Junior Officers: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Man riding motorcycle in the city at night

Someone really should tell you. When a junior officer nears transition, I think someone from the command should sit you down, look you right in the face and say, "Yes, lieutenant, I see great things for you in the Marine Corps."

They should grab you on the flight deck and say, "You, Bud, are clearly Flag material." At the very least, they should turn to you, wipe tears from their faded eyes and intone, "Young woman, you are everything the Air Force [or the Army or the Coast Guard] is looking for."

Then the transition decision would be easy. You would know that your military career was meant to be. Even though you knew how hard you would work, how frequently you would deploy, you would know it would be worthwhile in the end.

No one gets that. Instead what you get is a bad version of The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?'' That is why at Military.com's Veteran Talent Pool, we put together our Junior Military Officer Transition Master Class to help you better predict your prospects in the military and to show you what may await you in the outside world.

It's always tease, tease, tease.

It seems like a tease. No one tells you whether you should stay in the military or get out and find a job. The powers-that-be are not deliberately obtuse. They cannot predict what will happen to you.

Among young military officers especially, it is so difficult to tell who the standouts will be in the long run. Sure, there is a golden child or two in every group -- often people who got especially lucky with their first assignment -- but mostly you are smack in the middle of a lot of bright, educated people just like you. How can you tell if you will stand out?

One day it's fine, and next it's black.

Your fitness report, officer evaluation record (OER) or officer performance report (OPR) is not much help with the big decision. Some people shine as junior officers because they are especially squared away.

Yet we all know a sharp haircut and a dedication to detail are not the only markers of career success later down the road. What markers really matter for military service, and which ones matter most in the civilian world? Can the right resume make a difference?

If you stay, there will be trouble.

As a junior officer, you can see life ain't easy in the upper ranks, particularly for people with husbands and wives who are ambitious in their own careers. The military is not going to stop moving families.

In the past, this has been notoriously hard on spouses. The post-COVID world may mark a real change for the portability of better-paying careers. Can the two of you work it out?

If you go, there will be trouble.

On the other side, there is the post-COVID economy. As a junior officer, you will be leaving with no clear source of income. If you have a degree in computer science or engineering, you will be fine. Recruiters are probably already hunting you down on LinkedIn. If you have a non-STEM or non-business-related degree, you may need to retool. Is an MBA necessary? Are the recruiters for real? Do you have to move to Iowa?

This indecision's bugging me.

When you are in the middle of making this big career decision, it is agony because the stakes are so high. So, go ahead and sign up for our FREE Junior Military Officer Transition Master Class. In just an hour, you can look down both career roads and decide where your best life is leading you now. We will look at:

  • the military predictors of success.
  • the best civilian opportunities for junior officers.
  • how to navigate the world of JMO recruiters without losing any money.
  • the best veteran programs for you now.

Because at Military.com, we see great things for you. You are clearly executive material. You are everything the civilian world is looking for. You deserve to get the big insights that will make your big decision with big confidence.

Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Talent Pool and on her website, SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.

Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project

To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

Story Continues