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Lessons from the Other Side of a Second Career

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Restarting my blog after an extremely taxing Peak is always a challenge, but this time not only did I have a Peak to recover from but also the simultaneous Launch of a new facility. At least that is my excuse for not writing more and for breaking a three-year tradition and getting my first article out in January. I am also like many of you…it is hard to half heartedly do something that you love to do. Oh my, so now I am blaming my desire for perfection – in the end it is just another excuse to be honest and it is time to get busy. That said, I selected the topic for this article on December 15 as I contemplated whether this second career was actually working out. All signs point to yes. This blog will look at why I believe that to be so.

Continued connection with friends, increased communication with family, hobbies and secondary activities have all contributed to my transitional success; in addition, I would highlight the development of deep and meaningful relationships with workmates has also energized me to the level of my former military comradeships. Notice that I have not listed a single thing about the job itself, work-life balance, the commute or demanding bosses. Sure, all of those things play a part as well, but ultimately, I know that I would not be having a successful second career without all of the soft attributes that I initially highlighted.

There’s a lot in transition that Amazon has given me, but one of the most important things has been the establishment of connections with those that have either needed or wanted my help. To my surprise, I have continued to mentor leaders on a larger scale than even when I was in the military. Part of that is because of the blog and the reach that I have established through its readership, but a large portion of relationships that I have are through referrals from fellow leaders from within Amazon as well as former military connections. So, no matter what my current work position is I am still able to share my experience and continue to grow as a leader.

Early on I recognized that if I only focused on what I was doing that it would not sustain me over a long period of time or even a short successful career at Amazon. I developed this win in the margins mentality and gave myself the permission to focus on things other than work. I make the time to call my Mom every day, I spent one whole two-week vacation where I ate lunch with a different friend each afternoon, I blog and most importantly I plot what’s next. Too many folks retire after a long military or civilian career and think that they will be satisfied sitting at home watching TV or working in the yard – maybe, but probably not. Far too many of us lack the direction that will ensure long term relevance. For some that relevance comes in the form of a job or second career; my contention is that your career will be bolstered by those other things that you do in conjunction with meaningful work. In fact. the work does not even have to be meaningful if you stack enough of the other goodness. My opinion of course.

I am blessed to have recognized that work alone is not enough early in my second career. It has powered and informed everything that I have done in the intervening weeks, months and years. I believe that finding this purpose and winning in the margins is the single most important reason why I have one been successful in my career at Amazon. Don’t get me wrong I have had some extremely trying and tough days; I have also had experiences that have challenged my understanding of myself as a leader, but these challenges have always been mitigated by my second career outlook. A call to my Mom, lunch with a friend, or the requirement to meet with someone that I am mentoring provides an instant reset and mandates a clear head and positive attitude. In the end…there is no work issue that survives first contact with Mom or the blunt forthrightness of a German wife. With this type of support maybe my satisfaction with my second career at Amazon was preordained.

Lee Flemming is a retired Army Colonel currently working at Austin 2 (AUS2) Fulfillment Center in Pflugerville, Texas as an Assistant General Manager. Lee is a 28-year Army Veteran with extensive operations and management experience. The Boots2Amazon series includes regular installments meant to inform and educate Service Members and the public about life after the military and transitioning into employment at Amazon.


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