Life after the Military

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by LineInTheSand, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I know this is technically the "Life After the Academy" forum, but I thought it might be interesting to hear what people have done in their "life after the military."

    This isn't a "what opportunities are open to me" thread as much as its a "you hung up your uniform for good, went to sleep and woke up the next day.... what have you done since, that you'd like to share?"

    The eventual transition is something many who serve are nervous about... there are so many unknowns, and it is a big change..... but it eventually (most likely) happens to us all....

    So what has your live been, since you left the military?
     
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  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Haha, maybe there is no life after the military. Seems like we have enough old farts here who might know. I'll provide my own answer later, when I have some time.
     
  3. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Yup no life after the military!

    Basically for me I think I did pretty well once I got out. I was enlisted and didn’t retire just for some background. Once I got out I already had a job lined up with a DoD contractor in Colorado Springs. At this point I needed to move away from the military in my career path, it just got old always worrying if you left something classified on your desk or in your briefcase and having an incident happen as a contractor could be devastating renewal time. Granted all those habits are second nature but the minute the worry about it goes away is when you mess up and I didn’t want to be that guy so decided to move on.

    From there I went to MCI/WorldCom (before their fiasco) also in The Springs, fast-forward a few millions years and I’m a pretty successful Engineer. Stayed in Colorado, lost 110lbs of dead weight by getting a divorce and currently trying to survive my mother’s curse of having a son just like me. But all joking aside I had a great life since the military and I would do it all over again.

    I wasn’t too worried since I had a job already lined up before my last day. What I did worry about was if I was making the right choice going from pretty much a sure thing. You’ll pretty much have a job in the AF if you weren’t a screw up back in the day, in the civilian sector that’s not the case. I was still young and just starting my family and it was a big choice to leave but I think I made the right choice and it’s worked out for me. Every now and then I wonder where I would be if I stayed in and hit 20 but only because I just hit the age where that would be happening.
     
  4. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt Member

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    LITS: thanks for your post/ question. I have debated about answering because I resigned my commission 28 years ago. I wasn't sure I had anything to offer today's separating Officers but upon reflection I have a few points to make.

    "What have I done since hanging up my uniform and waking up a civilian?"

    I have had a very successful career in industrial sales/ sales management. Since many separating officers on this forum tend to have gone with the DOD I thought another perspective might be useful to someone. Here are some random thoughts on the transition.

    1. Leaving the military was tough. I felt like I was being "unfaithful" to my peers, the USMC, my country. It was VERY tough to tell people. At one of my going away parties, my Commanding Officer told me that this was "natural" but he encouraged me to look at things differently. He told me that the Marines needed active duty AND former Marines to watch over our beloved Corps. That as a civilian I still had the responsibility to watch out for Marines and represent our Corps to the civilian populace. It was something that has stuck with me and guided my actions ever since.

    2. Finding a job was tough. For those of you old enough to remember, think about the job market back in the 80's. Even more so, I "thought" that the civilian world couldn't possibly pass up a six year veteran with tons of "management" experience. Ha! I used several companies who "specialized" with separating Officers who ran us through the grinder with lots of useless interviews. It was a meat market for them. Back in those days, there was no formal separation program, counseling, or guidance what-so-ever. I found a job the way most jobs are filled - references by family friends, acquaintances, insiders.

    3. With a wife and two kids to support, I took the only job I could find. A sales job. To me, I equated sales to "used car" salesmen. I had no idea that one could be a "professional" salesperson. My advice to those who may find themselves in this situation: sales is a great way to earn your way into an organization, prove your worth and learn a company from the bottom up. Did I think I was way above this role? Yes! Was I? Not really. Six years of management in the USMC doesn't really translate into much in the business world. Perhaps warehouse manager or something like that.

    4. Military Officers have an incredible work ethic, refuse to lose, mission focus and the intelligence to outshine their peers. The cream rises to the top. With me, I was promoted to sales manager within 3 years having grown my territory to the largest on the eastern seaboard. I worked all hours of the day and weekends. If I smelled "blood" I was like a shark.

