The military can be an odd place when it comes to promotion. For often, it is a myriad of formulas weighing time in grade, cutting scores, and reviews to reach a special number that says you earned that extra stripe.
As a result, if one knows how to work hard and get the magic number where it should be, they are almost guaranteed to eventually receive that promotion. However, most positions in private organizations outside of the military operate with no such formula. They are not burdened with government regulations and they can simply pursue the people at will whom they think will make the best fit for the position. And for the transitioning veteran, they must learn to what the civilian workplace values and pursue outcomes over scores.
This is good news!
For the veteran, this is indeed excellent news. For this means that they are not forever burdened to sit behind those who may have entered the workforce earlier in some sort of arbitrary pecking order. It would be rare in the military for the private to surpass the individual that was a Sergeant when they first got in. However, in the civilian world, this career leapfrog happens all the time. So whereas you might have to take a front line position when you first enter the civilian world, if you continue to pursue excellence as you did when you were in uniform, it typically won't take long before that is noticed.
And it starts with demonstrating leadership as a peer. Interviews will often help decide a promotion, but if you ask the front line staff in any organization, they will quickly tell you who they think should get promoted. For when you quickly display teamwork and a commitment to the mission for which the military is famous, your peers will recognize that and appreciate you more than the guy who has been there five years and lacks it. Performance and initiative can leapfrog you in to that promotion you so richly deserve. So throw the magic formulas out the window and just start leading from day one.
Chase the Outcomes
Businesses and private organizations love outcomes. The key for the veteran seeking a promotion is to identify what role they can play in those outcomes. What special projects or challenges can they take on that others are unwilling to consider?
Showing up to work every day and taking your primary military instruction courses might have gotten you an extra stripe in the military, but you will have no such luck in the civilian. Yes there are jobs, mostly government in nature that use a similar scoring system. But for most, you will have a really unique and unfamiliar opportunity to pursue a career without limits.
Promotion in the civilian workplace is about demonstrated leadership and tangible outcomes. Despite the promotion system used in the military, these are two areas where the veteran should excel. All you have to do is unleash them early in your new career and watch the opportunities come your way. Don't be bashful and feel like you need wait your time and then the promotion will come to you when the right amount of time has passed.
Rather, seize the initiative and make that promotion yours when you see fit. It is not arrogance to pursue an opportunity in a free-market workplace. This is the approach that built America and the veteran ought to take advantage of it like the rest. Because if you don't and you are just waiting on some score to say you are ready, someone else will and they will be your boss.
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