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.
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.