After four years at a service academy and a year as an Army officer, Brian knew what it was like to “adapt and overcome.” But then life threw him a huge curveball: a career-ending training injury that thrust him into the civilian job market at the height of the recession.
“Like many other twenty somethings,” Brian says, “I was forced to move back in with my parents while attempting to come up with a plan for my future.” (In these economic climes, 40-60% of twenty somethings move back home at some point, or plan to!)
Within a year, he crossed the country to begin a PhD program in History, with the intention to become a university professor… only to discover that it wasn’t the career path he wanted to pursue either. Brian realized what many JMOs need to consider when they leave the military: your transition is the ultimate opportunity to reinvent your personal brand.
“Consider this an advantage,” Brian advises, “In the future, your personal brand will be defined by your education and career experience… Each future decision will affect your brand, so consider each option carefully with an eye to your long-term objectives.”
For Brian, that meant focusing on what he truly loved: technology.
“I focused on my career contemplation until I developed a laser-like focus on the objective of becoming a ‘techie’ and subject matter expert in a large firm with a technology focus, based out of a major city.”
Does a goal get any more defined than that? Armed with his objective, Brian left the PhD program within a year, landing a job with one of the world’s largest publicly traded technology companies. It’s obvious that he loves his job, and has found something many JMOs actively seek in their transition: career fulfillment. He’s now a standout at his firm, one of the top-performing technical experts in his age group.
What I love about Brian’s story is his non-linear path; while many of us have a choice in when we transition, he was absolutely blindsided. He hit a few bumps in the road, but in the end those led him to precisely the career he wanted. Brian is now active in his local veterans’ community, and readily gives advice to others making a similar transition or dissatisfied with their jobs. He’s already adding a few more books to my reading list!
Brian’s Tips for Success: “Take some time off for contemplation.”
- Don’t be afraid to change your initial plan. “Some of you may be familiar with Helmuth von Moltke the Edler’s famous dictum that ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy.’ Despite your best intentions, you’ll quite possibly find that your dream civilian job/grad program is not as good a fit for you as you imagined. Fear not! There is nothing wrong with this… If you find yourself in an unfulfilling job or educational program, don’t feel the need to ‘stick it out’.”
- Do your homework, and READ! “It may seem tedious, but determining your dream career will be one of the most important assignments of your life.” Brian recommends the books What Color is Your Parachute?, The Pathfinder, The Start-up of You, and Me 2.0. (Glad my parents got me an Amazon gift card for my birthday!)
- Don’t hide out in grad school. “Be conservative… some fields treat degrees as a prerequisite, but most don’t. Only go back to school when you have been advised by expert mentors in your target industry/company that such a degree is required. Just because you have the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t mean you have to use it right away. Wait until you have a better understanding of your career ambitions and practical industry experiences… this is especially true for generalist degrees like the MBA, which offer such dramatically different fields of specialization.”
- Network. “My biggest suggestion is that you immediately get on LinkedIn and make your profile shine. Join veteran and alumni groups and find individuals in those groups that work in industries and companies you are interested in. Schedule informational interviews with these individuals and set up opportunities to shadow them during their day-to-day jobs. This will help you learn about yourself, different industries, and potential employers.”
- Don’t let others distract your from your goal. “You will be distracted by a lot of unsolicited opinions from friends, families, classmates, and military headhunters. My personal opinion is that you should keep all of these resources at arm’s length until you have a specific career target in sight. If you don’t do this, their gravitational pull will quite possibly take you to a career path that you do not enjoy.”