Today, I want to share some career advice and career tips for Army Majors. Please keep in mind that this advice is geared toward Army National Guard and Army Reserve Majors, not Active Duty Army Majors. These are tips that I learned during my own career through personal experience, plus some valuable insights from some of my successful mentors. Enjoy.
# 1 Serve in a Battalion – Ideally, you want to spend most of your time as a Major in a battalion. Each battalion in the Army normally has two to three Majors in it. When you work in a battalion you are a big fish in a little pond. If you choose to work as a Major on a Brigade Staff or Division Staff you will be a little fish in a big ocean. As far as your professional development is concerned, I think that serving in a battalion will be more beneficial to you in the long run, and short-term. At a minimum, get two years experience in a battalion BEFORE moving to Brigade or Division Staff.
# 2 Get the Right Jobs – Not all jobs are created equal. There are many different jobs you can have as a Major depending upon which unit you are assigned to and what your branch is. If possible, you want to get certain jobs, specifically Battalion S3, Battalion XO, followed by Primary Brigade Staff Officer. Those are the best jobs you can have, especially if you want to get promoted to LTC and be a Battalion Commander one day.
# 3 Complete ILE As Soon As Possible – Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your Intermediate Level Education (ILE). I suggest you enroll in the course within 6 months of pinning on Major. It will take you approximately a year or two to finish the course, so the sooner you can get started the better. I’ve seen so many people passed over for promotion to LTC simply because they never finished ILE. Don’t let that happen to you, Major!
# 4 Consider Getting a Second Branch – As a young Major, it can be a wise move to get a second branch. Yes, you will typically need to complete a different Captain’s Career Course to do it, but it’s worth it. Not all branches in the ARNG or USAR offer equal upward mobility. Some branches peak out at Major. I suggest you sit down with your S1 and see what types of upward mobility opportunities there are for your branch. Look across the entire state and see how many different branch specific and branch immaterial positions there are. If there aren’t many options to choose from, get a second branch. I also recommend having a branch in the combat arms and another branch in either combat support or combat service support. And if you decide not to get a second branch, consider getting an Additional Skills Identifier such as Public Affairs, Information Operations, or something similar.
# 5 Expand Your Network – As a new Major, you are the bottom of the barrel in the field grade officer ranks. Now is the time to start networking your way to success. You need to get your name out there and let other people of influence know what you bring to the table. You should start meeting senior Colonels, Generals, and Sergeant’s Majors to expand your network. Attend unit and state level functions and events, strive to meet new people and create a favorable impression of yourself. Ideally, you want people to know you, like you and trust you so they will notify you when opportunities are available.
# 6 Finish Your Master’s Degree – You don’t have to have a Master’s Degree to get promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, but having one doesn’t hurt your cause. If you don’t already have a Master’s Degree, consider going to night school or taking classes online. In most cases, you can finish a degree in one to three years, depending upon how many courses you take each semester. Getting a degree will give you a slight edge over your peers who don’t have a Master’s Degree.
# 7 Know Your Minimum Time in Grade – As of 2013, the minimum time in grade as a Major to be elgibile for promotion to LTC is 4 years. Most Majors will spend four to seven years as a Major. Ideally, you want to get your BN XO and S3 job done in your first two to three years as a Major, and finish your ILE around the same time, so you can get promoted to LTC at minimum time in grade. This beats going to a DA Board any day of the week.
# 8 Don’t Forget Where You Came From – My final career tip for Army Majors is “don’t forget where you came from.” Don’t let your new promotion go to your head. Never forget what it was like to be a young and inexperienced company grade officer. Make sure that you set aside time each month to help and mentor the people that work for you. By all means, you want to keep a professional “distance” from your company grade officers and not be their friend, BUT you still need to be their mentor and leader. Stay grounded and be humble!
In summary, serving as a Major is often considered the worst rank in the Army. Some people love it. Others hate it. You won’t be a Major forever, and if you want to advance your career and get promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, you need a game plan. Follow the tips I mentioned above and you will be well on your way.
What are your thoughts? What are your best career tips for Army Majors? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.