So you are thinking about joining the military and want to make good choices regarding your career from the start. Whether you decide to have a long successful career and retire or you want to be a short timer and get out after your first contract you can have a very successful career post military as a contractor or in the civilian sector. How fast you become successful depends how you spend your time while you are in the military but we will talk about that in another article. Will you have a job in the military that is marketable in the contracting world or the civilian sector? Most people who have been in the military have a marketable skill they can carry over to the contracting world or the civilian sector once they get out. I would like to say all of those who get out have the experience needed to become successful even though I hear some former military personnel say that is not the case and they learned nothing of value in the military. As hard as that is for me to believe I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say there may be a small percentage of people getting out of the military that have no skills to use in the contracting world or civilian job market. If that is the case they probably did not take the time to pick a good career path in the military and did not take any classes while they were in. I will discuss ways you can avoid getting yourself in this situation. At the very least make sure you get the GI bill when you enlist this way you have money for school you can use once you get out of the military. If you want there are ways to use your GI bill while you are still in the military so that is one option you have to increase your marketability before you get out.
When you finally make your decision to join and take that trip to the recruiter you should do a few things before you go there. Remember this is a big decision and the choices you make now will affect your career path for the next three or more years depending on the length of your enlistment. This is not going to be something you can quit if you don’t like it or change jobs into another field after a year. You are picking the career you are going to be in for at least three to four years. The military uses a test called the ASVAB test that they give you so they know what jobs you qualify for. If you pick a field you want to work in you must have a high enough ASVAB score before they let you enlist in the job field. Go to the ASVAB page on military.com to take the tests and see how you do. You can also see the minimum ASVAB scores needed for each job and see if you will be able to qualify. Go to the military.com ASVAB test tips page to see how you can prepare for the test to get the best possible score you can. While you are doing this take the time to explore the different jobs the military branches have and find the ones you think best suit you. You will want to look at jobs that will carry over into a successful career once you get out of the military as much as jobs that you believe are the right fit for you.
One thing you should know about joining a specific branch is that the whole trash talking recruiters do about other branches is just to get you to join their branch. Do not pay any attention to it and pick the branch that can give you what you want. Go to the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy websites and see what career fields they have. There are some good placement tests on these sites (Army Placement Test and Navy Placement Test) that have you pick your level of interest in different categories and then it compiles your answers to give you a list of jobs that you showed interest in. From there you should research the job market for each job and see what the job growth projections are in the civilian sector in that industry for the next five to ten years. A great place to start your research on an industries future outlook is the Bureau of Labor website. They have very good information on their statistics page and there top 30 fastest-growing occupations from 2006 – 2016. Remember you only get out what you put into something and the military is no different. The military can open many doors for you and can teach you very marketable skills you can use when you are finished with your military career no mater if it is for four years or twenty years. Like all careers though the best way to have a successful one is by planning it out.
Once you have picked your top few job choices and have taken the practice tests for the ASVAB its time to see if you qualify for those positions. Visit your local recruiters and see what each branch has to offer. Start with the Air Force then go to the Navy, Army and then the Marines. The only reason I say do it in that order is because the Air Force and Navy are not near as pushy as the Army and the Marines. If you go to the Marines first every time they see you going to another branch to talk to them they are going to talk trash to you and get pushier each time. It is almost like they are bullying you to join there branch. I know this because I joined the Marines and every time the recruiters from the Marines or the Army saw me going to other branches it was like a freaking heckling session. I chose the Marines because they were the only ones that had a slot open for my first choice. My personality is one that does not get rattled and I was not going to be swayed from doing my homework and finding the best fit for me. I do however see how some people could get very put off by this or let it effect there decision making. It is best to save the pushier recruiters till last.
Once you find a branch that has the slot you want and the best package all around it is time to take the ASVAB test. Do not sign anything until you pass your test with the score you need to get the job you want. If they say you have to sign before they give you the test it is a lie so either go to another branch to take the test or go to another town and try the recruiters there. If you do not get the score you need do not take a lesser job just go back to studying for the test again until you think you are ready and try it all over again. If you get the same score the second time it may be time to see if you qualify for one of your other top choices. But if you improved your test score by a significant amount you might want to think about studying a little more and taking the test a third time. Either way you will probably score high enough to get placed in one of your top choices if not you will have to do your research again and pick from the jobs you do qualify for. Remember though when you first start out shoot for the moon and do not sell your self short. A low test score only shows you what areas you need to work on so do not get discouraged and continue to work on improving yourself. Take the test as many times as you need to so you can get a job that you believe will help you out in the future. Not everyone is going to qualify for every job the first time it takes hard work and lots of study time if need be. I talked about picking the branch that has the best package earlier. By this I mean if more then one branch has a slot for your choice of jobs pick the one that has a better bonus program or gives you more money for college. Ask about training requirements for promotion in that field. That is the one area where I made a mistake. My chosen field was a very good one for opportunities post military but while I was in the military my specific job area was closed for promotion for about three years.
Once you find the best package and the job you want it is time to finally decide if this is what you want to do. When you sign on that dotted line you are committing to about four years of your life to active service and the following four years to inactive service where they can call you back if they want to. With stop loss in effect you could end up being in uniform longer than you thought. It is a big decision that is not for everybody and the possibility of you seeing combat is very real. Take the time to think about it and if you decide this is the career path you want to take realize the person you are now will dramatically change. You will learn to be discipline and that there is no such thing as “I can’t do this” or “it can’t be done”. Most people who join the military become much more confident in themselves and there abilities. They will teach you how to succeed and with the experience and knowledge you gain form your chosen profession you will be able to carry your experience with you when you join the civilian or contracting workforce once you retire or choose to get out at the end of your contract.