5 Takeaways from A Veteran’s Successful Pursuit of His Dream Job:

by on December 4th, 2014

Below are 5 takeaways from one veteran’s successful pursuit of his dream job. The author is a graduate of the Naval Academy and Harvard Business School.

I won’t attempt to tell you what career path you should take. I’ll leave that to the experts who might plug your survey responses into an algorithm and hand you a $100 list of dream jobs. If I had listened to the experts, I would be an accountant. They obviously didn’t know me better than I do, and nobody knows you better than you do. Take your time, reflect on who you are, and trust your gut. I trusted mine, waited much longer than my peers, and ended up with a job I love—working with great people in a stimulating and potentially lucrative environment. Here are five takeaways from my career search that I hope may be helpful to you as you navigate your own transition:

1) Know your strengths.

You are really good at things—most likely as a result of years of experience, hard work, and dedication. Don’t let those skills and talents go to waste, and don’t miss the opportunity to excel in a new career that requires you to do things you are already great at.

2) Know your interests.

What do you do in your free time? What do you read about regularly? Where have you always wanted to live? Your next job is a choice. Choose something that will keep you engaged in the things you already enjoy.

3) Know what matters to you.

What is the most common issue you debate with your friends and colleagues? What sort of news stories capture your attention? Do you plan to be home for dinner or to work late into an oblivion of champagne and laser lights? Be honest with yourself about what matters most, and don’t justify any opportunity that falls short of your expectations.

4) Sell yourself.

Learning to sell yourself takes time, especially for a humble leader of our armed forces. The better you understand your strengths, interests, and values, the more effective your sales pitch will be. I started college as an art major and graduated as a math major. I spent a few college summers as a carpenter, and I managed several construction operations in the military. I am fascinated by the architecture of large buildings, I have an appreciation for the work that goes into building them, and I have a firm grasp on the numbers that govern their financial returns. Thus, I would make an exceptional real estate development intern. See what I did there?

5) Trust your gut.

This rule applies to every phase of your career transition. If you don’t know if you want something, you don’t want it. Not sure if you want to stay in the service? You probably don’t. I stewed for months over a seemingly great job offer. It was the only offer on the table, yet something just didn’t seem right. My gut was telling me “no” all along, and I’m glad I finally listened. Only a few weeks later, I was introduced to the firm that I would spend months trying to land a job with. I knew immediately what I wanted, and I chased it down relentlessly. You’ll never have to talk yourself into the right opportunity—and nobody should be able to talk you out of it.

Written by Rob, a former Marine, a USNA and HBS graduate, and a member of the MtB consulting team.

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