Thoughts on a successful military career

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tanya Anderson
  • 97th Civil Engineer Squadron
As I reflect on my 17 years in the military, there are certain sustained truths that have consistently remained solid in my mind. An easy validation check comes whenever given the opportunity to preside over a retirement ceremony. As I speak with pending retirees and look back over their careers, noticeable trends and indicators have separated those who have had truly successful careers.

1. Bloom where you're planted - My first Civil Engineer commander stressed the importance of doing the best at whatever job you're given. A military career will take you to places all over the world, into different jobs, and expose you to various types of people. If you excel at the things within your control and consistently take advantage of opportunities presented, you will bloom and have a successful career.

2. Develop self-discipline - Within the military, members are all held to a higher standard. Society expects this, the Air Force expects this and we should expect this of ourselves. Self-discipline will keep you focused on the right priorities and push you to finish what you started even if there are occasional setbacks. Add in some observations of DOs and DON'Ts of others and a great self-discipline base will be set.

3. Master the art of moderation - This one takes work, but can be achieved. Life at times will place juggling demands upon you, and one's ability to find balance will determine success. Spending, eating, drinking, playing and working must all be done in moderation. Too much of one can definitely be a setup for failure and an undesired setback in one's career and life.

4. Never stop growing, setting goals and pushing yourself - There are always opportunities to grow whether it's completing an educational objective, learning a new hobby or even just conquering a physical challenge. Forever growing in a host of different things also makes you a well-rounded person. Have you consistently set goals? What are you pushing towards to serve as an inspiration to others?

5. Step out of your comfort zone - Discover those career building things that make you extremely uncomfortable, and do more of it. If it's public speaking, look for opportunities to brief in group settings. If you struggle with fitness testing, get smart on fitness improvement options and do more exercising to strengthen areas where you might be weak. The more you operate in your uncomfortable zone, the easier it becomes to respond when you're placed there unexpectedly.

Everyone joins the military for a broad number of different reasons; chance to serve, see the world, obtain an education, follow in others footsteps or simply embrace an opportunity for a better life. For those who've decided to serve, take pride in having done what many others will never do, and if you stay the course, work hard and make the best of every situation. A career in the military can be rewarding and successful.