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Military To Civilian - The Right Company Culture

Posted 52 days ago ago by jhadmin

When I started planning for my transition from the Coast Guard a few years before my retirement, there was one thing I tried to do in addition to all the normal administration preparations. I researched companies. All sorts of companies, not just helicopter-specific companies:  Twitter, Amazon, Tesla, Facebook, Apple, Starbucks, Walmart. Air Methods, REACH, PHI. I read everything I could about them. I looked for companies with aviation departments and I researched companies who had good reputations hiring veterans. I wasn’t sure if I’d find a flying job, so I was also hedging my bets and looking into operations management opportunities.

I learned a lot during this search. There’s an amazing amount of information on the internet, but one theme continued to catch my attention:  the importance of a good company culture.

Company culture can be defined as “the combination of people, vision, and values that ultimately define the atmosphere in the workplace and shapes how much you enjoy coming to work.”

Pretty simple, right? The hard part, is figuring out what a company culture is before you walk in the door and whether or not that will work for you and your values. A friend, who was transitioning around the same time as I, got a job with a large nation-wide company. I had just read an article about how this company’s corporate culture had a reputation for being “gladiatorial.” I sent him the article and suggested he do more research. His answer was a common one, “I need to make money for my family; the pay is great. I’ll be fine.” I predicted he’d leave the job within a year. Sure enough, one year later, he left to find a less toxic place to work.

Here are a few tips for getting a sense of the corporate culture prior to actually getting hired:

When you start, it’s imperative to research the companies you are interested in. Look at their websites, including their social media sites. Read newsletters written by management, find out if they have a vision statement – and if employees actually know it! Glassdoor is also a good research tool. Employees post reviews similar to Yelp, which can give you an idea about the pros and cons of working there. Just be careful to read between the lines and throw out the oddball negative or positive comments that seem unrealistic.

Look through LinkedIn to find contacts who may work at your preferred companies or who on your contact list may know someone who does. Reach out to those individuals and ask if you can bend their ear about what they like and don’t like about working there.  During my search I was very surprised to find out how many contacts I had that knew people in aviation departments I was researching. I called all of them. And, to their credit, I was warned off of a few departments and told the culture was not very good and the turnover was high as a result. I was glad to have their honesty.

Request a tour of the base or company office to gauge how friendly people are, and if they seem generally happy. In EMS, you can often get a base tour and perhaps even a ride along if you’re lucky. While you’re there, take a look around the facilities. Is it well kept and organized? Are there “niceties” available like exercise equipment, or decent lounges and kitchens?

Last but not least, prepare some questions for the recruiters and/or hiring managers. Ask them some questions about corporate values that may be important to you. Ask how the company rewards employees, or if there are any employee appreciation events or incentives. Ask how workplace complaints are addressed and if there is open communication between employees and managers. And importantly, ask about the training and safety programs and if the company has a Just Culture policy. 

Company culture is important because if you find a company that appeals to your values, you’ll be happier and more productive. Salary is critical, but given the amount of time we all spend at work, it’s essential to strike a balance between money and finding your best fit in a company.

About the author: Andrea Sacchetti retired from the US Coast Guard in 2016 after 20 years and is now a base lead pilot for REACH Air Medical services in Santa Rosa, California, flying the EC135. She regularly mentors transitioning military pilots and has been a speaker at a military-to-civilian transition seminar.

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