JMO OPTEMPO and Time to Prepare for a Business Career

As I travel to military bases and meet face-to-face with Junior Military Officers (JMOs), I am finding that the combination of the high military OPTEMPO and the enormous amount of information on business and a career transition is overwhelming some JMOs and causing them to inadequately plan and prepare for a successful transition.  The consequences of poor planning and preparation can lead to a poor career search and not getting in the right industry, company and position to launch a career, which ultimately leads to changing careers one to several times early in the new career.

On average, college graduates change positions 3.1 times in their first 4 years after graduation.  Bad advice and poor goal setting, planning and preparation cause this.  Most college graduates look for a “job” upon graduation.  A job is a task that you routinely perform in return for pay.  Sounds interesting, right?  If that is their focus, they are not thinking about their 5-year career plan and goals, and instead are leaving one job in search of a “better” job.  They never establish themselves in a company and industry and develop a track record of accomplishments and experience.  As a result, companies do not assign them significant real responsibility knowing there is a high likelihood of turnover.  For the first 4 years or so, these recent college graduates have done little to improve their marketability and develop a track record for a career (the natural progression of one’s professional life, very different from the definition of a job).

How does the college graduate’s experience relate to the JMO with the high OPTEMPO with no time to prepare?  With high OPTEMPO and enormous amount of information available, some JMOs fail to prepare or focus on the wrong information.  Yet, the consequences for JMOs are much higher because the JMOs are older, more mature and have developed significant leadership skills to launch into corporate careers with future opportunity for high-level leadership positions.  Companies expect the JMO to make good decisions resulting from planning and preparation.  Although it is not good for either the JMOs or graduates to change jobs so frequently, companies expect more from the JMO with so much more experience. 

In essence, when JMOs start a career and then change in the first few years, it is a “do over.”  I do not know of one JMO who made a career change in the first few years and it was a significant step up in career opportunity; in fact, it is usually a step back to the types of positions other JMOs are accepting right out of the military.  Therefore, the JMOs who take the “do over” throw away their few years of business experience and start all over. 

Here is my advice to JMOs making the transition and wanting to get it right the first time: 

  1. Get current and accurate information.  There is so much information out there, and not all of it applies to JMOs.  An example is the unemployment rate.  In Honolulu recently, one JMO complained to me about the high unemployment rate of 9.4% and his fears.  I asked him, “What would you say if I said the unemployment rate is 5%?  How would you feel?”  He became very positive, and said, “That’s more normal.  It makes me more comfortable.”  I then informed him that although the unemployment rate is 9.4 nationally, it is less than 5% for those with college degrees.  5% is more applicable to him.   How can you get current and accurate information?  I highly recommend a JMO-specific recruiting firm who specifically understands the JMO recruiting market.  They should be able to explain to you their current market, recent career opportunities, and the demand from their clients.  At Cameron-Brooks, we offer webcasts, in-person Information Meetings and Workshops, our blog and our Facebook page as avenues to provide this information.
  2. Set a goal and develop a plan.  The old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  What’s your goal?  In other words, where do you see your career in 5 years?  That’s challenging for some JMOs because they are taught to think in 18-month to 3-year increments.  I had a great example of this today.  I spoke to an Army Intelligence Officer.  She had her resignation in and approved 3 years ago.  She rescinded when the Army offered her a unique assignment in Hawaii and a bonus.  I asked her about her long-term career plan in making that decision, and she said she really did not think about what the impact would be in 3 years after the assignment.  Unfortunately, it did impact her situation and her marketability.  I am not criticizing the decision itself, but rather encouraged her and other JMOs to think/visualize their career 5 years from now and start making decisions and plans to get there.
  3. Prepare.  I know Cameron-Brooks sounds like a broken record on preparation, but it is that important.  You will only get one chance in your life to resign from an organization months to a year in advance and interview with multiple companies in one location.  It will never happen again.  Take advantage of it and be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities.  Also, most importantly, the knowledge you will gain from preparation will increase your decision making abilities and reduce the variability in your career search result, ensuring you successfully launch a career, and not end up a “do over.”
  4. Learn how to prepare.  Again, I recommend a JMO recruiting firm that will spend time meeting with you personally, face-to-face, and get to know you and tailor a preparation program to help you reach those goals.  At Cameron-Brooks, we are able to do that with our Reading Program©, online Resource Center, Podcasts, Webcasts, in-person Information Meetings, Workshops, one-on-one sessions at military bases, and phone and Skype video calls.
  5. Conduct a broad career search.  I highly recommend candidates interview for all opportunities for which they are qualified and in which they are interested.  As I mentioned previously, you will only have one chance to do a career search like this.  No company is going to let you resign months in advance and interview with 10+ companies.  Therefore, interview with a variety of industries, companies and positions.  I compare it to a buffet.  You get to taste a little bit of everything (your initial interviews), then fill your plate with what your really like (your follow-up interviews), and then figure out the course you liked the most (final career decision).  You can be like my daughter Leah and taste everything first and then spit it out if you don’t like it, or you can be like my son Elijah who asks what’s for dinner, and without looking, smelling or tasting, makes his mind up if he likes it or not.  I know who the healthier eater is in my house.

 Cameron-Brooks is an expert in career searches.  With numerous clients from a broad range of industries representing many types of positions, our candidates have the opportunity to conduct a broad career search.

Joel Junker