If I could offer you just one great career tip as an Army Soldier, it would be this: begin with the end in mind. One of my mentors, Stephen Covey (now deceased) wrote the famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To me, this was a life-changing book. One of the lessons he taught in the book was to begin with the end in mind. In other words, you need to know where you want to go if you ever hope of getting there.
When I look across the Army, I seldom find anyone who knows EXACTLY what they want to accomplish in their military career. Rather than having a concrete plan or strategy, they float along and take the assignments and jobs they are given. Personally, I call these people FLOATERS.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not knocking these folks. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you want in your career. But, if you truly want to accomplish something significant, you have to take some time to determine what you really want. Furthermore, I’ve never met a General Officer or Command Sergeant Major who just woke up one day and achieved that rank. In other words, their success did not happen by accident. These successful NCOs and Officers had a game plan and they stuck with their game plan.
If you want to have a successful and fulfilling Army career, you need to begin with the end in mind. You need to set some written career goals and think about what you want to accomplish in your career. What rank do you want to retire as? What jobs do you want? What deployments do you want? What schools do you want? What do you want to be remembered for? How much do you want your pension to be? Spend as much time as it takes and honestly answer these questions. Once you know the answers to these questions, you need to write a mission statement for your career. Here is an example:
My goal is to retire from the Army National Guard with 26 years of service. I will retire as a Lieutenant Colonel. In my last assignment, or prior to retiring, I will serve as a Battalion Commander of a combat unit. I will complete the Army War College prior to retiring. When I retire, I will qualify for a monthly pension of $2,000 per month when I turn 60. Finally, I will position myself for a job as a government contractor at the state headquarters.
When you begin with the end in mind, you have a clear purpose. You know what you want to accomplish. You can then do your backwards planning and determine the actions steps you must do along the way to reach your ultimate objectives. You will know what jobs and schools you need and when you need them. Simply put, you will be a person of action, someone who knows who they are and what they want. Once you know how to do that, you have a 99% chance of reaching your goals.
If you get nothing else out of this post, please follow Stephen Covey’s advice and “begin with the end in mind.” Determine what you want in your military career, whether it is a four year career or thirty year career. Be as specific and as clear as possible. Use the example I provided and then tailor it to your goals. If you can do that, you will be well on your way to success.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you have any questions? Please post them below.