Today, I want to share some advice for future Army Officers. This advice could apply to R.O.T.C. Cadets, students at West Point or another military academy, Officer Candidates in OCS, or aspiring officers. What I want to do is simply share a few things for you to think about BEFORE you receive your commission.
# 1 Pick Your Branch Wisely – My first tip for you is to pick your branch wisely. Whether you plan on making a career out of the Army or just doing one tour, you want a branch that you will enjoy, has career upward mobility and prepares you for life after the military. I can’t say that one branch is better than another. Every person is different. Just put some thought into the decision and talk to other current and former Army Officers who served in career fields you are considering. Ask a lot of questions. Research each branch online. Do your best to find one that will be a good fit for you.
# 2 Be a Sponge – Your job is to be a sponge. From now until the time you get your commission (and even thereafter) be a sponge. Soak up the knowledge and wisdom you can from EVERYONE you serve with, especially your NCOs. Don’t think you are an expert or know it all right out of college or the academy. Being confident is one thing, but don’t be arrogant or close minded. There is a lot more that you don’t know than you do know! Learn everything you can about your branch, the Army, leadership, communication, etc.
# 3 Be Prepared for Politics – My third tip is to be prepared for politics. Being an Officer is very political! You might not realize that yet, but you will get first hand experience very quickly. I’m not telling you that you need to be a politician, but you should work on your people skills! Take pride in what you do, be good at what you do, and ALWAYS treat others with respect, whether they outrank you or not. Your job is not to be liked by everyone, but respected. If your people skills are a bit weak, I would take a course on dealing with people or read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
# 4 Know What Officers Do – As an Officer, you will have a unique job. Your REAL JOB is mission planning, training, and leader development. Realize that officers plan and NCOs and enlisted Soldiers execute the plan. Most of your work will be spent behind the scenes with the planning. Talk to a few other Officers and ask them how they spend their typical day. Find out what they like and don’t like about their job. Have them share their success tips, advice and personal stories.
# 5 Develop a Financial Game Plan – Chances are you will be fresh out of college and in your first real job. Officers earn a decent wage, so make sure you are responsible with your money. Come up with a debt reduction plan (if you have debt) and make sure you start saving for the future from day one on the job. Put aside money each month for your retirement and future purchases. Don’t be tempted to go out an buy a brand new car with big car payments! Come up with a financial plan BEFORE you get your commission.
Bonus Tip – As a bonus tip I would say don’t be in a rush to get married and have kids. I am by no means against marriage, but if you are fresh out of college, and only 21 to 25 years old, take some time to enjoy life, learn about your career, and develop your skills BEFORE you start a family. If you are already married, please disregard this advice.
There you have it folks. These are five tips for future Army Officers. I hope you will follow the advice in this article. Doing so will definitely help you excel as an Army Officer.
What are your thoughts? What advice could you share with future Army Officers? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.