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BY petevanepps

Considering a Military Transition Reason: Control My Career

When I ask Junior Military Officers (JMOs) why they are considering a military transition, I often hear “I want to control my career.” This response makes sense because in the military, for the most part, someone else manages their career – typically either their Branch Manager or Detailer. Officers don’t have to think about when they will get promoted because as long as their performance is at least on par with their peers, there is a high likelihood for promotion.

In Corporate America, the person most interested in managing your career has to be you! I often field questions from Cameron-Brooks alumni who have been working in business for a year to 18 months and sometimes they are frustrated. They feel like they are ready to be promoted, but this is uncharted territory because for all of their professional life up to this point, someone else told them when they will be promoted and where they will go next. In most of those conversations, I offer similar advice.

Be patient! In business, new opportunities “pop up” where a week ago, the role wasn’t available. The role could have come available because of a promotion, a new role being created, someone leaving the company unexpectedly or something else. There are always opportunities around the corner for high performing team members.

Be ready! When an opportunity does present itself, you want to be in the best position possible and be ready to interview. I recommend you do this in two ways.

1.) Build a professional network: In the military, while helpful, this is not necessary. Regardless of your network, if you do a good job and wait your turn, you will be promoted. In business, almost every career path is not linear. That means that people zig and zag their way up the ladder. The people who do this best have professional relationships with managers and decision makers that are lateral to the track they are currently on. Basically, they do a good job being “known” in the company. When an opportunity becomes available, they already know the hiring manager.

2.) Build your brand: This is the part that high performing JMOs almost always do naturally because this has so much to do with delivering results for the organization, being well-liked, going above and beyond and being seen as credible and reliable. Again, things that many JMOs already do well.

A recent example comes to mind that helps prove the point. I’ve been mentoring a former JMO for about 18 months, and we chat about every 3-4 months. For the first six or so months, things were going well. After our second conversation, he started wondering when he’d be promoted and what he’d do next. He had some ideas, but no one was telling him directly what he’d do next. After being in his first role for about 15 months, frustration started to build because again, he’d always had a clear career path and known when the next position would present itself.

Literally a week after we spoke, a Logistics Manager position opened up in a different part of the organization. Because he’d built a relationship with the hiring manager (not in his direct “chain of command”) and he’d done a very good job in his current role, he interviewed for the role and a week after that was informed that he’d received the promotion! After going through it once, he now has a better understanding of how opportunities present themselves within the business world. Now he is better equipped to manage his career and prepare for fortuitous career circumstances moving forward.

If you are considering a military transition and wishing for more control over your career, we go much deeper into the topic of Career Management in Chapter 10 of PCS to Corporate America by Roger Cameron. If you want to discuss this topic with me further, I’ll be glad to help.

Pete Van Epps