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Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I have the pleasure of speaking to military officers as they begin the decision-making process regarding staying in the military or getting out and doing something else. Often I get asked directly if I think someone should stay in or get out. While the choice is binary, the decision most certainly is not.
Though not the best of forms, I like to answer that specific question with a question. Where do you see yourself professionally in 15-20 years? If you see your “career” as the natural progression of your professional life, then the decisions you make today will almost certainly affect the path that you are either on or the one you will eventually maneuver towards.
Do you like working for the government? Do you see the mission and role of the government as meaningful or admirable? Can you see yourself being a leader in an agency or department that affects the national or geopolitical landscape from a policy perspective? If so, either stay in the military or leave the military, but stay on the government path in either a Government Service (GS) position or at a defense contractor.
Are you attracted to an environment where the decisions that are made bring value to a customer or optimize internal processes? Do you like the idea of being in a world where efficiency is important, not just because it feels good, but because it directly affects the lifeblood of the organization (profitability). Down the road, can you see yourself as a strategic leader in a business? If so, then set a goal to learn about and prepare a move to Corporate America.
Do you want to work on Wall Street or in the world of finance and trading? If so, get into the best school you can and complete a Masters degree in business, finance or data analytics.
The point is, for the JMO with 4-9 years (typically, but there are certainly exceptions to this time frame), the world is your oyster. You have agency. You get to choose. My advice is to choose with a longer time horizon in mind versus “what does my next assignment look like.” Unfortunately I’ve talked to officers who stayed in for the really attractive next assignment, only to be in a place where they feel frustrated in the role after that one.
So WHAT should you do? Research! Talk to people who have decided to stay in the military AND talk to those who have gotten out. Talk to folks who are in grad school and those who have finished. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for research!
What about the economy? Well, we are on the backside of a global pandemic. We saw unemployment rise to 14.4%. Not so fun fact – the unemployment rate rose faster in 3 months (Apr-Jun ’20) than it did in the two worst years of the Great Depression. And through all of that, I continued to see companies hire leaders! That’s right – even in one of the worst economies this nation has experienced, companies DID NOT STOP hiring leaders. Because of that, I am convinced that short of Armageddon, companies will always hire leaders.
Want to learn more? Let’s have a conversation … and not so I can convince you to get out of the military. I don’t! And you’re probably thinking, “Wait, you are a recruiting firm – don’t you want me to get out?” No, not if it’s not right for you or not if it’s not where you see yourself down the road. I offer a conversation, completely free of charge to explore options! (You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll find a time for a quick chat.)
If you are not ready to talk, let me point you to a few recent podcast episodes that have really helped officers in their process. You can find our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Pandora (search “Cameron-Brooks” or “Above and Beyond”.) Check out Episodes 114, 116 and 118. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Pete Van Epps