According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, 19.2 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 8 percent of the civilian non-institutional population age 18 and over. The unemployment rate of veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.4 percent in Iowa to 6.5 percent in the District of Columbia. Military life is dangerous, demanding, and difficult, and the return to civilian life also poses many challenges for those who have served. In a 2011 Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans, 27% say re-entry into civilian life was difficult. For those veterans who served in the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, this number inflates to 44%.
There are many reasons why re-entry is difficult. Master Sergeant Christian D. Price has served 17 years thus far, including five tours in Afghanistan, in the Army. In addition, Sergeant Price is a Licensed Real Estate Agent, speaker, and mentor. At the age of 35, he’s worked in several leadership roles training thousands of soldiers and is currently working at the Pentagon to help soldiers as they re-enter into civilian life. Price is heading up the South and Southwest division of the Soldier For Life program, which helps soldiers find resources and transition into Fortune 500 companies.
BLACK ENTERPRISE had the honor to speak with Price about re-entry, transferable skills, and when to start considering life after serving.
What leadership traits and skills are important for building a solid career in the military?
The most important traits for building a solid career in the military are sincere enthusiasm, empowerment (self-empowerment and empowerment of others), decisiveness in your day-to-day activities, and great communication skills. These skills are designed to give you a solid foundation for their leadership positions.
Over the last 17 years, how have you been able to achieve your military leadership success?
The Army teaches us seven Army values. They are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The first thing I’ve learned is that in order to be a great leader you must be a great follower. Therefore, you must treat others with dignity and respect. These characteristics are building blocks of success. Regardless of any Military Occupational Specialty, the Army teaches you all seven values.
What skills gained in the military can be transferable to civilian careers?
Any skill gained in the military can be transferred to civilian careers. It is really that clear-cut.
How early is too early to consider life after service?
Transition will happen for everyone whether it is two years, 20 years, or 30 years. It is important that you invest in your potential. I feel soldiers should take advantage of the Army’s tuition assistance, educational opportunities, and the GI Bill program. Every soldier has an opportunity to do the Department of Defense skills bridge, which is done in your last 180 days of service. This is a great opportunity to enhance your personal and professional development. You should also consider your family and their resources when you are considering life after service. In addition to this, your spouse should also have an understanding of the resources and opportunities.
Who should servicemen and women be utilizing as resources and how should this be done?
Find a mentor in a uniform and a mentor in the civilian world. The ability and opportunity to speak with someone who is invested in you personally or professionally is essential. In addition to mentorship, they should also understand and review, “The Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP),” which is a centrally funded commanders’ program that provides transition assistance services to eligible soldiers. The program also provides employment assistance to soldiers and family members who are transitioning from active duty to veterans. It provides easily accessible information for a successful transition. Additionally, take advantage of social media sites such as LinkedIn to network.
What are the three key pieces of advice you have for men and women in service to prepare themselves for a transition to civilian life?
Think 24 months out, draw a timeline, create a plan, and create a dream job overlay with your family. Proper preparation prepares you for a successful transition.
What has been the greatest professional lesson you’ve learned?
The first thing I’ve learned is to treat the janitor like the CEO. In the Army, I treat the private like they are a four-star general. I live by this principle. Second, words have meaning. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Finally, if you are walking down the right path and you are willing to keep walking, eventually, you will make progress. These have been my greatest professional lessons. As for me, I am continually making progress as an entrepreneur and a soldier. I have a T-shirt line I am working on launching, a solid real estate business, and focused on developing a solid foundation in the community with the youth.
Editors’ Note: This piece was updated on October 7, 2019, to correct Master Sergeant Christian D. Price’s title. He was incorrectly identified as a First Sergeant.