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RETIREMENT TRANSITIONS FROM THE MILITARY TO THE CIVILIAN WORKFORCE: The Perspective of Marine Corps Noncommissioned Officers

By Johnston, Susan; Fletcher, Eddie et al. | Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

RETIREMENT TRANSITIONS FROM THE MILITARY TO THE CIVILIAN WORKFORCE: The Perspective of Marine Corps Noncommissioned Officers


Johnston, Susan, Fletcher, Eddie, Ginn, Gina, Stein, David, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal


Introduction

Transition is an inevitable part of our lives (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Engels, 1995). Hence, the best advice for dealing with transitions may be to embrace change (Newman, 1995). This study examines the influence of key factors involved in the transition of Marine Corps non-commissioned officers from their military career to me civilian workforce. Focus group interviews were conducted to identify significant themes present in this type of transition. The manuscript first attempts to uncover findings from related literature to investigate what factors are likely to emerge from this type of midlife transition. Even though transition is inherent through the lifespan, much of the research has focused on the beginning stages of choosing a career as opposed to later career transition (Swanson, 2003). Recognizing challenges and issues inherent in the development and socialization of adults in midlife is essential for understanding individuals' career decisions in postretirement (Harper & Shoffner, 2004). Therefore, this paper attempts to focus on challenges and issues stemming from midlife transitions, specifically at the retirement stage.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to examine transition from military service through retirement that occurs at mid-life and to seek a deeper understanding of themes which influence the experience as articulated by the individuals who are experiencing the transition. The results of the study will be used to guide me direction of future research.

A Review of the Literature: Challenges in Transition

Jensen-Scott (1993) suggests that "because careers are associated with status, identity, money, and power, the end of working life is potentially a period of crisis." In a review of the literature on retirement and transitions, financial status is a significant source of ambivalence among individuals (Ebberwein, Kreishok, Ulven, & Presser, 2004; Elder & Rudolph, 1999; Goodberg & Warner, 1986; Loughran, 2002; MacEwen, Barling, Kelloway, & Higginbottom, 1995; Newman, 1995; Schmitt & McCune, 1981; Swanson, 2003). In addition, Harper and Shoffner (2004) discuss the theory of work adjustment (TWA). They contend that individuals' appraisal of their capacities entails attuning to their physical and mental concerns along with family demands. They further contend that it is essential to understand retirees' losses regarding their pre-retirement job and how they attempt to satisfy these conditions in their new career.

Transitions and Role-Change

Carter and Cook (2005) investigated the aspects of role theory. They suggest that the retirement transition may be shaped by internal conflicts regarding social and work-related roles. They further note, "the transition is viewed as a period of role change and redefinition. . .the success of role redefinition may be determined by one's social roles, work roles, and me internal resources needed to negotiate role changes."

Planning and Transfer of Skills

An overwhelming number of empirical research findings cite planning for retirement as one of the biggest factors in expectation and anxiety levels in retirement (Carter & Cook, 1995; Elder & Rudolph, 1999; Fretz, Kluge, Ossana, Jones, & Merikangas; MacEwen et al., 1995; Spiegel & Shultz, 2003). Spiegel and Shultz (2003), in a longitudinal study of naval officers, found that planning before retirement and the transfer of knowledge, skills, and abilities among the naval officers influenced satisfaction and adjustment upon retirement. Consequently, Fretz et al., (1989) found a low level of planning was associated with high anxiety and depression among employees.

Transition to the Civilian Workforce

According to Mangum and Ball (1987), "From the military's perspective, the strength of the military training - civilian employment link greatly influences the number of individuals attracted to the military from which those making the military a career will be drawn" (p.

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