Last month’s focus was on the resources I utilize daily to stay up to date. As individuals’ transition or experience life events, there is no shortage of information or advice, including this blog. However, it’s important to identify relevant vs. irrelevant information. Throughout most transitions, individuals will be inundated with checklists, training sessions, certification opportunities, and administrative obstacles. Each is important since they all play a role, but their individual composition will contain relevant and irrelevant information. Being able to identify early on what’s relevant to you is paramount. I’m not saying that the information you find irrelevant is not beneficial to someone else, you just need to ensure that you’re focusing on the material that is applicable and supports your plan.

The Plan

I’m supposed to have a plan!?!? Well yes… Whether it survives is another matter entirely. As an example, it was my intention to take time off after retiring from the Marine Corps. I was going to tinker around the house, conduct terrain analysis (aka golf), and assess the local fish population. This is not exactly what happened, but what did happen was way better. Now I say it was my intent to take some time off, but that does not mean I didn’t have a plan or prepare for my transition. I still built my LinkedIn profile, made connections, created and refined my various resumes, attended transition classes, practiced interviewing techniques, sought out mentors and even applied for a few jobs. Why do all this if you’re planning to unplug? Relevancy! Just as the information you digest should be relevant, YOU must remain relevant within the marketplace.

Identify Key Sources

Similar to the requirements when preparing a research paper, you need to constantly identify key sources and people that will assist you in obtaining relevant information that can be turned into knowledge. Sergeant Dakota Meyer, USMC (Ret.) and Medal of Honor recipient, mentioned this during a speech at this year’s Hiring our Hero’s BRAVO conference. As you can imagine, being awarded the Medal of Honor is quite a life event. Dakota said that early on he would retrieve business cards from everyone he met. In turn, he would e-mail each contact after the event to follow-up. Contingent on the responsiveness of each individual, cards would be systematically filed. Anyone that replied was separated from the ones that didn’t. In addition, Dakota mentioned he wrote notes on the back of each business card. I’ve heard this from multiple sources and can attest to its effectiveness. Why do all this? To build a relevant network! Just adding people to your network is not enough. You should seek a diverse portfolio that is willing to engage with you. There are lots of people that just want to connect to drive their connection rate up, likewise there are others who are uber selective when it comes to connection requests. I’ve found success by aiming in the middle and connecting with those where relevancy is a two-way street.

Putting it all Together

Finally, let’s talk about information versus knowledge. Author Robert Anthony once said, “some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.” There is no shortage of information, but how do we turn it into knowledge? We combine it with analysis and experience. One of my most influential mentors once told me that after learning something new, let it percolate for 72-hours. If it seems just as relevant after 3-days as it did when you were initially exposed, you’re on to something. If not, move on. I read, or listen to in most cases, books regularly. I also listen to podcasts and review news via the resources discussed last month. Every day I come across information that I find interesting, but regardless of how intriguing I think the material is, I apply the 72-hour rule. This allows time to analyze the information and discuss with others if I have no relevant experience.

In the End

Transitions and life events are challenging. They are filled with uncertainty and unknowns so there is no reason to apply additional layers of complication. By embracing relevant information through key sources, you will be able to obtain the knowledge that will assist in your journey between chapters. At least that was the case for me…