How to Evaluate Offers, Get More $$$ and Avoid a Bridge Job After the Military

creepy clown with red balloon looms on bridge

Transitioning military members are the kind of sensible people who plan to evaluate their job offers, then pick the best option. No veteran sets out on purpose to get a job that only bridges the gap between military service and civilian life and barely pays the bills. No clown deliberately seeks a bridge job they plan to leave in a year or two.

Yet research shows that somewhere between 66% and 80% of veterans will leave their first job after military service in less than two years. When asked why they left, veterans often list the classic markers of a bridge job -- a bad career fit, lack of advancement, lack of pay, the need for a springboard skill.

Take the Time to Evaluate the Offer

As the transition master coach for's Veteran Employment Project, I can tell you service members can avoid bridge jobs in one essential part of the job-hunting process -- evaluating the job offer. Looking systematically at the real job offer and making a logic-based decision is absolutely necessary. Even if you are facing mounting bills and you need something now, looking at why you are saying yes to a particular job can make all the difference in the world to your job satisfaction over the long run.

Find Your 40

Fear not. I'm not going to ask you to get out your Excel spreadsheet and design a matrix for comparing all the nitty-gritty aspects of your job offer, then calculate inflation rates over the next five years and subtract the true cost of health care. That's a lot of math for very little return on investment. (Use our pay calculator for free instead.)

Military veterans in transition need a simpler way to get closer to the right answer and avoid the bridge job. I've heard from several military retirees that the way to do this is to compare certain aspects of your job offers. They often call it "Find Your 40." This method focuses on five factors that tend to have the most influence on job satisfaction after the military.

To get the whole story, I went to retired Navy Adm. Sinclair Harris, who often counsels veterans on transition as president of the National Naval Officers Association. After 34 years of military service, he had a very short transition and needed a way to make good decisions quickly. A mentor passed the "Find Your 40" method to him, and he used it to choose his first job.

The Essential Criteria

To maximize career satisfaction, Harris says the goal is to find a job with a score of at least 40 points. For each of the five criteria listed below, you will give the job offer a score from zero to 10. You have to be honest. "Give it a zero if the job is terrible," Harris said. "Give it a 10 only if it is perfect."

1. Organization

Do you have a passion for what the organization does? What exactly does the company represent, and how does that mesh with your core values? If you think the company sells something stupid or, worse, evil, you will never be happy there, no matter what they pay. Ditto if the work is done in a known toxic environment. Life is too short to work with, well, jerks.

Score 0-10: _________

2. Interest

What is the daily activity you will be hired to do? Does it sound fun, fulfilling, engaging, worthy and interesting? How will they rate you on your performance?

Score 0-10: _________

3. Culture of Learning and Growth

This is where the size of the company may matter to you in terms of opportunity. "Big places can give a lot of learning opportunities," Harris said. "They invest time in you to increase retention and productivity, but you might get pigeonholed. Midsize employers expect you to learn the industry on your feet. Small companies are like babies; they gotta eat every day. They don't have time to invest in you, and you need to make it rain now." Whatever the size of the company, does it offer the kind of growth you respond to most?

Score 0-10: _________

4. Location and Travel

Before the job offer, most military think of location as where their family will live and whether they will need to move. After you start working, location refers to travel and the length of the commute. Service members often report that even though their commute took the same amount of time that it did during military service, it did not seem worth it for their post-military job. Also, clarify with the hiring manager how much travel this job typically requires, as well as the current plans for working at home and a return to the office.

Score 0-10: _________

5. Total Compensation Package

You can't base your decision solely on your compensation package, but you cannot afford to ignore it, either. Different companies offer very different packages. "It's gonna be apples to hand grenades," Harris said. "They might be shaped the same, but they are not the same."

Score 0-10: _________

Add Up Your Total Score

This is the part that is most important in the Find Your 40 method, because you are not looking for a high score. The job offer has to score at least 40 points in order for you to even consider it. This really helps when job offers come in like whack-a-mole.

When I have used this method with transitioning military clients, they are surprised to see how the true offer becomes clear, as well as how it sparks some questions they need to ask the employer.

Getting a job offer is nearly as stressful as not getting the job offer. Make the right decision by taking the time to evaluate the next step in your search for a high-impact job. Find out more tips and strategies by signing up for our FREE upcoming transition master classes or checking out our video master class series.

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.

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