“PURPOSE” – THE Lynchpin to Career Transition Success?

“Purpose” has long been a hot topic in military veteran career transition.


Veterans have a high sense of “Purpose”.


Lack of “Purpose” (perceived or real) is often a major challenge to career transition and satisfaction once veterans land in the workplace.


Harvard Business Review’s September/October 2019 edition has a great article entitled “Put Purpose at the Core of Your Strategy.” written by Thomas W. Malnight, Ivy Buche, and Charles Dhanaraj.


While the article focuses on how successful companies redefine their businesses, it has important ideas that are helpful to anyone in career transition, especially military veterans.


The article roots from the authors’ extensive, long-term study regarding high-growth companies and their strategic drivers. One of the unexpected results was the critical importance of “Purpose” as a driver.



The article reveals that “Purpose” drives three important results: generating sustained profitable growth, staying relevant in a rapidly changing world, and deepening stakeholder ties.


Relevance to your career transition? Getting clear on your “Purpose” will focus you and help optimize your transition. It will:

· Help you build a better network.

· Begin to clarify how you fit and can add value to a new, dynamic work world.

· Lead to higher-level results (e.g. landing a better job/career sooner; greater success/satisfaction on the job once landed, etc.).



The article goes on to report that “Purpose” plays two important strategic roles: redefining the playing field and reshaping the value proposition (which includes responding to trends, building trust, and focusing on pain points)


Relevance to your career transition?

· Getting clear on your “Purpose” broadens your view by considering the entire career playing field not just a narrow environment with which you are familiar.

· It helps you clarify your “elevator pitch”; your answer to the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question. This clarity is critical beyond the simple act of responding to specific questions. It helps others understand who you are and where you are going, and thus enables them to better help you along the way.

· It also helps you to prioritize your efforts. The unfamiliar world of career transition is full of new, unknown challenges and opportunities. Clarifying your “Purpose” gives you a centering point upon which to focus and select high-payoff actions to optimize your search.



As with so many things in life, this “Purpose” work is only valuable if translated to action. The article suggests both retrospective looks inward and back, and prospective checks forward/externally.


Relevance to your career transition? In large part, career transitions happen at the speed of your activity. The more you do, the sooner you do it, the more transition success you will see, sooner.

· Looking backward to identify where you’ve been, how you got here, and what makes you unique, helps to clarify “who you are and what you are bringing to the party”.

· Looking forward gives you a better view of the terrain you are about to enter and the various challenges/opportunities it holds.


Optimizing your transition is hard work. It takes dedication, effort, reliance on your existing capabilities, and a willingness to push yourself beyond what you’ve known for years. It takes humility and vulnerability to open yourself to new people, new perspectives, new challenges, new opportunities.


Invest in yourself. Take the time and the effort to define your “Purpose”. Find a partner, coach, or other that will help. The upside will be well worth it!


Copyright 2019 William E. Kieffer

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