Maybe I could do that? The pay is good…
But I don’t know anything about it?
How long will it take for me to learn?
What if I am no good at it?
What if I end up hating it?
Ehh, probably wouldn’t work out anyway.
I definitely can’t leave the military until I know EXACTLY what I want to do.
Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. I had the same exact train of thought each time I thought about what I would do IF I got out of the military.
So much doubt, so much uncertainty about what profession or field I should enter IF I got out.
But eventually that IF became a WHEN.
How did that happen? What changed? How was I able to break the cycle?
Realize what question you are trying to answer
The question that I thought I kept asking myself was “What will I do when I get out of the military?” instead what I was ACTUALLY asking myself was “What do I want to do with my life?”
Those are two very different questions, and again one of the 4 Villains of Decision Making reared its ugly head in my mind and corrupted my logic.
If you do not correctly frame the question or problem you are trying to solve you are destined to fail.
By asking what you want to do with your life instead of just what do I want to do after the military you are putting undue strain and pressure on an already difficult and complex decision: whether to get out of the military or not.
“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…
the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t” – Baz Luhrmann
Know what you don’t want
One that the best way to become the leader you want to be is by focusing on the things you don’t want to be known for as a leader instead of trying to only emulate the qualities of leaders you aspire to become. Hate how your supervisor talks to you and treats you? Cool. Don’t be that guy.
The same logic can be applied here.
If you KNOW that the military isn’t for you – don’t be disheartened – if anything congratulations. You have now canceled out an entire career field.
Start by canceling out the things that you don’t want to do and then tighten up your shot group.
Reflect on your time in service and think about the things that you disliked the most? Do you like time in the field or in garrison? Don’t want a desk job? Awesome. You can learn a trade.
Hate the field? Sweet. Find something indoors.
But I still need to know EXACTLY what I want to do.
No you don’t. Not really.
If you do, mazel tov. You’re ahead of the crowd.
Don’t feel bad that you don’t know EXACTLY what you want to do. Most people have no idea what they want to do and the secret is you literally have a lifetime to think about it.
But you still have to sustain yourself as you figure all of that out, you can’t just lie in the meadow and stare up at the clouds daydreaming.
No, you are an adult – time to get shit done.
Food, shelter, clothing, transportation, insurance, etc. All those things cost money therefore you need an income.
What you need is a decent to good paying job that provides benefits while you grow accustomed to civilian life. Or if even go the school/college route. Regardless, enter into a field or area of study that you are interested in and gain experience. That’s it.
Your first job won’t be your dream job or dream company or dream salary. No one starts off at the top of the mountain and right now you are at base camp. And that’s ok. There’s hot cocoa and bourbon. Its delicious.
Find a new area of operations, establish your assembly area, pull security, and plan your next objective. You are placing too much pressure on yourself.
What is important after your transition is to not pigeonhole yourself in that you have to be adaptable. There may be a whole new career field that you didn’t even know about or didn’t think you could do or didn’t think you would like. You cannot predict the future.
Bloom where you are planted
None of this means that if you are in a field that you thought you would like and after a few months you don’t like it so its ok to quit and move on – WRONG. You need to stay in that role or company for at least a year, and if you can with that company for 3-5 years.
Why you ask? Because now you are building an actual resume and career. Imagine if you were the hiring manager and you received an application or resume from a candidate that recently separated from the military, took a role with company X, then left after a few months. What would you think about that candidate? That they are dependable? Will they jump ship on you just as fast?
Staying with a company for an extended period shows commitment to future employers and also allows you to grow your network, learn, and decide where you would like to go next.
If you take entry role after entry role without moving to positions of greater responsibility, then you are simply wasting your time. Climb up a few rungs and then move to another firm without losing what you have gained.
The chart above depicts you bouncing around from one company to the next during the first three years of your transition. At the start of your fourth year, you found a company that “you could stick with” for an extended period of time and advanced later on.
Compare that with the chart below:
Which route would you choose? Obviously the latter. So what does this mean about my military transition? Whatever role you do take, ensure that it is something that you can live with for three to five years. Compare it to a PCS: generally you will only spend roughly 3-4 years at a duty station before you move onto another.
Take the pressure off of yourself, but still commit. The goal isn’t to find the job you love rather you are just looking for a job that you like that pays.