    5. Loneliness! No one warned me for the loneliness I would feel. I went from a people intensive, 100% people focused military officer role to one of a "lone wolf." It was terrible. I mean... terrible. In fact, I had my paperwork all set to go back into the Reserves. Civilians suck, Military is good.... I was going to join the reserves. But my success was growing, a promotion came and I never looked back.

    6. Pride! I sought success like my life depended upon it (it did). I was always shocked how many of my peers didn't bring the same sense of urgency. The results speak for themselves. Just a different approach to success - but one that separates former military from many civilians.

    7. Compensation: been lots of commentary on this subject particularly regarding "total" compensation. My comment: in the military (at least within a particular branch) superior performance by an officer can not be rewarded. Compensation levels are set. In the civilian sales world, salaries may fit within a band but bonuses are paid for superior performance. A sales career, in particular, offers great pay for performance.

    There is probably so much more to share. Let me close by saying the very traits that make one a good officer will help you be a good civilian employee. In fact, you will shine. But you can't bring an attitude of superiority. Be willing to start low and work your way to a level you feel fits your skill level. For me, I have had a wonderful civilian career and (hopefully) represented the USMC well. Semper Fi!

    Hope this reflection is on subject.
     
  5. Rocko

    Rocko Member

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    Small world... I was enlisted in the Army and left after my 4 year tour. Had a job lined up with..... MCI! They were bought out by Worldcom... Went through the fiasco....Changed name back to MCI....went bankrupt....bought by a little cell phone company called Verizon and viola 25 years after I started I still work at the same place I started with a different name on my paycheck. I loved my time in the Army but have no regrets leaving as I love what I do and who I work for.

    MCI was big into hiring people who left the military. Most of the people I work with still today came from either the Army or Air Force.
     
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  6. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    I forgot this part I did feel this as well when I got out. I missed the people and the team never really felt that again until the company I'm at right now. I think it's one of the reasons I stick around on the site now.

    Yeah very small world to have that same experience getting out of the military. You can also always tell the former military guys at a job by the way they approach work.
     
  7. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    Great thread, thanks for starting it LITS. Interesting views and stories.

    I was actually a five and dive grad. I was one of those who thought they would stay for 20, all my friends thought the same too. I enjoyed my time as a Marine, but with the constant rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, like many, it took a toll on me. I didn't like what it was doing to me. I had just returned from a 8.5 month tour and was told I had two weeks before going back. I told them I wanted 4-6 weeks and I would be willing to. They told me no, so I dropped my papers. At this point I was due to rotate to a "shore tour" but our monitor had told us we would all being stay an extra year as the demand for qualified Marines was too high to send us to shore tours. This also played into my decision as I was ready and looking forward to seeing another part of the USMC. I loved the fleet, but was ready for a change of pace and see what other things were out there.

    I was the first of all my friends to get out and sort of figured it out as I went. I really wanted to be a federal agent and applied to them all, but it was a long and slow process, that would randomly be shut down and hiring freezes. I did go to a Service Academy Career Conference and a few head hunter hiring fairs also. I did a ton of interviews and a lot of exposure to different career fields. All in all I probably had 20 offers to consider. Other than being a federal agent I really had no idea what I wanted to do. So like many grads I took a DoD contractor job and headed to DC to wait out the federal agent process. I worked for a Joint Program Office that was related to the field that I worked in. I was able to take my operational experience and turn that into a career as a systems engineer and project management. I spent 10 years as a defense contractor for the USMC working for a very small engineering firm. I really enjoyed it, but eventually wanted something more, different and far away from my moron of a boss. I was around Marines, the work was very technical and I learned a ton. I finally decided after 10 years to find a new city and career field.

    I chose a career field totally non-DoD related and a new city. Best decision I have made since I thought USNA was a great idea! I really enjoy my job, the people and the city. I work for a Fortune 100 company that has 200,000+ employees. I was a little afraid I would get lost in the mix of a large company. I was wrong! The work life balance is amazing and they really go out of their way to show they value us and want us to be here. Totally different than my last company. I have been here a couple of years so far. I probably took 1 step back to where I was, but I made that back in about 8 months time. At about that time I had leadership coming to me and asking me to take new jobs, promotions and projects. Was a great feeling after changing career fields and taking a leap to a new life. This company does hire vets and we have a small group of Academy guys here. We even have a Junior Officer forum (its really is all officer ranks) that meets once a month to help the new guys out to navigate the company and grow.

