How to Choose Your Next Army Job: 6 Tips for ARNG and USAR Officers and NCOs

If you’re like most Officers and NCOs in the Army National Guard or Army Reserves, you will simply take the job that is given to you.  Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that mindset and I’ve found that the most successful NCOs and Officers don’t either.  The key to success in your career is to know what jobs you need, know when you need them, and to actively seek them out.  For the purpose of this article, I want to educate you about how to choose your next Army job.  These are all important factors to consider.

1.  Who will you be working for?  Believe it or not, I believe this is the most important question to ask yourself before you take a job.  Ideally, you want to work for someone who is successful in your organization who can help you develop your skills and abilities.  Here’s the truth.  Successful people bring their team of people with them when they get promoted to their next assignment.  If you position yourself right, you can ride someone else’s coattails for many years and advance your own career quickly.   Personally, I only want to work with people that can (1) make me better, and (2) position me for upward mobility.  On a side note, you still have to be damn good at what you do.  You won’t get promoted because of someone else.  You will get promoted because of your abilities AND because of who knows you.

2. What are your long-terms goals? Your long-term and career goals dictate everything when you are looking for your next Army job.  If you aren’t trying to be a General Officer or Brigade Commander or Sergeant’s Major you have a lot more flexibility for jobs.  However, if you want to make it to the top of the pay scale, you  need certain jobs such as Battalion S3, Battalion XO, Battalion Command, Brigade XO, Brigade S3 and Brigade Command.  NCOs need jobs such as Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, First Sergeant, etc.   Every branch, rank and career field is a little bit different, but these are feeder positions for the senior officers and NCOs. If you don’t have aspirations to rise to the top ranks and positions, you can take pretty much take any job you want.

3.  When will you be eligible for promotion? Timing is everything.  For most jobs, you want to spend somewhere between 9 and 18 months in a duty position.  Command positions could be up to two years.  If you aren’t eligible for promotion anytime soon, you have a lot of flexibility.  But if you are eligible for promotion in six months or less, look for a job in the next higher rank/pay grade.  The last thing you want to do is get stuck in your next job and get held up for promotion because you took the wrong job at the wrong time.

4.  What job experience will make you more valuable to the Army? This is another important question to ask before you choose your next Army Officer or NCO job.  Will the job be tough? Will it round out your experience? Will it it teach you a new skill, give you a new ASI or make you more valuable to the Army?  If so, take it!  If not, keep looking.

5.  What is the toughest job you can think of? This is another great question to ask before you even think about taking a new job n the Army.  Look for the hardest, toughest job you can find that no one else wants to take.  Find the “worst” unit you can find and take a job there.  Find a job where the person before you got fired or was horrible at what they did.  When you follow this advice you have nowhere to go but up.  If you take a position it a top unit, or if you replace a superstar, it’s that much harder to look good.  Be the person with big shoes that no one else can fill.  But don’t try to replace that guy (or gal)!

6. What type of unit will you be in?  MTOE units ALWAYS trump TDA units.  Remember that the mission of the Army is to fight and win our nation’s land wars.  My personal recommendation is that you lead or work in a deployable unit.  I have nothing against non-deployable units, but I know that promotion boards and senior officers/NCOs favor people in deployable units.  If I had to choose between two people for a job, and everything else was equal, I would always pick the person who spent time in deployable, combat units.  I know many other officers and NCOs feel the same way.

Final Thoughts

Remember, not all jobs are created equal.  Some jobs are better for promotion and future assignments than others.  The best jobs are typically leadership jobs in deployable units.  As a rule of thumb, command and leadership jobs are better than staff jobs.  And deployable units are better than non-deployable units.

I think the advice in this article would benefit both NCOs and Officers in the Active Duty or ARNG or USAR.  What are your thoughts?  What do you recommend for picking your next Army job?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “How to Choose Your Next Army Job: 6 Tips for ARNG and USAR Officers and NCOs”

  1. You make some really great points about taking tough jobs that no one wants and choosing a deployable unit. I know I would definitely trust the experience and leadership of someone who served oversees and spent time in combat over someone who didn’t, even if everything else was in equal measure on their resume – the combat experience would win out for me in the end. I also like that you’ve advised your readers to make smart career choices rather than take whatever happens to be open at the time.

  2. Great advice, Chuck. Of all the officers I know, all of them just take the job they are given. I think it makes much more sense to seek out certain jobs to increase your value to the Army and to give you the experience you need to get promoted and advance your career.

  3. Elephant Tree Features

    This is a great post encouraging people to be PROACTIVE! You can't complain if you just sat back and let others make decisions for you. Do the research and actively engage in choosing your next job in the ARNG or USAR. Planning takes some work, but it's your future, so grab it and go! I particularly like the point about finding the worst job, or the one that someone just got fired from, and doing it because you have nowhere to go but up. It's not only clever, but it makes perfect sense.

      1. This is great advice Chuck. Most of my career I just took the job I was given. But now I’m going to be more proactive and try to get the jobs I want!

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