Arguably, one of the most monumental decisions you can make is getting out of the military and pursuing 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.
What are Your Civilian Career Aspirations?
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.
Are You Satisfied with Your Military Career?
One 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 at getting out of the military and into another career field.
What Does Your Family Want You to Do?
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.
Do You Have Financial Needs to Consider?
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.
What About the Reserves or Guard?
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!