Setting a Realistic Objective
Have you thought about what type of work you want to do in your next career or where you want to live? Do you know how much you need to earn to ensure you and your family have a decent quality of life? You might think you can be happy with any job as long as it pays enough, or that living in your dream location compensates for the lack of good career opportunities there. The truth, though, is that the type of work you do, how much you earn and where you live are all equal contributors to achieving career satisfaction. During your military career, you learned how to target an objective. Whatever you were planning to acquire or accomplish, the first step in every military mission included targeting the objective. Now it's time to target your career objective and apply what you've learned to your job search.
Start focusing your job objective by thinking about your personal interests and aspirations. Where do you want to be five or ten years from now? Do you want to be your own boss? Do you want to work with children, animals or heavy machinery? Is your present job the type of work you would like to continue doing? Only you can answer these questions. You can begin creating a list of things you'd like your next career to include. These questions will help get you started. If you would like additional assistance, ACAP and the Education Center on your installation can help you identify your interests and focus your objective.
On active duty, you gained excellent skills. The Army probably sent you to schools or provided on-the-job training. Even your day-to-day experiences provided opportunities for learning. So, how will you use the skills and knowledge you acquired? Review your work history and identify the tasks you enjoyed performing as well as the ones you hated. Don't worry about job titles. Think about what you did and how you felt about it. Did you like working with your hands? How did you feel about supervising others? Did working as a member of a team appeal to you or did you wish you were working on your own? The Education Center and ACAP have skill inventories you can take, but a pen and paper list of skills you have can get you started narrowing your choices.
Think about where you have worked and the conditions you have worked in. How did you feel about your previous jobs and why did you feel the way you did? Did you enjoy working in an office or outside? Did you like a routine or enjoy the excitement of a hectic working environment? How you like to work contributes to your job satisfaction, as do strong ethical feelings you may have. Would you do something you hate if it paid enough? Don't be too sure. Some of us will never feel comfortable selling cars or hunting down stray animals so that they can be put to sleep. Make sure you understand your work values and how they affect your occupational decisions.
Whether you plan to continue working in your current career field or to look for a different type of work, you may not be fully qualified for the job you're considering. If you don't know if you have the right qualifications, you need to do some research. You can learn more about job qualifications by reading want ads, talking to people who have similar jobs or conducting online research. Discussing occupation choices with your education or ACAP counselor or consulting with your state's Employment Services office can also be helpful. If the type of work you're considering requires a certification or license, you can find out more about requirements from the COOL website.
For most of us, where we live is important. Maybe you want or need to live near your or your spouse's family. Maybe your children have special needs that require schools, health care facilities or support services. Perhaps your spouse has career aspirations as well. Whatever dictates your location preferences, you must make sure that they don't conflict with your occupational preferences. In short, can you find work in your chosen field and chosen location? Look at job websites to see what kinds of jobs are available in your preferred location. Ask your ACAP counselors for assistance in researching jobs and locations.
Make sure you research salaries and costs of living for your dream job and location. Your ACAP Center counselor can help you with this research. You can also examine job listings and find many online resources that offer information that relates jobs to salaries. Even if you are willing to work long hours for little pay if that means you can own your own business, work with kids, be in the entertainment industry or live in your home town, you may not be able to afford to do so. Whether you are single or have a family, the bottom line is that you need to earn enough money to meet your financial and family obligations. One more thing, remember that cost of living changes with location. The same apartment may cost $600 a month in one city and $1,000 in another. Developing comprehensive budget worksheets that show your current monthly expenses in comparison to what those expenditures would be outside the military can help you to be realistic as you explore career objectives.
A Realistic Objective
Setting an objective requires honesty and deep soul searching. Don't lie to yourself and don't make important decisions without thorough research. If you have a family, talk to your spouse and older children. Find out what is important to them. For you to be successful, your objective must be realistic, in demand and satisfy your needs, goals and objectives, and those of your family members.
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