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Saturday, Dec 15, 2018
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Tampa-area veterans share experiences, tips on succeeding

With many challenges facing those who serve, three local veterans offer their keys to being a postmilitary success.

Thomas “Tucker” Campion, 58, was a Navy SEAL from 1980 to 2000, retiring as a commander. A Pinellas County resident, he worked at U.S. Special Operations Command from 2000 to 2010 in its acquisition programs, where he helped develop improved ammunition and field a replacement for the M4 rifle. In 2010 he started Poseidon Consulting, a one-man operation connecting industry with the warfighter.

Among many projects, the company is helping market a new carbon fiber rifle barrel that will be lighter and more durable.

Keys to Success

Learn every day. Life is a mission, and you get better at each mission by learning every day.

Make sure you continue to evolve. Get a step ahead. No one can foresee the future, but you can read the tea leaves. As former Socom commander, the now-retired Adm. William McRaven always preached to us, “never stay inside the box.”

Keep your eyes wide open. I have a list of clients, but I talk to their competitors every chance I get. What if you lose a client? Always be thinking about tomorrow, otherwise you’ll be scrambling.

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Lori Larsen, 38, spent eight years in the Army, leaving as a captain in 2005. Now living in Brandon and vice president of business operations for Celestar Corp., a Tampa defense contractor, Larsen is responsible for all proposals and primary external customer relations for the company, which has 140 employees and annual revenue of $20 million.

Keys to Success

When you get out of the military, find something you are passionate about or a place where you are passionate about working.

Don’t be afraid to use your military network, whether it is someone you knew three duty stations ago or a boss of yours right now.

Give yourself time, if possible, to find the right opportunities. Take classes. Learn skills. Plan.

Manage your expectations. The job market isn’t what it was earlier in the 2000s.

Corporate America is different than the military, but always remember that what made you successful in the military also makes you successful in corporate America. That holds true if you are enlisted or an officer.

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Valerie Ellis, 41, retired in August 2014 as a first sergeant after 23 years with the Army. Her last assignment was at U.S. Central Command as a signals intelligence analyst. She now lives in St. Petersburg and works in business development for VetCor Services, a veteran-owned-and-staffed water-mitigation-services company. Ellis says that after more than two decades in uniform, one of the biggest sources of stress is figuring out what to wear.

Keys to success

Network. Not only in the veteran community, but in the civilian community. See what jobs civilians are actually paid to do. In the military we have certain jobs and positions and we all collectively work to accomplish a mission. But in the civilian world, people can work for themselves.

Use language that civilians can understand. Learn how to articulate your leadership skills and experience in civilian terms.

Learn how to dress appropriately as a civilian for a wide variety of occasions and functions.

Learn the difference between your military personality and your civilian personality. “One of the biggest keys to my success was learning early on that there was a difference between 1st Sgt. Ellis and Valerie.”

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