Season 3 Episode 115: Taking a Step Back to Move Forward with Leon Thomas

Leon Thomas wrapped up his Air Force career as the Airman Leadership School Commandant. Retiring in 2022, Leon took the Skillbridge path and is now in a learning and development role with Allstate, a Fortune 100 company. Though he landed a great role that provides well for his family, he has experienced some challenges along the way.

As a veteran with an impressive career in the military, Leon believed he would have multiple job offers when he retired. Over the course of 3 months, Leon applied to 30 jobs and was fortunate to receive 11 interview invitations. However, none of the interviews turned into a job offer. Wrapping up his Skillbridge internship, Leon was feeling pressure to find a job quickly. When Allstate expressed interest, he jumped at the opportunity. Accepting the position as a learning facilitator, Leon went straight from retirement to his first position – something he does not encourage others to do.

A few months into his new role with Allstate, Leon began to feel frustrated that his role did not offer him the ability to make strategic decisions for the company. As a senior NCO, Leon had the freedom to make decisions that impacted his organization. As an individual contributor with Allstate and not in a managerial position, Leon has had to shift his mindset. He enjoys the culture, the work is stable, the salary meets his needs and he appreciates his boss. Reflecting on his job search, Leon realizes he could have done more to market himself, particularly on LinkedIn. While he is teaching leadership skills at Allstate, Leon knows that he can also lead. Leon is looking forward to leveraging his military experience and the skills he is acquiring in his current position to land a leadership role in the future.

Leon ultimately left the military because he had been passed over for promotion and knew his skills would be better appreciated in the civilian sector. Experiencing a series of misfortunes in the military that prevented him from being a strong competitor for promotion, Leon still struggles with the feeling that he did not achieve his goals in the military. He strives to continue working on his mindset and encourages people to look at the job for what it is, as opposed to what you wish it was. Leon has taken the approach to viewing his life in terms of winning and losing. Winning means different things to different people. Winning might be having work-life balance or financial security. For Leon, he knows he is winning in life right now.

Working remotely for Allstate, Leon has experienced the challenges of working from home. He misses the camaraderie that came from working in the military. As a social person, Leon struggles with the silence of his home office and the lack of opportunity to engage with coworkers. Focusing on the positives, he does not have a commute, is more rested and is able to wear pajama bottoms while working. Leon realizes that regardless of what type of role a person chooses after the military, there is a strong likelihood that the person will feel isolated. Find ways to connect with fellow veterans, like volunteering. Find people with common interests and know that you may have to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people.

Leaving the military will require a shift in your mindset. Leon has learned and is still learning how to change his perspective to be the best version of himself.

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