    I agree with alot of what is said on here. You pave your path, great employees are harder to find than anyone thinks. That drive and motivation to push, grow, learn is key to success in and out the military. To keep that connection of the military I have been lucky with what they have set up at work and I also am a member of the local Alumni Association. All of my USNA friends who have chosen to transition to civilian careers have flourished in a variety of fields; nuclear type work, sales, defense contracting, government, consulting, teaching, etc. The civilian world isn't so bad just have to give it a chance. The great part is you don't have to stay at a place you are unhappy at.
     
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  8. falconchic88

    falconchic88 Member

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    Great Thread!

    I was a 5 and dive too, well 4.5 and dive, thanks to the early release program. After I left active duty, I went into the Reserves for a few more years, raised my 4 children, and became a CHOCOLATIER! Yep, I started my own homebased chocolate business. Up until last year, when we moved for my husband's job (he became a commercial pilot after he left active duty, and just retired from the AF Reserves) I made gourmet chocolates and rented chocolate fountains for weddings, corporate events, Hotel functions, and basically any celebration you can think of. It was a great gig. I set my own hours, was able to start a retirement savings plan, and it gave my kids a way to earn some money in high school by attending and managing some of the events. I haven't decided if I am going to start the business up again in our new state, as our big money maker was the chocolate fountains, and the novelty has pretty much worn off and they aren't as popular and they once were. Here in my new community, we just moved into a house that we designed and had built, I am spending time volunteering and I'm still raising our youngest two children that haven't left the nest yet. I am an officer on our HOA board and my daughter's High School soccer boosters board. Needless to say, I keep busy!
     
  9. BAMA ROTC

    BAMA ROTC Member

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    I spent 24 years active duty. I served in light Infantry, Airborne, and Ranger units. I ended up with 17 years on jump status and I loved it. I was in Baghdad when my retirement got approved and I began searching for jobs via the internet. I saw an opening for a contractor job with ROTC at University of Alabama.

    I never suspected I would enjoy working with ROTC Cadets as much as I have. I especially enjoy recruiting because I can help young folks realize their potential.
     
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  10. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I was an Infantry officer with a secondary specialty of "Personnel Management" which means I did nothing that relates to the Civilian world- or so I thought. When I retired, I really wasn't interested in going to work for a contractor even if I had a military resume that would have made me much of a catch for one (and a Light Infantry officer who spent all but 2 years of my career in troop units is not a huge asset to a Booze Allen or Lockheed etc...) , but- when I started looking for jobs I did realize that in fact I had a lot of experience in the things that civilian Manufacturing companies were looking for- as long as I changed the acronyms from Army to Civilian . I marketed myself and focused on operations management - and discovered that the things that I spent 20+ years doing in the Army were not so different than what the manufacturing world does: identify and communicate organizational and individual goals, plan for and monitor resource needs and usages, and lead people to succeed - or identify the folks and obstacles in the way and take appropriate action.

    I wanted to be in New England and the hardest part about getting a job was convincing people that for the most part- military leadership really isn't about screaming and bullying your people to get things done , but really is more about communicating what we need to accomplish, why we need to accomplish it and helping them to do so. At one place when I was interviewing I finally pointed out that sterotypes aside- the Commander can't just order people to go into situations that they know is potentially deadly. There is after all one CO in a Battalion- and about 600 guys armed with automatic weapons. They need to be convinced that they are being asked to do the right thing. That description resonated with the people I was interviewing with, and wound up getting me a job. I retired on a Friday and started work on a Monday. I've had the chance to run factories in 3 different locations for this company in the US and Mexico and I think that my time in the Army has really served me well in this second career. It absolutely didn't prepare me to understand a Profit and Loss Statement, but that came pretty fast, and it absolutely did prepare me to layout projects and drive them to completion. And as a Soldier, I learned how to deal with operators on the floor far better than my peers who came into this from college. The Army taught me that where things really happen is at the individual level and so you have to get to know and understand those guys. That's not something that guys learn when they are in accounting class .

