Transitioning Tips: Defining your Five W’s

Why. What. Who. Where. When.
Written by Geoffrey Phillips on Sep 18, 2019
Transitioning Tips: Defining your Five W’s

At some point in your life, you may have heard of the Five W’s. These are questions that provide the answers in basic troubleshooting, problem solving, or information gathering. The Five W’s consist of: who, what, when, where, and why. The concept of these are used widely universally, and can be applied in business, project management, journalism, and more.

As a transitioning service member, the definition of the five W’s can aid greatly in your transition. They can provide answers, and possibly guide you on the right path as you make the switch to civilian life. Let’s take a further look at each, and where specifically they can assist.

Why. Asking why should be your first question during your transition.

Why am I seeking to go to school, stay at home, or work full time?
Why should I choose any of these options, and are there more or better choices for myself and family?
Why is my transition important, and what do I need assistance with?


What are my skills, and abilities, and where can they be applied?
What are my strengths and weaknesses, and what can I do to work on them?
What are my desires after I leave the military? What do I want to do with my life?


Who is important to me during my transition, and what will I do to support them?
Who is in my network, and who can I provide assistance to during my transition efforts?
Who do I need to contact to help me with my transition efforts?


Where do I see myself in 5, 10, 15 years, and what actions to I need to take to get there?
Where do my family and I desire to live (location)?
Where do I want to work or go to school?


When will I start school or work, and do I have an actionable plan in place?
When do I need to work, and when will I have to work (financial)?
When do I need to start contacting folks in my network?

As you scanned through the brainstormed list of questions, hopefully they triggered some emotions and ignited your critical thinking! You probably noticed that many questions of the Five W’s are mixed together. There are some where’s mixed with what’s, and some why’s mixed with other components. The questions are meant to trigger responses for you to consider during your transition and to create an actionable plan that will move you towards success.

What’s next?

It’s quite simple, really. Grab a notepad, and a pen. Write out the Five W’s, and give yourself plenty of space for inputs. If your feeling eager, use a separate page for each of the W’s, or use a note app on your phone.

Start brainstorming the Five W’s of your transition. Try to spend a bit of time thinking of all the components of your transition and list out your important tasks.

As an example, if finding and securing a job is crucial to you and your family’s needs, start with why this is important, what you need to do to secure said job, who you need to contact to assist you, where you will start, and when you will start to job hunt. Expand the list and refer back to it during your transition efforts.

Remember, the Five W’s are widely used in business, and in basic information gathering. They are a simple and highly effective tool to aid you in your transition efforts!