7 Big Career Mistakes to Avoid After Service

(U.S. Army)

It's safe to say most veterans leaving military service will be entering the civilian job market for the first time as adults. While many are given weeks of training, as well as access to hundreds of public and private nonprofit programs to show them how to get that first big job, there are many who need career advice long after service ends.

After all, at some point, even an adult who is likely older than most people in their position will need to switch jobs, take a promotion or otherwise advance their career. With less experience in the civilian world than their peers, veterans may not know exactly how to proceed. Having a mentor is the best way to get that kind of advice, but those who don't have one will still likely succeed.

Read: 'Heroes Linked' Connects Veterans with Mentors, Job Opportunities

They just need to remember to avoid a few key things, many of which may sound familiar.

1. Complacency

It's easy to get bogged down in work. We all have deadlines to meet, projects to finish and teams that require our contribution. But if we only ever keep serving in that role and never grow as a professional or employee, we will soon find our skills dated or worse: obsolete.

One of the most important things to do to keep a resume fresh is being up-to-date on the trends, methods and skills of our craft, whatever they may be. This is the added value an employee can bring to any company. Keep those skills fresh, be knowledgeable and never be resistant to change -- it's coming whether you're ready or not.

Remember: A glider can fly only so far once it's released from the engine that powers it.

2. Lack of Self-Promotion

The military is a meritocracy (for the most part). Those who do the time in service with the time in grade, get applicable education and training, and pass the test are likely to be promoted ahead of their peers. It doesn't work that way in the civilian world. In the rest of the world, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. For anyone uncomfortable with this, there's still hope: a wingman.

Find a like-minded co-worker to talk you up to colleagues and other industry professionals and agree to do the same for them. The news is more trustworthy if it comes from someone else anyway. This method also leads to building strong, trusted relationships in an industry, some that could pay off further down the line. It also keeps you from overselling yourself because you want something badly.

3. Inflated Ego

Even Tesla's board has tried to remove Elon Musk. No matter what job someone holds, in any industry, they are part of a team. No single member of a team is greater than the sum of its parts. Once someone stops being part of that team, especially in bigger organizations, they may need to be replaced, no matter how important.

4. Excessive Negativity

Everyone gets down on their job once in a while, but it's important to remember that mindset can affect an entire group of employees. Constant complaining can be draining to everyone. Spreading negativity about work or a project can lower the overall morale for everyone -- and people tend to remember excessively negative people.

More than that, speaking ill of colleagues or other industry professionals to other industry professionals can come back to haunt anyone, even years later. Don't be someone everyone else wants to avoid. It is extremely difficult to bounce back from being the office gossip.

5. Overpromising and Under-Delivering

It's important to be realistic with yourself and colleagues about your ability to deliver what you promise. It's equally important to make the deadlines set for projects. While anyone would be driven to make the most of the tasks set for them, to be seen as hardworking and dedicated to a cause, not making those deadlines and promises can have disastrous results.

No one looks good when they fail to meet expectations. Moreover, you put increased pressure and stress on yourself to perform at a level you may not be able to maintain. It's far better to set realistic goals and deliver quality work on time.

6. Being the Jack-of-All-Trades

Being a generalist is no longer as valued as being the expert in today's civilian workforce. It is also extremely limiting for an employee once the value of that generalization fades away. Employers today are looking for skilled workers who know their fields and want to excel as an important part of a team. Having someone on the team who can't perform at the same expert level as other members of the team is no longer the "glue that keeps everyone together." It can be a real hindrance, one that will be replaced in a hurry.

7. Making Excuses

We have all met this person. No matter what goes wrong, it was never really their fault. There are countless books and seminars about owning one's mistakes, and this is why. Once you're "that person," you're that person for a long, long time. Maybe forever.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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