The Cadet experience at West Point, as at the other U.S. Service Academies, is built on three pillars – academics, athletics, and military. In this article, we explain how to apply those same three pillars in your new career after you have made the military-to-civilian career transition.
Let’s start with academics. In whatever the field of study, the goal is not simply to understand the “how’s” but the “why’s.” The best students understand the underlying principles and can apply them appropriately.
So as you assimilate into your new career, go deep academically. Research and understand the basic principles of the company’s product or service. Become a recognized expert in that career field. Know everything you possibly can about it. Write papers on the topic. Give talks on it. Share your knowledge via social media sites, especially within LinkedIn groups in your industry.
The second pillar is athletics. The top athletes practice, practice, and then practice some more. While you likely won’t have the time to become a top athlete while working your trade, you can be active in life-long sports that help keep you physically fit.
By participating in a sport such as golf, you combine what can be a fun athletic pursuit with the opportunity to expand and strengthen your business connections.
The third pillar is military. Once you transition, you’re in a different “industry,” so let’s take a different tact. Who were the top performers in your military unit? What made them stand out as leaders?
As you think about the character traits that made them top performers, ask yourself what makes for a top performer in your new company or industry? What can you do to constantly improve yourself and become a leader in that career field?
Look for opportunities to contribute “outside the box.” Regardless of whether you’re formally recognized, you’ll have the self-satisfaction of knowing you helped make a difference, and that’s what it’s all about.