I’m a big fan of personal development and career planning. During my 15+ years in the Army, I learned several valuable lessons that really helped me stand out in the crowd and get promoted at a minimum time in grade. Therefore, I want to share some helpful tips that will help you launch your military career and potentially help you move up through the ranks quicker.
# 1 Set Goals
The most important thing you can do to launch your military career is to set written goals. It’s a proven fact that less than one in one hundred people have written goals. You should take the time to set your career goals and then do your backward planning to set your five year, one year and one-month goals. You should post your written goals on your refrigerator at home and carry a copy with you at all times so you can refer to it. Most importantly, you should track your progress every single month so you know whether you are staying on course or not.
# 2 Find a Mentor
Everyone needs a mentor. If you don’t have a mentor in your unit, don’t fret. Most people don’t! But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from your leaders. I recommend you find a mentor outside of your unit that you can sit down with once every 90 days to review your progress and solve any challenges you might have. Ideally, you want to find a mentor who has already accomplished what you are trying to accomplish. For example, if your goal is to be a Lieutenant Colonel by the time you retire, I recommend you find a retired Lieutenant Colonel and have them be your mentor.
As you develop your skills; or as the years pass, you might outgrow your mentor. That’s perfectly normal. When that happens, just find another mentor. In addition, another great way to find a mentor is through books. Most of the things I’ve learned during my career, I learned from reading.
Most importantly, when you find a mentor be sure to humble yourself. Ask a few questions and listen. Let them do most of the talking and teaching. Don’t ask for ideas and then shut out everything they mention because you don’t agree with it. Be the student and let the teacher teach.
# 3 Associate with Successful People
Another way to launch your military career is to network with successful people. Regardless of your current rank you should network with others. You should meet successful NCOs and Officers in your unit, outside your unit and at higher echelons. You want to establish a great reputation and have people know who you are and what you bring to the table. You have to remember that people will promote and hire people they know, like and trust. If you don’t network with others, you are really behind the power curve.
You need a game plan to network. You should join a few associations; build a Rolodex of names of everyone you meet, and volunteer for activities and events. Make sure you participate in the mandatory fund events. And when you are out and about, don’t be scared to stick out your hand and introduce yourself to people.
# 4 Get 1% Better Every Day
I learned about this concept from one of my mentors, Brian Tracy. His concept is to try and improve yourself one percent every single day. You can do this by taking on new tasks, reading new books, meeting new people, evaluating your experiences, learning from your mistakes and many other things. It’s the process of continuous improvement. If you get better one percent every day, you will be 365% at the end of a year and nearly 7300% better at the end of your 20-year military career. Most people simply float through their career and don’t actively try and get one percent better every single day. If you do, you will be glad that you did.
These are my four top ways to launch your military career and have the career you deserve. Of course, it is implied that you are professional and competent. Without those two things, you are doomed anyway. I hope you will take the advice from this post and implement it in your career.
What are your thoughts? Leave your opinions and questions below. Thank you.