    One thing that I did learn to really appreciate- the world of manufacturing requires a real understanding of basic engineering and statistical analysis. Other than in HR- you won't get looked at for a job even in our sales force unless you can demonstrate that you have a solid technical background. I just don't see a basic BA as serving anyone very well unless your MOS in the military can be spun to show a lot of technical responsibility and you have an MBA to offset that degree in English or History . If you have been out of College for >20 years- you have a lot of Resume to show- but if you do a 4 year stint in the military with a "fluffy" degree - then you are going to really need to be creative in describing that you had a lot of technical assets and challenges that you were responsible for resolving (logistics, motor pool PM programs etc.. etc..) , because in an industry like ours- you won't get a sniff otherwise.

    Strangely - I find that more leaders and managers in this portion of the civilian world are devoted to the "scream at them and demand the impossible" mode of operation than were in the Army. I think that is because most leaders in the military learn what it takes to accomplish a job thru experience leading at multiple levels of responsiblity, while many in the manufacturing workd come into higher levels of responsibility without having experienced what the jobs under them are really required to perfom. And definitely I believe that Military leadership is much more committed to understanding and mitigating the effects of actions on their personnel than the leadership in the corporate world- or at least in the heavy manufacturing sector of the corporate world who IMHO by and large see employees as fairly expendable in pursuit of what are often very short sighted profitability goals. So overall - life doesn't end when you leave the military. There are big challenges, some pretty good rewards and some real frustrations out here in civilian world
     
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  11. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt Member

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    I am glad to see others contributing here and each has made a point I wish I would have. Collectively there is a lot of wisdom in these posts!

    I also have fought this stereotype for years. Bruno, your comments about leadership and focusing on the guys who get things done was spot on.

    NavyHoops is right. The civilian world isn't so bad and those leaving the military can flourish within it. They bring unique skill sets, experience and personal qualities that can really make a difference.
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I was in the Coast Guard for five years. Or at least that's what I told myself. In reality, while we like to distance ourselves from our time at an academy, that's still part of our lives too. So the truth is, I was in the Coast Guard for nine years.

    Why do I start a post with that? The transition isn't always easy. You will eat, breath and sleep your branch for a number of years. Even while you're at the academy, you'll learn about the history and leadership of your service. You'll dress the same as everyone else. You'll learn the lingo, and you'll use it, and so will everyone around you. Your service's victories will be your victories.

    And then one day….. they won't.

    I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2006 with a B.S. in government (public policy track). I went off to a 210' cutter, at the time home-ported in Cape May, NJ. I had a number of collateral duties, but one of them was public affairs officer. I attended the Coast Guard Public Affairs Course the the Defense Information School (DINFOS) in 2006. While my ship was in the yards I went TAD to the Coast Guard's Senate Liaison Office (as well as a 140' ice breaking tug out of Bayonne, NJ). After two years on the cutter I went to the Coast Guard's Office of Public Affairs, at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (at the old HQ location). I attended the Public Affairs Qualification Course at DINFOS in 2009. In 2010 I started my master's program in strategic public relations from The George Washington University. In 2011 I left the Coast Guard.

    Since I separated from the Coast Guard, I got married and divorced (good terms, but still hard for both of us). I finished my master's program in 2013 (well, I finished my capstone project in 2012, but the degree wasn't conferred until Jan. 31, 2013. I spent six months looking for a job. I eventually went to work for a small public relations firm in Washington, D.C. My first boss was a CGA grad too. I was assigned to a contract with the Department of Homeland Security. The contract proved to be miserable (thanks to the fed that "led" the team). Eventually my boss left the firm, and shortly there after, I started looking for a new job. That search coincided with my old grad school professor reaching out to me to have me come work for her.

    I work as a financial regulator in the D.C. area, in a communications/PR capacity. Tomorrow I also start as a teaching assistant in a program I graduated from a few years ago.

    But jobs aren't everything. Relationships with the people around you can change too. You'll suddenly be "out of the loop" with your old shipmates. In fact, the Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association is probably the best source I have about my classmates' lives.

