"I should have joined the military," my 40-something neighbor declared while he was watching me put an Army sticker on my car. It was a bit of a surprise. This guy was known in the neighborhood for wearing red leather pants and a mullet to work in the 1990s.
"Yep. If I joined the military, I'd be enjoying all that free retirement money just about now," he said.
I tried not to stare. It was one of the stupidest things I ever heard.
As if staying in the military was easy.
As if staying in the military was something people did by accident.
As if staying in the military came without all the things that happen in the middle of a military career, such as the relentless competition, the growing needs of family, constant deployments, work-related injuries, endless training and a parade of moving trucks.
To my neighbor, the military was not work. It was not service. It was not even the prospect of a life outside the 'burbs. The military was free, free money given away to anyone who stuck around long enough.
Forgive him. Those leather pants must have cut off the blood supply to his brain.
Good Reasons Service Members Leave the Military in the Middle
I think of this guy every time I coach a transitioning service member who gets out right in the middle of their military career. While young enlisted and junior officers get out after their first or second tour because the military is not the right fit, the mid-career service member has invested a lot more in the military as a full-on career.
Some of you E-5s, E-6s, W-1s, W-2s and O-4s get out with 11 or 12 years in, because you intended to get out at that point all along. Or because your technical skills are at their peak and you want a high-paying job. Or even because you lost that lovin' feelin' for the military. Fair.
Some of you mid-career military might have intended to go for 20, but now you are eyeing transition because life (in all her red leather glory) is about to come for you with unexpected events.
Maybe you are waiting for the iffy results of a promotion board, a command board or a med board. Or your spouse just brought home the kind of raise that means you can't move them anymore. Or your divorce papers are about to be served, and you have kids you need to raise.
My neighbor might not have known it, but in the military, life happens to people. Plans change, and the sure thing you had melts away. When you leave the military in the middle, you have to be more agile, more savvy and more ready for transition than anyone else -- even when you have less time to prepare.
Master Class for Mid-Career Transition
That's where we come in at Military.com's Veteran Employment Project. Our FREE Mid-Career Master Classes help you figure out your direction now so you have a job waiting for you when you leave the service.
We offer two options to military members who are transitioning with 8-18 years of service. Option No. 1 is for those who already completed their four-year bachelor's degree or higher, and Option No. 2 is for those with a completed associate's degree, some college courses, certifications and training. You are welcome to attend both if you like.
Option No. 1: Mid-Career with Completed Bachelor's Degree or Higher
In this fast, fun and free course for enlisted and officers with management experience and a completed degree, learn how to:
- Change career ladders at mid-level without losing your place.
- Attract the recruiters who want you most on LinkedIn.
- Make the one decision that will affect your income (and your family) most.
- Identify which certifications and programs make mid-level you more employable.
If you are someone who works for a living, making the leap from the military to civilian life takes more smarts and more strategy. There is no Easy Button. In this free, practical, actionable class, you will learn:
- The best certifications you can get now to get hired faster.
- How to find jobs without begging, joining or "networking."
- How to identify the one strategy mid-level military members are most likely to use that does not work (and what to do instead)
- Consider well-paying jobs for the military that do not require a degree.
As a mid-level military professional, you know how it takes courage to get into the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard and commit yourself to a job you have to do every day for four years in a row without fail. You know it also takes courage to leave. Sign up for the master class that suits you best so that you end up in the great job you deserve.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.