Things to Consider Before Getting Out of the Military
There are many things you should consider.
by Shane Christopher
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a 20-something, prior Army civilian, working as a desk clerk in an Air Force Reserve barracks. During our conversation, it became clear that this young man had no plans for his future. He was living paycheck-to-paycheck, day-to-day. He had left active duty Army two years before because his high school buddy told him that the local base was hiring civilians to work at the barracks. Misguided, he clearly lacked a vision for his future and didn’t do his homework before deciding to leave the service.
Arguably one of the most monumental decisions you will make will be the one to get out of the military and pursue a civilian career. Whether you served more than 20 years and will retire or have decided to leave after an initial enlistment, the decision to stay or go requires numerous considerations.
First, here’s what NOT to do: Do NOT make a long-term decision based on short-term conditions.
For example, do not decide to leave the military because you don’t get along with your current boss or your deployment schedule right now is arduous. Short term conditions can and will change.
Instead, base your decision to stay or go on long-term considerations such as civilian career aspirations and your plan for pursuing them, satisfaction level with your military career and of course, family desires.
Civilian career aspirations and your plan for pursuing them
“Whether you served more than 20 years and will retire or have decided to leave after an initial enlistment, the decision to stay or go requires numerous considerations.” If you know what you “want to do when you grow up,” consider yourself fortunate. You’re in the minority. In fact, most people change careers several times during the course of their life. First, consider your strengths and desires. Do you enjoy working with your hands? Are you creative? Do you love business and entrepreneurship? Talk to others in the field that interests you. Explore their career paths and, most importantly, ask them what it takes to get there. Prepare yourself for that post-military career with additional training, education or job skills.
Satisfaction level with your military careerOne simple question can shed light on this consideration. Do you want your boss’s job? If the answer is yes and you have positive evaluations and the potential to promote, you should strongly consider staying in. If not, this is a clear signal that you should look towards another career field.
Your primary responsibility should be to yourself and to your family. Careers and jobs will come and go — your family is your life and your legacy. Some families can endure the long deployments and welcome the frequent moving that a military career demands because along with those detractors come positives like job security and a pension. However, some families hate deployments and would prefer a more predictable environment.
It’s also important to determine your family’s long-term financial needs. Do you desire a lifestyle that requires a high income? Do you want to retire young? Do you plan to pay for your child’s college or post-high school tuition? Make sure your chosen career path supports your family’s desires from a personal and financial perspective.
For those who want to continue their military life part time while pursuing a civilian career, the Reserves or Guard may be an option. If you’ve done your homework, devised a plan and made an informed decision, you should never look back and second-guess yourself. Move on and succeed!