How to Negotiate a Transition

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Negotiation – I learned it in the military as a Contracts Specialist.  That was my title.  I also became a Contracts Negotiator after the military working for various defense contractors. 

I miss the military.  I miss the way of life. One of the biggest challenges I have had since retiring from the military is negotiating the transition to “civilian” life.  I have been retired for 9 ½ years and still I find myself missing the military.  It was my foundation, my identity.  It saved my life from an abusive childhood and a loser’s life path. 

When I was in, I couldn’t wait to get out, be a part of the real world and have the freedom to do what I wanted and build a career or a business.  I had no idea that when I left military service, I would leave a part of myself that I could never get back.  That’s what transition of any kind is all about and what makes it so challenging.

I was in the contracting career field in the Air Force and half of our squadron was comprised of Government civilians.  Many of them were prior military that had come back into civil service.  I used to wonder why they did that and thought that would be the last thing I would ever do.  As soon as I got out and started to transition into civilian life, I understood.  Working in that environment gave the sense of being as close to belonging to the military as one could get once they were out.  That’s also why so many prior military members go to work for defense contractors overseas.  There have been some occasions where I have had the thought of getting a job with a contractor and going back overseas.

What is it we miss that we don’t get on the “outside?”  There is a certain sense of camaraderie, discipline and order to military life.  It’s a life of selfless service whether you realize it or not. It’s an institution and you become institutionalized.  It’s a tribe, a community, a tight knit family.

So how does one negotiate the transition out of the military or any other institution for that matter?  It has to start with us personally.  We have to make a conscious effort to find a new tribe and understand life’s changes.  Although this change is a pretty steep drop off and there will be moments in the valley, you can successfully navigate the change by finding or creating your own community.  I know it will never quite be the same and the hole you feel from the transition is a hard one to fill, but there is hope.  It has to start with you.

Decide that you will reach out, make new friends, keep going forward even if they don’t get you, and they often times won’t.  The things you talk about, the stories you have, while some will be interested, many will not.  Making new friends was hard for me.  It was like I spoke a different language that nobody understood. I didn’t give up.  I kept going, I kept my focus and decided to make it work no matter what. 

This is not only true for a transition out of the military, but in any part of life where a big change it taking place.  The key is to have a strategy to negotiate the transition and execute that strategy.  Whether you are transitioning out of the military, out of a job, out of the home or into the empty nest, the transition will have its challenges.  Maybe you have lost a family member to divorce or death or maybe you were recently released from prison or just recovering from a serious illness, addiction or injury.  You now speak a new language from your experience.

Strategy and execution of the strategy is the key to a successful transition.  There are people like you who have been through what you’ve been through.  Some are successful; some are not.  Those who have been successful have made an effort to be a success.  It takes action and effort to make things work.  Find a community, friend, group or all three to support you in your transition.


Eldonna is a negotiation and performance expert that helps people find the discipline to eliminate limiting beliefs, exercise more influence, negotiate better deals and take control of the handlebars of life.  Eldonna is taking a limited number of clients. If you would like Eldonna to interview you for working with her for performance enhancement and strategy consulting personally or professionally, contact her at




Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at

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