Season 4 Episode 167: Military Transition Q&A with Marc Lopez

Marc Lopez joined the Army 20 years ago and started his career in the intelligence field as a linguist. He transitioned over to become a warrant officer and is now a cyber warfare operator who is preparing to begin a SkillBridge program before he retires. When two of Marc’s closest friends retired three years ago, he was inspired to begin preparing for his own retirement to ensure a successful transition.


Using his background in intelligence, Marc decided his first step was to create notes. He uses Microsoft OneNote to organize his notes and has created tabs for every facet of his transition including his family, LinkedIn and informational interviews. With so many job opportunities in the cyber field using very different titles than the military, Marc knew he needed to better understand civilian terms. He leveraged LinkedIn to find veterans in the cyber field and then set up calls to learn about the various roles and the day-to-day responsibilities. He began to build a glossary of terms that helped him understand the civilian equivalent of cyber roles in the military. From his informational interviews, Marc found several mentors that helped him answer important questions to narrow his focus.


With retirement right around the corner and over 2+ years of transition preparation, Marc has taken advantage of several resources such as the Lessons Learned for Vets podcast, Veterati, ACP, FourBlock and TAP to ensure a smooth transition. He took nuggets of information from each resource and began to find common threads. Resources like this podcast don’t change the fact that the transition journey is full of curves and unexpected challenges, but they do help service members prepare for the unexpected.


The genuine connection and relationships that Marc has built with other people continues to enrich his life. Marc has conducted over 50 informational interviews in 3 years. He learned quickly that a customized note through LinkedIn got better results than a generic, template introduction. Before sending a connection request, he took the time to study the person’s profile and included any commonalities in his customized note. Marc prepared for each informational interview by having questions prepped and staying within the allotted time frame.


Knowing your worth in your chosen industry is important. One of the best ways to assess your worth is through informational interviews. Once you’ve built rapport in the interview, share your experience and any education or certifications you’ve completed. Ask the person what level they think you are at and what salary range you can expect., and the Bureau of Labor Statistics are excellent resources as well. Remember that salary isn’t just about the pay. Benefits can play a significant role when deciding to accept or pass on a job opportunity.


The average adult changes careers 7-9 times in their life. It’s okay to make a change or pivot completely. Companies have come to expect applicants to have many prior job experiences. If you find that you’ve made a wrong decision on a job, figure out how you can gain value from the experience and make a plan on how to find a better fit.


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