Who's planning your career?

  • Published
  • By Richard Snelling
  • Chief, 97th Aircraft Division
Many of us spend a lot of time making plans to enhance our careers. We ask ourselves questions like "what should my next job be?", "who should I work for?", "what position will I be required to fill before I can move to the next level?", "should I volunteer for that remote assignment?", and "what am I missing in my resume?"

I think if we're honest with ourselves we see that we have had some of these thoughts. As a matter of fact, some of you have even sat down with your mentors and have attempted to formulate answers to these questions.

Our former Air Education and Training Command commander Gen. Stephen Lorenz discussed the subject of mentoring subordinates on his last visit to Altus Air Force Base prior to his retirement. During a luncheon with squadron commanders, one of the questions asked was, "How can you take care of your Airman's career and still point them in the right direction for personal growth?" The General told us that wherever he was assigned, whatever position or task he was asked to accomplish, his focus was to always do his best. He didn't spend time looking for his next job but rather focused on what he could do to ensure his section could successfully complete its mission. The General believed if you used your energy to take care of your co-workers and subordinates, you would be doing everything you needed to do for your own advancement.

I recall early in my career looking around at other Airmen with the same skill sets I had and wondering why they were so successful. These folks were working in the positions that I deserved. That was wasted time. I've learned the assignments that I've worked hard at and been successful at were the training ground for the jobs that I would hold in the future. I spent most of my time in the Air Force as a flight line mechanic, supervisor and finally a manager. None of these assignments were my first choice at the time. The back shops and inspection docks probably would have been higher on my wish list and I could have spent every day scheming to get there. But the mentoring that I received wasn't on how to get where I thought I needed to be, but how to do the job I had been given with excellence. There were several leaders I had the opportunity to work for who stressed core values as the focus of our labors. They were right and they definitely led by example.

The message I want to get across is three-fold. First, accept the assignments that are levied on you whether it's a task in your current duty section or a move half way around the world. Second, don't look back, but accept where you are and what you're doing. Finally, work hard to do a quality job and incorporate core values in even the smallest undertaking.

With personnel cuts and force down-sizing, just being in today's military shows what you do is vitally important to our national defense. As you mentor your subordinates, be sure to lead by example. Don't just give them a career map that someone else used to achieve success. Rather work out an individualized plan that focuses on the skills required for success in their Air Force Specialty Code.

I thought about where I'd be today if I could have had the jobs that I thought I should have. I certainly would not have the tools to do the jobs or reach the potential that my mentors invested in. Hopefully as you look back on your career you'll be able to see that every task, job assignment, and position prepared you for the success that you've achieved.