People enter the military for various reasons. For many, it is a matter of family legacy and an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous generations who have served their country. For others, it is a chance at valuable skills-training and education that might otherwise be financially impractical for them. Whatever an individual’s reasons for entering the military are, it can and does often develop into a full-fledged, life-long career.
Whether you are currently enlisted and planning your future in the military, or are considering joining, below are some tips to keep in mind to help build a successful military career.
Build Your Military Resume
Career advancement and job applications in the military work similar to how they do in the civilian world: through a combination of personal connections and/or a solid resume. During your service, it is important to regularly update and take care to strategically design your CV. It is a good idea to consult some of the various services that provide effective military resume templates to help you build your career.
Structure a military resume as you would any other resume in your civilian life, with the major difference being that the previous work and professional experience you are going to be emphasizing is all military-related. If you are coming into the military from a civilian academic or professional background with transferable and valuable experience and skills, include that as well.
Networking is Important Everywhere
Networking in the military is an essential part of getting ahead and should be approached in the same way it is approached in civilian personal and professional life: with the aim of mutual benefit. Never approach networking with your fellow enlisted men and women as an attempt to gain something for yourself.
The best calculus when networking is to ask yourself “what can I do to help this person” and go from there. A good way to increase your exposure to diverse groups of people and constant networking opportunities is to volunteer for different duties and special assignments as often as you can. This not only puts you in contact with more people, but the experience itself looks good on a resume.
Take on Leadership Roles
The military is based on a well-established and rigidly enforced chain of command. In fact, without it, the armed forces would cease to function. Part of a high-functioning chain of command means that certain people give orders and others follow them. Your commanding officer reports to someone, and they report to someone, and so on.
That does not mean, however, that you cannot establish yourself as a leader. Leadership is something that comes naturally to some people, while others have a difficult time shouldering the responsibility and inspiring trust in others. But leadership, to a degree, is learned, and even those who find leadership unnatural can learn to lead others.
Ask For Recommendations From Your Commanding Officers
As it is with any career path, recommendations and support from respected figures in the industry (or the area of the military in which you are looking to build a career) carry a lot of weight. Letters of recommendation from previous bosses or employers impress new ones, and similar letters from professors and instructors help students pursue their academic goals.
In the military, consideration for advancement is also highly dependent upon what others in positions of prominence or authority have to say about you. If you know you have good relationships with respected people around you, don’t be shy about asking them to vouch for you. This is what building, maintaining and leveraging relationships is all about. If you are a high-quality person, other high-quality people will not mind helping you.
Study for the ASVAB Like It’s the SAT
The ASVAB, or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, is the test that all recruits must take to determine where their particular skill sets and competencies lie. This test, in large part, sets the stage for your military career because it is used to determine where in the military you would add the most value and be the best fit.
Doing well on this test is especially important if you are entering the military with a clear career goal and path in mind. If you do not do well on this test or score poorly in a domain with high relevance for your desired career, you may find that you are assigned to an area that you are not interested in. The military is all about maximizing its distribution of resources, human and otherwise, so you have to show you bring value to the role you are pursuing.
Many people make successful and fulfilling careers out of their military service while gaining valuable life skills and character and discipline-building opportunities. The military life is not for everyone, but for those interested in dedicating their working years to serving their country, there are ways to go about ensuring you build and achieve the career you want.