Yeah, I'm a Veteran without job skills. So what?

Looks like a lot, because it is.

Well, here I am again, looking at the future while I finish one journey and prepare to start another.  In the last couple of years, I've successfully transitioned from the military, completed a rigorous MBA program and explored several careers and job titles. I've learned a lot about the world and how I might better fit into it and influence it. It hasn't been easy, but it sure has been worth it.

So now what?  I dunno...

Sadly, no amount of education or experience is going to give anyone ALL the answers. And frankly, I prefer it this way as it provides a great excuse to continue to pursue my academic interests and 'try new things'. Not that I don't want to settle down with a company and make things honest, but I still have to see what I want to bring to the table when that time comes.

One answer I do have is that I must go back to the whiteboard on how I'm going to actually do this "build myself for this future" part.  Weight loss and fitness goals aside (but still there), I've got goals to make sure that I, as a person, am well rounded and *gasp* - employable. 

This employ-ability thing is quite interesting. Some individuals, well most of the ones I've come across in the last year or so, have been busy running the rat race. Now, don't get me wrong I'm on the same running track, but the difference is that I am just realizing the rules. I'm proud to say that I've realized that:

A) I'm running.

B) That there is a track and other people are on it.


C) That there seems to be some sense of common direction. (Think clockwise vs counterclockwise)  

I like analogies, so I apologize if I use them freely. But to make things more clear I'll sum it this way

I'm figuring it all out!

The first realization, the fact that I am moving along quite well, was a bit tricky. Unlike most vets, I walked out of active duty with a full-time job. Not only that, but they allowed me to work part-time until my service was complete. Think of that,  I was able to find a good place to work and continue to pay my bills. How awesome!

I felt secure and as if the next handful of years would go by smoothly. But, alas, I was wrong. I soon grew bored of my new role and organization.  I felt dead. So, I thought I had it all down pat and had to learn the hard way that where you work is pretty important. 

What was scary was that it was awhile before my next shot came along. However, when it did it was an amazing one. I was able to step in as a 'consultant' at a huge company and experience what goes on at the upper levels of a real company. I felt successful. I felt empowered. I felt as if I was ready to make a difference. But, I also felt something else - I felt overwhelmed.

It was from this experience that I realized that I needed to take a step back, I needed to understand that a decade of being in uniform does a lot for leadership and confidence, but little in actionable knowledge. Now, before you say, "Well I know Lieutenant Dan, and he just walked right into his role at ACME Corp." I'll remind you that I'm not like most success stories, that is if I could be considered one. 

First, a lot of individuals highlighted by companies fit in one of two categories, they are specialists or pedigree. What I mean by that is that most enlisted receive top notch training in complex technical skills free from uncle sam. These skills are cheap and plentiful for companies looking to grow their employee base with issue free and easy to manage people. And although my enlisted background was technical, it was in Geo-spatial information systems. Also, it had been five years since I had used it at the time of my separation. So, as a junior military officer, or JMO, I had just enough leadership experience to want to get into management and not enough industry experience to be above entry level. 

The second list of super-vets is the "pedigree." These individuals are graduates from an academy or have some other claim to fame that makes them special. These cats usually get hooked up by alumni connections or through a strong network. And rightfully so! I'm not putting anybody down, but just highlighting that a majority of vets don't fit the top 2% of the servicemen and women we see on the front page of most corporate hiring sites. These people have earned their network and it's making them successful - that's the name of the game. Most of them have one thing that I do not - landscape. Perceived or real, having an understanding of what the landscape is and where you fit in it is the crux, the ultimate characteristic that ANY vet should have when finding work. I lacked that, still do to some degree. But, I'm coming around and THAT has been the saving grace, the breath of fresh air.

I understand that I'm not going to walk out and make six figures a year. I may not even work for a sexy company that I am absolutely in love with. Heck, I may even end up in a career that I didn't even know existed until I applied for the job. I have to be OK with that. I have to know that my worth in the job space is calculated as I compare to others in my environment (think faster runners.) Should a self-taught guy with no experience be chasing after top-tier tech jobs in a hub of innovation and development? Probably not. Would I have a better shot in Tennessee working at a some distribution center? You bet your pants. 

But I'm not in Tennessee. My life is here, in Seattle. So what I need are the hard skills that I can put to work in the technologically advance business space at lower and middle management positions. It is a fact that I cannot manage individuals without some sort of training on what it is that they do. Sadly many companies still need to understand this too. 


I'll add that we vets usually take classroom instruction well and learn even faster on the job. You want to invigorate a group of people? Shoot 'em with a shot of military vigor from a young former officer out to eat the world alive and see how things start taking off. She's even likely to teach you a thing or two.


Because of this realization, I am now thinking about the next step. What does it look like? I've got a degree, a great one at that, but I have not built up my network or actually figured out what to say if someone asks me what I want to do. Recently I've found out that I like coding and still love math and solving unique problems. It's because of this and completing some self-paced online courses, that I've decided to try my hand at data analytics with the dreams of moving on to data science and machine learning. Coding boot camps and Coursera classes seem to work out, but who knows. Maybe I'll get an entry level shot somewhere doing some sweet Excel magic. 

And that's the reason for this post, just to say that this is what I'm going to do and that I'm going to share this journey as it happens. Hopefully others like me will read it and find hope and understand that sometimes it's just good to be running - even if it is in the wrong direction. 


  1. Brandon, I know you will find something perfect. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, figure out what will make us happy and take a risk. I believe in you and your success.


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