My family has a long history of military service dating back to the American Revolution. Both my parents served and my father retired after a 20 year career. So when I decided to get a full time job to fund college it wasn’t surprising I selected the military.
As a 19 year old who had only worked a couple of part time jobs (not counting babysitting) boot camp was an eye opener. Initial training (labeled differently based on military branch) is designed to transform people into sailors, marines, soldiers or airmen by instilling you with the branch’s values and skills.
Since my military occupation was in the medical field it easily transitioned to the civilian job market. Years later I appreciated how the military had taught me how to be successful with any career with four key lessons.
Always Be On Time
The Navy standard for assigned work schedules is to start 15 minutes early. While this is not the norm in civilian life, planning to be early can increase punctuality despite traffic (or life) delays. Is a manager going to be annoyed with employees for showing up before their scheduled work shift? No but they will negatively note tardiness, especially if it is a habit.
Follow the Chain of Command
Translate “chain of command” to management structure and it will make sense. Even though this might seem outdated with more informal work environments that is an illusion. Supervisors and lower level managers are there to handle routine issues and float the bigger stuff up the chain.
No one is Indispensable
With assignments ranging from 1 to 4 years the staff changes regularly in a military work unit. This is designed to increase the skills of each person as they change work places and to ensure the unit can meet the core objective of keeping the nation safe regardless of individuals. During combat soldiers may be lost and the unit must continue to fight. This is a life and death lesson in this context.
Although not as black and white, corporations usually view employees the same way. Especially during these economic times with a high unemployment rate people are replaceable.
The value of corporate knowledge is weighed against meeting additional demands (pay or otherwise) and rarely does the employee win out.
The Power of Teamwork
Individually, no soldier or sailor could complete the unit’s mission but together they can do successfully. It’s the same way in most businesses. One individual can’t make the product, sell it and provide service.
Be an integral part of the team and you will be recognized as an individual for outstanding work. It’s also noted when employees are not team players and they usually won’t progress at the company.
These lessons are taught outside the military although it may be more subtle. What career lessons have you learned?