Author InterviewsMilitary Transition Lessons Learned

Top Tips for Planning Your Transitioning Out of the Military

Author, entrepreneur and former Navy veteran Jay Magpantay offers advice on how to successfully transition from active military service to a successful civilian career and the common pitfalls to avoid.

When you transitioned out of the Navy in 2009 what were you most afraid of? How did you work through those fears?
We were in the thick of the Great Recession when I was gettin’ out of the Navy. The financial crisis hit the US hard and a lot of my shipmates were going through housing foreclosures, so I’d get the “You’re crazy”-talk a lot for deciding to test the civilian life. But I stuck to my guns (3 deployments in 4 years with augmented orders to Afghanistan had me burned out) and I was confident the skills I picked up from service would translate well. 

So were there fears? Uncertainties, maybe. But not so much fear as it was excitement. And with that, I prepped early. I knew I wanted to get educated so during each deployment I was taking college classes. Yeah, I was super exhausted and it cut into rack time, but when you’re stuck on a ship, there’s only so many movies, books, and weights, right? By the time I got out, I was only 10 classes shy from finishing my Bachelor’s so I finished that quick and used a bulk of my GI Bill benefits on a Master’s Degree. 

The key takeaway here is to game plan your life. Think ahead. I was clear on where I wanted to go, made the best use of my time, and tapped into every resource to get there.

Tell me a bit about your latest book:”The Write Way To Sell”?
I wrote my first book in 2016 and while it wasn’t a hit on the book charts, it was a huge hit for my business. I used a viral launch strategy to build an email list, sell products, get clients, and fill up my workshops. While I’m good on the marketing side of business, I now focus on helping people write their books and applying the same launch strategy I used in 2016. And that’s because it’s easier for someone to write a book than it is to master sales & marketing.

The Write Way To Sell gives the system for using a book to make sales and get clients, while my coaching is there to help them along the way. Once someone has their book, I’ll introduce them to the marketing side if they want, but it all starts with their book.

What did you do well during your transition?
Being a people person doesn’t come naturally to most people, but I developed an interest in people when I was selected to lead a team of 6 sailors who were all older than me in both years and service. The guys were salty about that, but I won them over by realizing that people don’t care about what you want until they know you care about what they want. Once you know what drives people, help them collect wins and they’ll help you in return.

With this, I focused on building relationships. People call this networking, but your network is only as strong as the relationships with the people in it.  

What did you do poorly during the transition and more importantly, what did you learn from that failure?
I had a plan when I was transitioning but left no wiggle room. My military experience was in radars and electronics so I felt that I had to see that to the end and be in a career that applied those skills. My degree was in technical management then my first career outside of the Navy was in aerospace engineering… That was not my kind of fun.

Working with people was what got me excited, not staring at computer screens and modeling airplane parts. What stings is that I knew this career path wasn’t for me halfway through school, but I was too stubborn to switch gears, too focused on the journey to realize that it wasn’t the road I should’ve been on. 

This is true in life when we get stuck on hitting a specific achievement that we don’t take the time to evaluate if it’s even worth it. Aiming for the wrong careers, marrying the wrong person, running the wrong business, it happens to everyone.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and start a coaching business?
Number one – niche it down. Don’t try to do everything. Instead, specialize and focus on one thing first. Most coaches who struggle haven’t done this. They’re afraid that niching down will cut into all the potential clients they can get when in reality, keeping their coaching broad does the opposite. 

I always give the example of eye surgery. If your eyes needed fixing, would you go to a general practitioner who deals with every cough, cold, soreness, and ache imaginable? Or would you go to a specialist who deals only in fixing your eyes?

What do you miss most about the Military? And do you stay connected to the military brotherhood?
Camaraderie, of course. That’s what we all miss. I’m active with all my shipmates through social media, I’ve been an active member with the American Legion for over 10 years, and am on the board for a non-profit where our goal is to rehabilitate homeless veterans by teaching them a trade and reintroducing them into the workforce. 

Anything else you would like to say to a soon-to-be transitioning military member?
The important thing is to start your transition early. If you know the military’s not for you, start going to school now, talk to different academic advisers, and reach out to your brothers and sisters who’ve made the transition ahead of you. There’s so many resources out there but none of them are gonna present themselves, you have to go find them.

Jay Magpantay is the author of Live Free & Retire Young and The Write Way to Sell. He helps experts write books to attract endless clients to their business. You can catch him at a Padres game, taco stand, or at the dog park with his Rottweiler named Babe.

Get his latest book at

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