David Smith's journey took him from the battlefield to chief marketing officer for a tech startup in Norway. Smith credits the grit he learned in the Marine Corps, and the camaraderie and support of fellow veterans as mentors to get him this far in his journey.
Smith was an infantry rifleman and team leader with the Alpha Company "Raiders" of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and was involved in gnarly and deadly combat, including the infamous battle of An Najaf in Iraq.
After leaving the Marines, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and worked for a brief stint at the New York Stock Exchange, before realizing he wanted to pursue something more meaningful. He spent the next several years volunteering with Team Rubicon and working for missionary and humanitarian projects in more than 30 countries. He now works as the chief marketing officer for Dogu, a software company.
Smith's path was circuitous, but he said he used his passion as his compass, as well as hard-earned battle grit and the help of mentors to lead a successful, happy life. He provides the following advice for those transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce for a more direct route to success.
1. Start Your Transition Planning Early
Military members looking to transition need to start early. First, aim far above what you think you are capable of. Apply to schools and jobs that you don't think you'll get. You will be surprised by the results.
2. Create a Transition Mission Plan
Create a transition road map, just like a mission plan, and follow it. Network often because the veteran space is small but incredibly powerful. Make use of all of the resources and organizations available. Seek the help you need until you become the best possible version of yourself, and don't settle for less. Once you reach peak potential, reach out and help others by mentoring veterans along their path. Service doesn't stop just because you have taken off the uniform.
3. Register with the Department of Veterans Affairs
Get registered with the VA and seek the care you need early. Don't be afraid of the stigma of seeking help. If you don't need help, perhaps volunteer at your local VA hospital or service office.
4. Join Veteran Volunteer Organizations
5. Go Back to College or Trade School
Put your GI Bill benefits to good use and get a degree in something you are passionate about. Don't waste your money at for-profit schools that don't provide a high-value return.
6. Network to Get Informational Interviews
Start networking to land informational interviews. When possible, see if there are any internship opportunities. You never know whether you'll like something until you try it. Don't be afraid to try something that you never thought possible. There may be veterans in your dream job who are willing to help you get there.
7. Find Mentors who Share Your Passion
The Next Step: Get Veteran Jobs Tips
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