The biggest difference between the military and the civilian world

Purpose. Whether you engaged in direct combat or served as a wounded soldier counselor, odds are that you felt like you were part of something bigger than yourself.

In the military we were not only fighting to protect this great nation, we were fighting to protect a significant part of the entire world.

Yes, we had to wake up early every morning, follow orders and be away from our families, but having such a responsibility on our shoulders made it easier to stay motivated.

When we transition to the civilian world, however, things are much different. They make us go through TAP, and even though they share some valuable information with us, there’s no way it can truly prepare us (also, I don’t know about you but I didn’t want to drive trucks for the rest of my life).

Finding purpose in the civilian world isn’t that different from doing so in the military. The difference is that in the military we are reminded of the bigger picture all the time whereas in the civilian world we have to do that for ourselves.

Finding your purpose as a civilian  

I read a cool story the other day…

When President John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space center in 1962, he noticed a janitor holding a broom and immediately interrupted his tour, walked to the man and asked, “what are you doing?”

The janitor replied, “well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Nice lesson, right?

To most, that janitor could have been simply cleaning a building—but he was aware of the bigger picture. He knew that regardless of how big or small his role was, he was contributing to something much bigger than himself.

The key to transitioning successfully, and succeeding in the civilian world for many years to come, is to find purpose in what you do—it is to remain aware of a bigger picture. You just have to find that bigger picture on your own.

Here’s a list of fulfilling careers packed with opportunities for future growth that don’t require a lot to get started:  

  1. Information Security

People in this career field are and will be some of the most in-demand professionals in the world.

As technology advances and more data-generating devices are connected to networks, threats of cyber attacks have become a huge concern for businesses with an online presence.

Imagine a career where you become a security engineer for a bank, and your work requires you to protect other people’s money from cyber thieves.

Don’t you think that would be fulfilling?

Not only would you contribute towards people’s financial safety, but you’d make a lot of money and get great benefits as well.

  1. Financial Advisor

Needless to say this is a beautiful profession (aside for some greedy and corrupt people out there in places like Wall Street). Financial advisors help people achieve stability in their lives.

When it comes to personal finance, most people need to be guided and protected. This makes this profession a very fulfilling and rewarding way to contribute to society.

Imagine starting your own financial advising business and helping other veterans transition to the civilian world and set off on a path to financial freedom.

The only downsize is that to become a financial advisor you’d likely need to spend a few years studying and probably become a CFP (certified financial planner). Other than that, you’d probably wake up every day happy to have the opportunity to help others.

I really like this commercial from Fidelity Investments. It shows how rewarding the financial advising profession can be.

  1. Network Engineering

This profession requires a thorough understanding of technology. The reason being that network engineers build and manage the highways through which a network’s information travels through.

Nowadays, since virtually all businesses have an online presence, all of them need a network engineer to ensure employees, customers, etc. can communicate efficiently and access applications with ease.

There are many positions that can be very meaningful and challenging, such as the coolest job at Cisco Systems—probably one of the most purposeful jobs in the technology industry.

If you were to become a network engineer, your skills would be in high-demand for many years to come, and you will probably have new challenges every day at your job—so you’d never be bored.

  1. Supply Chain Manager

Very few companies know how to move stuff like the military does. If you have experience in logistics, it’s likely that your skills will transfer smoothly into the civilian world.

Companies from the transportation industry to the manufacturing industry need detailed-oriented and disciplined people to coordinate, analyze and oversee their supply chain.

As a veteran no one will question that you have all of those things. That can give you an edge on other people as you look to jumpstart your new career.

The purpose of this job, aside from each particular company’s mission, lies in the goal of supply chain and logistics, which is to make every process more efficient so that businesses can keep their costs low.

It is likely, however, that even if you have previous relevant experience from the military you’d be required to have a college degree in order to break into the role.

One key difference

All of the careers we just talked about would give you a very realistic possibility of breaking the six figure salary mark in the civilian world, and obviously depending on the company you end up working at, would also give you some of that precious privilege back.

However, you probably noticed that two of the four careers require a college education, which can be a pain in the neck for most vets.

Unfortunately, in order to become a supply chain manager or financial advisor, you’d need to go back to school for a few years.

The other two careers, both technical, don’t require a degree. Sure, many “experts” say they do, and colleges will do everything to convince you that they do (they have their own reasons)…

But the truth is that anyone with some hands-on experience, a technical certification or two, and a solid understanding of the big picture of the the information technology industry, could be very successful very fast.

And it gets better. Just by learning the fundamentals of networking and getting some real world practice, which can take as little as three months and can be done online, you’d be setting yourself up for multiple careers paths.

Since networking is the foundation of information technology, you could eventually become a cyber security engineer, systems engineer or data center engineer, etc.—whatever you like best.

Probably the best thing about the information technology career field is that if you play your cards correctly and follow the right steps, you could land a job paying you well over 6 figures in just 2-4 years—even if you don’t know anything about technology today.

How’s that for a challenge, fellow vet?

The bottom line

In the end, it’s just a matter of how you choose to look at things. You could either simply clean the building or help put a man on the moon. Whichever you choose will make a huge difference in your post-military life. 

We were very privileged in the military—we got to work to protect this great nation of ours, and were reminded of it day in and day out. When we transition, this sense of purpose often goes away for many.

This is why it is really important to jump into a career full of meaning, that can set you up for future success and give you the flexibility to enjoy time with your loved ones.  

In my opinion, a career in information technology gives you the best chances to succeed as a civilian. It would allow you to achieve major success quite fast, and you don’t need to go to college for four years to get started.