Navigating Next seeks to alleviate this psychological distress by giving servicemembers and veterans the toolkit required to navigate the inherent ambiguity of life beyond the military. The target outcome of this program is a job seeker who feels less stress about the transition process itself; is equipped with tools to evaluate and select their next professional steps; possesses an understanding that their new life may be radically different than their current one; acknowledges the need to learn about and adapt to a new culture; understands how to tell their story with confidence and conviction in a way which will resonate with their new profession; is aware of the challenges that they will face through this process; feels supported not only by Shift but also their broader community of veterans as they begin this process.

We achieve this outcome by walking participants through a deliberate process of self-reflection and self-examination. We challenge our participants to take a step back from the immediate need to “pick a city and find a paycheck” and rather place their service in the broader context of their life’s arc. Who were they before the military? What led them to join? How much of their military experience was defined by “the institution”, versus how did they make this experience their own? Who - not what - do they want to be on the other side of this transition?

We then ask program participants to observe themselves and reflect on the elements of their professional and personal lives that energize them. Where do they feel most comfortable themselves? Where do they feel fulfilled? What activities provide them with a feeling of energy, pride, or accomplishment, and what activities leave them feeling drained and unmotivated? We ask participants to evaluate the constraints that will limit their professional options moving forward. Are these constraints truly fixed, immovable objects, or are they perceived constraints that do not stand up to the pressure of examination?

We then walk participants through a process of brainstorming the broadest possible list of professional options which align with these “energizers and constraints”, teach them how to evaluate these options, how to communicate their value, how to pressure-test their interests via informational interviews, and how to build and leverage a civilian network to become a successful job hunter. We orient them to the range of opportunities available with Shift’s hiring partners, connect them with Shift alums and recruiters at our partner companies, and provide an overview of the support available through the broader Shift ecosystem. We ensure they are armed with the tools to convey their value to potential employers and prospective professional connections.

Our final week challenges participants to be vulnerable and share their most pressing concerns about the transition process. We walk participants through the evidence-based challenges they are likely to face so that when these challenges arrive, they realize that they themselves are not the problem, but instead that they are experiencing common symptoms of a challenging life process. We arm them with tools to leverage when they encounter these challenges, and with the mindset that challenges both should be expected and are wholly surmountable.

We close on a hopeful note - the stories of a three-veteran panel, each of whom is selected specifically because their journeys have been meandering but ultimately resulted in fulfilling professions. This destigmatizes the likelihood of “getting it wrong” on your first try, of requiring a process of transition rather than expecting a momentary, instantaneous switch from fulfilled servicemember to fulfilled civilian. We recap the program’s key lessons and close with a reminder to students that they are never alone and we are here to see them through the process.

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