Question: After leaving the Navy, I found a great job with a great team. My boss is a big supporter of my talent, and he’s encouraging me to grow my career in the company. But every time I think of applying for a promotion or other job, I feel that I’d be disloyal to the boss who hired me. Am I thinking about it wrong?
Answer: Congratulations on finding a job and team outside of the military that you’re excited about. While you certainly should show appreciation and regard for the opportunity afforded you, loyalty to your original boss can become problematic if it holds you back from growing in your career.
Loyalty in your civilian career will look different from what you experienced in the military. Neither is right or wrong, just different. In uniform, you understood the rules and expectations around loyalty, duty and commitment to those you serve alongside. The rules were designed to protect you and others.
In the corporate world, these rules are less clear and certainly aren’t necessarily communicated. In the private sector, you’re expected to show loyalty to your employer and not to share company secrets or information, collaborate with their competitors and to give proper advanced notice if you plan to leave the company. You’re supposed to refrain from posting things on social media that could reflect negatively on the company brand and to show yourself as professional when interacting with peers and customers.
Beyond this, some companies may offer specific guidelines around what’s expected. Or they may assume you’d know.
Loyalty to your employer, boss and team in your civilian career doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t take care of yourself and your needs. For instance, if you desire to grow into a leadership role and leave your current team behind, that may mean you seek more influence and ability to impact the company’s mission. This could be a great value-add to your current teammates.
If your boss truly does have your best interests in mind, consider how proud they’ll be if you are promoted and advanced in the company. While they might miss having you on their team, they’d surely be pleased that their hire became even more valuable to the company. Leaders are always happiest when those they’ve coached and mentored succeed.
To manage your communication with your boss and share your interest in growing your career, consider these tips:
1. Thank your boss for their guidance, mentoring and support as you started your post-military career. Where appropriate, indicate areas they directly coached or led you to your current success.
2. Express your desire to stay with the company and interest in growing your contribution. Spell out ways you can add more value to the company’s mission and purpose and share new ideas you’d like to develop.
3. As you interview for internal roles at the company, ask your boss if they’d be willing to mentor you through the process, noting how much you’ll value their insight.
4. If an opportunity is presented to you and you accept, let your boss know in person. Show them the respect and courtesy of a personal communication of your intention. Remind them that you’re excited to grow in the company and you’ll look forward to new ways to collaborate.
Your loyalty to your boss is admirable. Whenever you can, remind yourself that while you’re not in uniform anymore, you still feel commitment to those you serve alongside, albeit now in the private sector. You still can serve your employer, boss and team while putting yourself and your career goals first.
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