Career Transitions: An Empirical Examination of Second Career of Military Retirees

Article excerpt

Introduction

One characteristic of modern careers is frequent job changes, either caused by dynamic market economics or initiated by the individual. (1) The single lifelong employment relationship with one employer tends to be rarer, with people tending to have multiple careers in different organizations and various areas. Within the contemporary career system, scholars found that individuals changing their career attitudes and behaviors, and many individuals taking charge of their own careers, seeking to fulfill personal aspirations for learning, development and growth. (2)

In order to succeed in their second career, people utilize the experience gained from their earlier career. Organizations that are committed to their employees tend to support them, making the process of transition into a second career less painful. This phenomenon is a new one, and the impact of organizational support mechanisms for the second career is less known. (3)

Studies examining the success in second career for individuals that moved from the stable traditional system to the turbulent contemporary career system are scarce, (4) but nevertheless of high importance. Identifying the adjustment process involved with passing through this transition can be used to test the validity and relevance of recent theories relating to the new shape of careers.

The aim of this paper is to add to our knowledge about the military-society nexus (5) and to examine possible antecedents to the perceived career success of people retiring from the military career system, embarking on a second career. (6) Early military retirement and consequently second career is not merely an Israeli phenomenon. It is relevant to the wider global labor market where military career tends to end earlier, enabling a second career to the former career officers. Even more important, due to global changes, armies tend to be decreased in size and early military retirement is widely applied world wide. The study utilized a survey method, as recently proposed by Groves et al. (7)

Careers, second career and organizational commitment: background and theory

The study of careers has benefited from a number of theoretical perspectives. Some sociologists view the career as an issue that is related to social functioning, (8) whereas psychologists tend to consider the career as a profession and a way of self-development and enrichment. (9) Much emphasis has been placed on the compatibility between the personality of the worker and his/her profession, while seeing the benefit for both the individual and the organization. Contemporary frameworks see career as a multidisciplinary issue. It comprises aspects from psychology, sociology, anthropology, economy and political science. Issues like status and rank; wealth, property and earning capacity; social reputation, prestige and influence; knowledge and skills; friendship and network connections; health and well-being; culture and career; labor markets and economy conditions, all discussed in career research. In modern times, career has evolved from a classical concept of employment or profession to have a much wider meaning.

Many managers who enjoyed prosperous careers in large organizations look for other companies to serve as executives, (10) although the transition to a second career is seldom easy. In one of the rare studies looking at former army military servicemen moving to a second career, many opted to stay within the familiar hierarchical system; for example, moving to governmental agencies. (11) Others found a wider range of choice, although a major proportion of former high-rank military retirees did prefer the defense industry. (12) However, the options are open, and with a professional organizational support system, many can explore different trajectories. For example, a study of retired NASA pilots found that, when encouraged, they settled in roles within academic settings working on aerospace projects. …