Career Coach's Corner: Looking to get out?
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor
Article Sponsored by: ClearanceJobs.com
Everyone who enters military service does so under the influence of two types of commitment. There is the contractual one that is associated with the requirements of the agreement to enlist or the obligations of the source of commissioning. There is also the personal commitment that comes with the desire to serve one’s country. For some, the desire to serve outlives the contractual requirements and a twenty-plus year career in the military results. For others, transitioning to civilian employment becomes the preferred course before the retirement option is available. Regardless of the timing of the stay in or get out decision, it is often a difficult one to make. The following exercise might aid in that decision-making process.
The three looks
On a second sheet of paper, lay out a time vs. money graph. The ordinate (vertical) component will represent money and the abscissa (horizontal) component represents time. Mark the ordinate in $10,000 increments from zero to $120,000. Mark the abscissa in years from now until the year in which you would expect to retire from the military. Starting with your current annual salary, plot the curve that represents your military salary in the future.
Be sure to include all components of your military compensation, including basic and variable allowances for quarters, basic allowance for subsistence, variable housing allowance, overseas housing allowance, overseas cost-of-living adjustments, flight pay, airborne pay, dive pay, sea pay, sub pay, combat pay, and hazardous duty pay. You should also include retention bonuses, but be sure to annualize them in the process.
Due to the predictable nature of your military pay, this crystal ball exercise is relatively easy to do. You know when you are scheduled to be promoted, the odds of that happening, and the percentage increase that will accompany that promotion. You know that you will receive step increases as you go over 4, 6, 8, etc. plus an annual base pay raise of three percent on average. Post this graph on the wall next to your military career flow chart.
The first look
The second look
The third look
You have probably identified a few flaws in this exercise. One, the use of the terms pleasing, acceptable and unacceptable is only truly valid when comparisons are being made. Without concrete knowledge about alternative civilian career paths and compensation possibilities, how can you answer the test questions with certainty? Two, your tolerance of unacceptable career paths will increase as you approach eligibility for retirement. Accordingly, the value of this exercise lies not only in the outcome, but also in the food for thought that is generated by the process.
Tom Wolfe, Career Coach, is a nationally recognized expert in military-to-civilian career transition and a contributing editor at Civilian Job News. He served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy and has provided career guidance to military personnel since 1978. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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