Career Advice for Army Second Lieutenants

In this post, I want to share some career advice and tips for Army Second Lieutenants.  As a brand new Second Lieutenant, you are just starting to figure the Army out. Chances are you are a recent college graduate.  It’s probably your first “real job” and in most cases you really don’t know what to do.

I know that when I was a brand new Second Lieutenant, I didn’t know much.  I wish I would have had someone sit me down and share with me the advice I am about to share with you.  Listed below, you will find 10 things you can do to launch your career and separate yourself from your peers.

10. Set Some Career Goals

As a Second Lieutenant, you probably won’t know what you want out of your military career.  You might think you do, but since you don’t have much experience in the Army yet, you won’t honestly know your career objectives.  What I suggest you do is to sit down with a pen and paper and write down some long-term, mid-term and short-term goals.  These are simply things you think you would like to accomplish while you are in the military.  Sure, these goals might change in the future, but I’ve found that having written goals makes a big difference.  Interview any 100 Lieutenants and I’d bet that no more than two of them have written goals.

9.  Spend as Much Time as Platoon Leader as You Can

If you have the opportunity to spend more than 12 months as  a Platoon Leader, seize that opportunity.  You want as much time as you can get leading troops.  If you end up being a PL for 18 to 36 months, don’t fret.  This is where you will learn LEADERSHIP.  I believe that Platoon Leader is the best job in the Army.  Don’t be in a rush to be XO, Staff Officer or Company Commander.  Hone and develop your own leadership skills while you are a Platoon Leader.  And enjoy the interaction you have with your troops.

8.  Listen and Learn from Your NCOs

Your NCOs will teach you the ropes and give you lots of helpful advice.  Make sure you are open minded enough to listen to them.  I’m not saying you have to follow them blindly or do everything they recommend, but at least get their advice.  They have a lot of experience and can provide some valuable insights.  Work closely with your Platoon Sergeant and learn from them.

7. Do NOT Try to be Your Soldiers’ Friend

Quite perhaps the biggest mistake I see new Platoon Leaders make is they try and be their Soldiers’ friend.  You have to remember that you are the LEADER, not everyone’s friend.  By all means, get to know your Soldiers.  But NEVER become buddy-buddy with them, go out drinking with them, or spend lots of time with them.  When you do this, you might gain some new friends but you will lose your credibility as the leader.  After all, it’s hard to punish your drinking buddy or friend when they mess up!

6. Start a Reading Program

One of the best things you can do as a young Lieutenant is start reading.  Read AT LEAST one or two books a month about military leadership, history, military history, leadership, communication, problem solving, people skills and other books.  This will help sharpen your skills.

5.  Help Your Peers

Do not look at your peers as the competition.  Do what you can to become friends with the other Platoon Leaders and help them whenever you can.  If you are naturally good at something, and one of your peers is not good at that task, help them out.  Be open minded enough to get help from your peers when you need it.  You are all part of the same organization working toward the same goals.  As you progress your career, many of your peers will become your friends, and maybe even your boss one day.

4.  Complete BOLC As Soon As Possible

Don’t procrastinate with getting enrolled in BOLC.  Try to get it completed BEFORE you even get to your first unit.  This sounds like simple advice but many people drop the ball on this one.

3.  Consider Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger, or Another Professional Development School

One of the quickest ways to separate yourself from your peers is to attend professional development schools.  Try to get at least one professional development school done while you are a brand new Second Lieutenant.  It’s time well invested.

2. Learn About Your Unit History

Another smart thing to do is to study up on your unit’s history.  Learn everything you can about your own unit.  This will increase your knowledge and increase the pride you have about your unit.

1. Read Army Regulations

This is quite perhaps my best piece of career advice.  Read every regulation, FM, ARTEP, and other pieces of doctrine you can find. This will help increase your technical and tactical proficiency and you will learn a lot of helpful things that will make you a better leader.  Try to read one to two regulations per month.   Build up a library at home with everything you read.

Final Thoughts

These are just 10 career tips I have to help new Army Second Lieutenants succeed.  I would love to hear what you think.  Please leave a comment below to share any career tips you might have for new Army Second Lieutenants.

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7 thoughts on “Career Advice for Army Second Lieutenants”

  1. I think Second Lieutenant’s have a hard time dealing at first. Trying to find their place, where they fit in. Not realizing that there is a divide between NCOs and Officers. With some NCO leaders who have been in the trenches for awhile, not taking kindly to someone fresh out of college without experience telling them what to do. This can be disheartening in the beginning. Realizing that you CAN’T be friends necessarily. Use it to your advantage. Talk to the NCO in charge and let them know you respect their position and their experience. This will go a long way in fostering relationships, building comaraderie and garnering respect.

    1. It can also be just as challenging to be a prior NCO before commissioning. A lot of us try to do our old NCO duties, whoops…A gentle reminder from the PSG is usually all we need on that end, though.

  2. You offer great advice for second lieutenants who are just getting their feet wet here. I agree with the part about not being the soldier’s friend, but I would also add to not act like you are on a power trip either. There is a fine line. This also follows along with listening to NCOs. They know the ropes and you can learn a lot from them.

    Another part I love about this post is how Chuck pushes reading. Read books; you can learn so much from reading. The Army Regulations, I feel, should be first on this list. You need to know the regs inside and out.

    Again Chuck, I commend you on this post and feel that you should put all of these together into a book format.

    1. Good point Greg about not being arrogant or on a power trip. LTs are not better than their Soldiers. Problems just arise when you become their friend. It’s hard to discipline a friend. It’s hard to give punishments to people you’ve been out drinking with and done some dumb things with. I think it’s just easier to keep the distance. By all means, get to know them, but remember that you only need to manage two levels down! That means the LT should be working with the PSG and Squad Leaders. If they do much else, they are really stepping out of their lane and doing their subordinate’s jobs for them.

      1. You are absolutely correct. A Second LT needs to walk a fine line. No power trip, but not overly friendly either. I believe that if the 2nd LT keeps themselves busy with other things, such as BOLC, airborne school, etc… they will earn more respect, and it will also give them a great excuse as why they cannot go out drinking. Being a 2nd LT is a lot like being a freshman in college.

        1. It’s easier if you keep distance, but going out once in awhile can also raise morale (seen it happen). It is all about being smart about it. Don’t put yourself in a compromising position.

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