    In 2014 I started playing the five-string banjo. Since high school I've played ice hockey, and I've continued into adulthood. The leagues are certainly interesting, and there are very few places it's acceptable to punch someone in the face, as an adult. HA! Of course, I've "aged" too. I'm heavier, and I tend to break a bit more. At my first unit I was playing hockey at an area rink, and I tore my shoulder. It took three years for the Coast Guard healthcare system to properly diagnose the tear. I had surgery on my shoulder in 2010. A year or so later, after my shoulder had healed and I returned to hockey, I broke a rib or two catching an edge as I went to the bench. Last year I partially tore my other shoulder (haven't had it fixed yet… and I'm not sure if I will). And a couple of months ago I took a stick to the back of the head and was out for a month or two with a concussion (my second…. the first coming in "fight club" at CGA).

    So, I've kept some of my aggressive edge, but I toned down other parts of my life and I've attempted to reach my more artsy musical side, via the banjo and bluegrass.

    Jobs on the outside are different. There's no expected, regular promotion schedule. The work varies, as do the coworkers and your not as "secure" in future work. I don't feel I'm giving the USA my all, but I'm also more accepting that maybe I don't have to anymore.

    In some ways the Coast Guard has become a piece of me…. somewhere in my past (at this point near-past). It has shaped or influenced the way I see some things, and the way I approach some issues. The transition wasn't always easy, and I too had periods of feeling alone.

    But I'll echo what others have said, there is life outside of the military, and while it can be a daunting change, that life can be very good.
     
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  13. SpadGuy

    SpadGuy Member

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    Academy grads worked for the FFRDs
    DOE and DOD.
    and they can be all over!
     
  14. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I graduated from VMI and was commissioned in the Air Force. I think that at the time of my entrance onto active duty, I wasn't 100% sure as to if I would stay to 20 or leave at the first opportunity. I was open to both possibilities, but ended up choosing the latter option. I was a missile officer in the USAF, stationed at Minot AFB. While I am happy to have had the experience and the responsibility that came with that job, it wasn't what I wanted for my career. I also found myself longing for stability of location, and I wanted to eventually have my career be fixed on the East Coast. These are things you can't do in the service, as you have to move every few years.

    I was eligible for GI Bill benefits and used them to go to law school. I got a JD in 2006, passed the Bar examination, and went to work as a civilian attorney for the government. Been there nine years. It's a good job and allows for a work-life balance that I wasn't getting when I was on active duty. I got married and we have a kid coming this summer, so things seem to be working out. I don't regret leaving the Air Force when I did. I did have several commanders try and convince me to stay on active duty, but in the end, it was my choice and I'm still happy with it.
     
  15. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    I came to USNA off a cattle ranch and wanted to be fighter jock zorching around in an F-4 with my hair on fire and sliding down the final approach on a dark, wet night to a slippery deck for the rest of my life. Of course, it never turned out that way. I went aboard a destroyer and served a couple of years and then went to Vietnam as a riverboat advisor. Wading through muddy rice paddies with bandoliers over my shoulders was not on my big plan for life but it was what the Navy said it wanted. After that tour and a subsequent one as an instructor at the Riverine Warfare school, I was burned out on the military. I had thought that combat would cleanse my Navy of all the BS that is shot through the peacetime organization but it did not and I wanted out and something totally different.

    A friend and I decided to start a business together and after resigning my commission (and going into the Reserves) we threw ourselves into it as only a small business owner can understand. I loved being out of a large organization and calling my own shots and being responsible for my own successes. The money was always just around the corner and while I could provide a decent living for my family, I was not getting rich but just a little bit further and it would be there. My confidence in this ultimate reward kept me fired up and working hard. Interestingly enough, I found my stiff Plebe Year was the best training I could have hoped for. Regrettably, the rest of the world never had a Plebe Year and I ran into few men who had the same values incalculated so vigorously and completely as the as class of 1965 did to me and my Plebe classmates. I would sit in conferences seeing the smartest guys in the room dodging responsibility, taking undeserved praise, passing the buck, evading answers, and making promises they were not going to keep. All I could think about was, “Buddy, you would not have lasted 2 weeks of Plebe Summer.” Interestingly, I also found that surrounding myself with ex-military types did NOT solve that problem. Many (not all but many) ex-military people approached civilian work with the same work ethic that made them a success previously and that was: Do your job and do it well. Don’t do anybody else’s job and don’t build an empire-----just do your job. While that worked in the Navy, Army, or big corporation, in a small business, it was a disaster. Everybody had to be a salesman and promoting what we could do for any customer that came into sight. The comments about sales and promotion made by USMCGrunt earlier are dead on. Finally after 20+ years, as much as I liked what we had done, I realized there was no big money coming for a lot of reasons. I shook my partner’s hand and gave him everything and went into the corporate aviation world and back into a big organization. The grass looked so green there.

