The brain science of military transition and why TAP classes never seem to be enough

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Your basic Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class does what it can. The Department of Labor says approximately 180,000 people leave the military each year, and with so many needing access to resources, transition information and job search training, TAP courses are used as is.

They can also interfere with positive outcomes for some of the service members they are trying to help.

Liz Roumell is an associate professor of educational administration and human resource development at Texas A&M University. She is also a leading researcher for PreVeteran, a military transition training and mentoring company. She says that while traditional transition assistance courses are necessary, they can compound some of the problems the military has during this critical time.

“Military transition courses are a system-integrated program,” Roumell told Military.com. “It has to be done, but with so many people transitioning every year, it also has to be scalable and fairly consistent across the board. So it’s built like most training programs: here’s your information. Here’s the resources .”

The problem with what she and PreVeteran call this “1.0 transition mindset” is that it isn’t necessarily meaningful to the individual. Simply put, there is no context for an individual service member to apply the information to their personal and professional goals – if they even know what those goals are.

(Courtesy of PreVeteran)

“Treatment checklists are very appropriate for this type of program,” Roumell says. “They recognize that resources are needed and finding a job is necessary. But that kind of program doesn’t change someone’s mindset. I don’t know if they even recognize that that mindset is part of the transition process.”

When people go through a major life change, such as leaving the military, stress can cause significant biological changes. Weight gain or loss caused by the stress of the situation can drastically alter moods, as well as what Roumell calls the emotional and social work of transition.

Emotional labor refers to the actual mental labor behind everything from leaving the military, from setting goals and following them to securing support for spouses, partners, and children, as well as everything else. Social work is the need to rebuild personal and professional networks and relationships when the veteran moves to a new city, a new neighborhood, a new career and/or a new culture.

Military people, Roumell says, are highly functional individuals, capable of a lot and confident in their abilities, but this type of transition can have a negative effect on anyone.

“It takes a lot of extra work to rebuild those resources on your own,” she says. “Our cognitive bandwidth is limited, even when we’re at our best, without stress or strain. When you get that long checklist and dump of information thrown at you as you’re pushed out the door, with everything the rest you’re supposed to take care of in such a short time, it weighs on you physically.”

When overwhelmed with information that their brains cannot understand, people begin to default to new information systems and processes that they are already familiar with. Roumell and PreVeteran call this the “Brain Gap,” and it’s a natural process people use to make the influx of information more useful.

When people begin to move into a different context from their current situation, such as a military-to-civilian transition, knowledge gaps form. When presented with a sudden and large amount of information without individual context, such as the information dump from TAP classes, the brain relies on its prior knowledge and experiences to fill this gap.

“Most of our behaviors, actions, or decisions are based on our experience and our memories of those experiences,” Roumell explains. “We build these patterns in our minds and use them when faced with information gaps. Our most natural thing to do as humans is to take the closest thing and fill the void with that.”

In a transitional context, this means that veterans without clear goals or directions will use their group-oriented military mindset when dealing with the world of civilian affairs, a mindset which, according to the founder of PreVeteran and Air Force veteran Jason Anderson isn’t doing very well.

“The military system is created for the military,” Anderson says. “These two systems are different, but we’re still convincing people that they’re going to move seamlessly into a different world and context. Veterans are a highly functional group of people: highly educated, highly motivated. But they need to tell the limits of thought that they bring to the general public.”

According to research from PreVeteran, veterans make up just 1% of the population, entering a world filled with 93% of Americans who have no military connection. They think differently because they have different experiences. Civilian employers want experts in their field. Civilian workers tend to be individually oriented. This mindset runs counter to the generalist training and group-oriented structure of the army – and that’s just the beginning.

The solution that Roumell and Anderson came up with for the PreVeteran course is what they call the “Transition 2.0 Mindset.” Veterans should set goals individually and tailor their transition information to those goals.

(Courtesy of PreVeteran)

They must also adjust their way of thinking to meet the needs and expectations of the civilian world. Finally, veterans need to give themselves time to change their mindset, process that information, set those goals, and chart their own path as an individual.

Lily: The Case for “Transition 2.0” and What It Should Look Like for Separating Veterans

In the absence of individually defined goals and a specific plan to achieve those goals, lessons from TAP on building professional networks, securing a mentor, or conducting informational interviews will be learned over time. chance in the dark. A structured plan helps build specific networks, find a mentor in a desired field, and make informative interviews with experts more informative.

“Becoming aware of your thought patterns is like a superpower,” Roumell says. “It’s powerful because it can be applied to your military transition, but it can also be used in many different contexts. If you can understand your own thinking, you can control the situation and you can take real action in before, and that’s really important.”

To learn more about PreVeteran and the Transition 2.0 mindset, take the job readiness quiz or read the 5-step guide to getting the job you want.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at [email protected] It can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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