Considering a career change? Just starting out? Have you thought about the military?

I come from a family with a strong tradition of military service – a tradition that remains very much alive. Our son is an Army Veteran and another son in an Air Force Veteran. One of my nephews also served in the Army and currently a reservist, along with our cousin, whom is a Retire Lieutenant Colonel. Our granddaughter is active duty Air Force, as is her husband.

As I’ve watched all of these loved ones enter the armed forces, I’ve done so through the eyes of a very proud mom, aunt, cousin and grandma – but also through the lens of my career-long experience as a recruiter and evaluator of personnel.

And when I don that latter perspective, I find myself wondering why more people don’t give serious thought to the military as a potentially ideal place to begin or transform a career.

I’m fully aware that this path is not for everyone – it wasn’t for me, after all. I’m also quite aware that it’s a path that entails unique and sometimes extreme sacrifices.

When you go into the military, your career – and, indeed, your life – are no longer yours to do with more or less as you please. For many, it’s a career of modest pay, frequent moves, and often-bewildering bureaucracy. After 17 years of war since 9/11 (yes, still), we should all be well aware that the costs of uniformed service can immensely exceed any of this.

But even with all of these very significant caveats in mind, I wholeheartedly believe that the military offers some extraordinary opportunities for people at a wide range of career stages.

For starters, the assumption that everyone graduating from high school should go right away to college or trade school simply isn’t true. Some young people would benefit enormously from time out of the classroom to assess priorities, learn more about themselves, and perhaps earn some money.

Those in this situation should give the armed forces a look – the armed forces are most certainly on the lookout for them, at a time when only about a quarter of young Americans are meeting the physical and mental requirements to serve.

This is not only an option for people just starting out. In a turbulent job market, the military is also a potentially valuable alternative for somewhat older individuals who are looking to make a mid-career transition.

The bottom line is that a military career – even if it’s only one that lasts a few years – is a deeply meaningful way to serve one’s country, and also to expand one’s skills and broaden one’s experience. As I have seen in my own family, it can be an excellent route forward – one well worth considering. ###


PS From PSP: Really interesting piece in Geekwire from earlier this summer about Seattle homelessness and what lessons we might learn from other cities. It’s very thoughtful and a bit lengthy, and well worth a review.

Cities that have made the most progress toward ending homelessness seem to have done so by emphasizing regional cooperation and a housing-first approach, in which the priority is to get people into housing as soon as possible on the theory that any other personal issues (such as substance abuse and unemployment) then become a bit less tricky to solve.

Of course, the solution to this very complex issue is a bit more involved than that, but there’s no doubt that Seattle could benefit enormously from the experience of other communities – such as Salt Lake City and Columbus – that have begun making inroads on the problem. ###


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