    I managed FBOs, refueling operations, flying schools, and maintenance shops for a company and threw myself into it with the commitment I did for my own business. I also experienced the famous corporate sale and “personnel consolidation” which meant the bosses were fired and their responsibilities were dropped on their assistants. So in my 60’s I found myself reading the want ads again. I never went back to formal work, though, as I had been slowly accumulating rental properties over the years and managed them rather haphazardly as they were not my ticket to success, or so I thought. I now took a look at them and turned that into my new career and could kick myself for not doing it sooner. Within a few years I was making more than I ever had in either my own business or the corporate world---combined. I also had the freedom to enjoy my money for a change (and my wife and I are). Monday morning quarterbacking is so easy but if I were to do it over again, I would have gone into real estate ownership (not sales, necessarily) immediately out of the Navy and taken any job to put food on the table until it became self sustaining. I try to convince my sons of my late-life epiphany for themselves and, of course, they humor me.

    It has been 51 years (Jeez Louise!!) since I walked through the Main Gate of USNA but Plebe Year still sticks with me. Old age does mellow you as I became a BGO hoping to steer some other ranch kid to Mother B on his way to a hot fighter or, at least, high adventure.
     
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  16. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Spud: That's a really thoughtful and interesting post. I would agree that most military folks are not really entreprenuers and are more comfortable in a large defined organization-I know I am . The uncertainty of owning your own business would have me with ulcers inside ulcers , even if the potential upside was huge. I'm always impressed with folks who own their own business as I just could not do that- I envy their ability to just do what they think best without having to make two power point presentations and 50 emails and a 100 page Capex request, but I really need the security of the paycheck coming the same size and day every month in good months and bad! I am really good at cutting to the chase in a pretty big manufacturing organization and putting my finger on the problems and issues we need to improve, but I would be a disaster at going out on my own. It's a real talent and a completely different mindset. I kind of wonder if there have been studies of post military careers, and if SF and Fighter pilot types are more prone to going into entrenuerial roles while grunts and line officers gravitate toward larger more established organizations?
     
  17. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Congrats on the additon to the family!
     
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  18. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    Bruno, thanks for the very kind words but I think I should also admit that I had a secret weapon...................a working wife (and in a big corp).
     
  19. Physicsguru

    Physicsguru Member

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    My turn here. I got my commission through NROTC at UCLA in 84. That was the best time to be in, with the increased budgets during the Reagan years. I was on a TYCOM staff when Desert Shield broke out, and then to NPS when the drawdowns began. I was all set to move on to my next sea tour when I came down with Crohn's disease and was medically retired. At least I got to do in 10 years what everyone else needed 20.

    First job out of the gate: car salesman! With a family to feed and house, it was pretty much get a paycheck wherever I could. Surprisingly, though, I learned so much in those three months. The biggest thing I learned to do is listen, find out your client's needs, and find a solution. Those are skills I still use today, whether its with prospective students, or even with my active students, to help them learn to learn.

    From there I went to write industry research reports for Frost & Sullivan. Imagine writing a master's thesis every three-four months and you get the idea. I hate writing, but if there is one thing you learn to do as an officer is how to write well (especially after your first staff tour). That's another lesson for upcoming students...pay attention to your writing skills!

    After two years of that I finally got the job I wanted, teaching at a small college. I've been at Marion Military for 17 years now, and I'm back in the fold of the military. Years ago people would ask if I missed the Navy. I'd say yes, but I'm still serving, bringing in the next generation of leaders. Now I teach students who are prepping for Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, and Merchant Marine. I guess I've finally found that purple billet.
     
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