A few years ago I started following the blog of a distinguished Army lieutenant colonel who wrote about his transition experiences as he was about to retire and explore life in the corporate world. It seemed that week in and week out he described the many rejections he received or the fact that he couldn’t even get far enough in the hiring process to get rejected in the first place. I could definitely relate to the challenges he faced in gaining interest from companies; I experienced the same hardships but didn’t think to write about it in a blog.
If you are a junior officer and stumbled across his blog, it might worry you to no end. After all, if such a qualified officer faced these challenges, what hope is there for you? But having worked in the JMO recruiting industry for the last 10 years, here is what I have learned:
By separating as a JMO, you are a much more desirable candidate to a company than I was when I retired from the Army.
How could this be true? There are many factors, but here are a few that come to mind:
- Junior officers are more hungry. After all, you’ve got your life ahead of you and much to prove. You’ve had a successful career, but you’ve still got years of earning power & growth to come. Whereas a retiree can be viewed as someone that has already paid their dues & now wants to ‘settle.’
- Junior officers have more reasonable compensation requirements. By the time I left the service, I was earning a good income and felt deserving of the same amount I was making in the Army. After all, I had one son entering college and another not far behind, not to mention I had a mortgage & a pretty sweet lifestyle that I wanted to maintain. Yet maybe some companies weren’t ready to pay me my worth because, after all, I hadn’t proven myself to anyone in the world of profit and loss. Eventually, I realized that I might have to take one step backward in order to take two steps forward.
- Junior officers are more willing to relocate. By the time I left the service, I moved every 2 and half years on average and felt I owed it to my family to finally plant some roots. Maybe that’s why I sometimes chuckle on the inside when a JMO tells me they owe it to their family to settle down after 2 or 3 military transfers when my youngest son went to 4 different schools by the time he hit the 4th grade. So when I retired, I really wanted him to remain in his high school with this friends. Plus, my wife finally got a job where she could plant some professional roots as well. While a JMO may desire to live in a certain location, a truly hungry one realizes that by sacrificing early on, he/she can create more desirable options later in their careers.
- Junior officers are more malleable and trainable. I guess it’s the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe that’s an unfair stereotype for guys like me, but we do have tendencies to be set in our ways. If nothing else, we are pretty accustomed to having other people do things for us. As such, joining a lean corporate environment can be a real wake-up call.
- Junior officers are more humble. By the time an officer hits 20 years of service, he or she has amassed quite a collection of military awards, coins, parting gifts, and inflated efficiency reports that can easily get to their head. Not to mention taking part in many ceremonies and events where they are constantly told that they are the best of the best of the best. . .
- Junior officers haven’t worked for 20 years in an entitlement culture. Like it or not, the military (or any government job) can indoctrinate a person in a negative fashion. I have seen many senior officers feel entitled to certain positions, pay, respect, etc. due to their seniority. Clearly, this is a broad stroke that doesn’t cover everyone, but remember perception can overshadow reality.
- Junior officers are in better health. Let’s face it, they don’t deal with the same illnesses, aches, and pains as us older folk do. As such, they don’t take as many sick days. In other words, they’ve got many more miles in their tank and can be more productive.
Maybe there are more reasons, but you get the point. So how is this information useful to you? For one, if you are a transitioning junior officer, don’t allow yourself to get lumped into the stereotypes above. Clearly demonstrate your willingness to sacrifice and put your personal goals on hold for a while. Remember your next 3 years greatly influence your next 30 and you haven’t proven anything to the outside world just yet.
If you are a more senior officer, please understand that I mean no offense in my characterizations above. After all, I used to be one of you and acknowledge that my comments can be unfair stereotypes. But don’t despair; it’s not as if you will be homeless. You might want to expand your search to jobs that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for a junior officer. Namely I would recommend looking for government positions or those in the defense sector. If that’s not your desire, then swallow some humble pie and be ready to state your case that you’ve got a lot left in your tank and that you are as ready as the next person to pay your dues.