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About a year ago, I took the Transition Assistance Program (TAP class, in military acronym lingo. Sadly, there was no dancing). During that week long course, I quickly began to realize how important networking is, and how far behind I was, being that I would be leaving one long career in the military with it’s own culture, jargon, and my small world of peers… and heading for something completely different… photography. And not just portrait photography, where you can begin with your existing network, for senior portraits, baby photos, Christmas cards, and the very lucrative wedding photography. Nope. I had decided to delve into the starving artist waters of Fine Art. A market that is over saturated, and frankly, skirting obsolescence as a career due to the great photographic technology that everyone has in their own possession, aka, the smart phone; that’s the career I want. Apparently, networking is how motivated self-starters get anything done and become successful. As for a network… how many fine art photographers did I know? I took a course from one about 20 years ago. And That Is It.

While in a mounting panic attack, I asked the TAP instructor (still no dancing) “How am I going to network… if I don’t have a network to start with????” How many co-mingling military members do you see chatting it up with artists, and vice versa? This is a rare occurrence to witness in the wild. If it happens, I think members of both groups prefer to keep it G14 classified… or in the closet. Separate worlds. So how does one jump from one world to the other?

The instructor suggested a program, American Corporate Partners (ACP), which finds volunteers in your new career field who serve as mentors to transitioning military members. ACP matched me with Kris, who has worked in video production and does Media Services at Harvard. ACP and Kris have been invaluable to me for helping me to redirect my mind from analytical report deadlines and project management to creative goals and, well, creative project management! You mean I’ll still have deadlines as artist? Bummer. If that’s what it takes! My mentor is focused on the new path, not military evaluations, not my meetings with my supervisors and chain of command. These are all aspects that are now so ingrained in my life, that it is helpful to practice rewiring the brain back into non-military life and into the creative mentality.

Since it is not the most common thing for a military member to do a 180 from a very conservative and structured life to the very unstructured life of a creative, ACP asked to feature my and Kris’s mentorship in an article about the program to be published in Forbes! It was very exciting to be asked to represent and talk about the program! You can read the Forbes article online here.

I’ll write about some of the steps for making this transition Kris and I developed, in an upcoming post.