vacation…with and without pay