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Want a good job after the military? You need to know how to evaluate opportunities

Jason C. Anderson

Do you want a meaningful and fulfilling job after you get out of the military? If so, you need to understand how to evaluate opportunities that come your way. This article will give you that tool.

The word opportunity is widely used in business and generally describes a good position, chance, or prospect for advancement. Opportunities that fall under these headings present themselves because companies are constantly surveying the markets and adapting their businesses to meet the market demand.

An example is this kind of opportunity might come from customers who want added enhancements to an existing product line. Another example might be a small business asking a larger company to enter into a partnership in an effort to reduce their supply chain expenditures and be more competitive on federal contracts, while providing their customers with a better-quality product, quicker.

These things happen all the time in business. If you are looking, opportunity is literally everywhere. The question is, how do companies objectively evaluate those opportunities to determine which are the best fit? Everything comes at a cost—even opportunity—and the question is, how to balance cost against limited resources.

Having worked within the defense and aerospace industry for the past 7+ years, not to mention having countless conversations with other professionals, I can tell you they all have one thing in common when it comes to opportunity—each has a way to evaluate and vet these opportunities within an (always) limited resource environment.

To evaluate and vet these opportunities early in the process, businesses deploy some version of what I call “making the business case.” Good companies deploy this company-wide and push it deep into the organization because opportunities happen at all levels and teams need tools to examine each opportunity on its merits and to make the decision whether or not to proceed.

Evaluating Your Military Transition Opportunities is No Different

Here is the thing: this principle of evaluating opportunities is directly applicable to your life as well—particularly when you are thinking about your military transition. As a military member, you have a myriad of choices following the military that you can choose from. You can become an employee, go back to school in anticipation of making a career change, or consider starting your own business.

While these certainly meet the definition of “opportunities,” additional work is needed to determine what the very best opportunity is—the one that makes the best use of resources and yields the desired outcome for you and your family.

To help you evaluate opportunities that come your way, PreVeteran created this individual tool: the Business Case Model.

PreVeteran’s Business Case Model

We created our PreVeteran Business Case Model by adapting the Real, Win, Worth (RWW) concept created by Dominick (“Don”) Schrello in the 1980s. According to a 2007 Harvard Business Review article he created this concept—better known as a Schrello screen—to help existing companies evaluate new products. This concept was widely adopted by many large companies in the 1980s and is still in use today.

Our PreVeteran Business Case Model has three distinct elements to help evaluate opportunities:

  1. Is it real?
  2. How does it benefit us?
  3. Is it worth it?

The model’s simple 3-question design forces you to mindfully think through potential opportunities. At the end of the process, you will have a very good sense of whether the opportunity is the right one for you, or not. Keep in mind, oftentimes decisions change when circumstances change. Our model’s simple design allows for iteration as the circumstances change, so you can quickly reevaluate the opportunity.

Let’s take a high-level look by briefly discussing each element and apply it to a very pertinent example, one you may be thinking of as a military member getting ready to transition.

Opportunity: Should I seek that Government Services (GS) that is posted on USAJobs.gov?

Is It Real?

It sounds elementary, but this question helps you examine the opportunity and determine if it is real. In other words, does the opportunity actually exist, is it complete, and does it address a need?

GS job example: Whether you’ve been in the military four years or forty years, you know that when you go to USAJobs.gov you will find a number of attractive jobs within the federal government that meet your requirements. Moreover, you feel comfortable at that website looking at those jobs because you’ve been in the government and speak that language.

So to answer the first question, yes, these opportunities are real.

How Does it Benefit Us?

In this second question, you need to spend time and brain power examining and assessing the potential benefits the opportunity provides you. Does the opportunity provide what you need and set you up for long-term success?

GS job example: As you scour through the available jobs available on USAJobs.gov, take some extra time to look over what they are offering in compensation and benefits. For most of you, that might include finding a salary and benefits commensurate with where you are now in your military career. After all, you don’t want to lose money or benefits. And, since you are familiar with the government and how it operates, you know how to understand it when they talk about different pay scales and steps. You’ve done the math and it works for you and your family.

So, the answer to the second question is also yes. It benefits you.

Is It Worth It?

In this final question, assuming the opportunity is real and offers you real, tangible benefits, you will examine whether investing your limited resources is worth it or not. Remember, even the pursuit of opportunity comes at a cost. This step is to determine whether the anticipated benefit is worth the resource expenditure.

GS job example: Here is where it can get interesting because “worth” is always very subjective and depends on your very specific situation. However, I’d like you to use this final step to think about something you may not have beforehand: opportunity cost.

Be honest with yourself. Have you only really been looking at GS jobs because of the comfort and familiarity they provide? Have you given some thought to the private sector but looking back, have you spent only a fraction of your time because you really don’t know where to start and there are a lot of unknowns?

Here is the thing—and it took me a couple years to figure this out. If you are (perhaps inadvertently) limiting your opportunities in the public sector, you are missing out on a ton of opportunities. And these opportunities lead to higher salaries—sometimes much higher than you have now—not to mention better benefits in companies you may not even be thinking of right now.

So, for this final question, it’s up to you to determine if it’s worth it. For this example, are you focusing on the GS jobs because it’s comfortable and familiar or is that route something you really want to pursue? Are you really addressing the countless opportunities within the private sector or are you being pulled—along with your time and attention—disproportionately toward public employment and potentially leaving lots of money and opportunity on a table you don’t even know exists or simply haven’t explored?

We’d Like to Help You

As a military member getting ready to transition, there is a lot on your plate. If you are within a year of leaving the military, you’ll be busier than you expected. Not only are you still performing your primary role in the organization but you are also spending more time administratively getting ready to leave the military. To get a good idea of what’s involved—and it is not an exhaustive list—take a look at the DD Form 2648 Preseparation Counseling Checklist and its 28 line items. You need to fit all of these items and more into your already busy schedule.

Last, but not least, you need to figure out who you are, what you want to do, create a resume, network, and land that job that meets your post-military employment requirements.

Looking at things through that lens, it makes sense that many of you may be focusing time and effort on the first two questions and less on the last. This means you are missing out on private-sector opportunities—ones you may not even be aware of and that could provide you more opportunity, not to mention pay and benefits exceeding your expectations.

We’d like to help you realize your private-sector employment opportunities through our PreVeteran Employment Prep Course. Our 5-week course gives you the framework, tools, and support to efficiently seek out those opportunities. We encourage you to use the same model we taught you here to evaluate the opportunity of participating in our employment prep course. For more information on the program, follow this link.

#preveteran #militarytransition #transitioningmilitary #veteranjobs


See “opportunity,” Dictionary.com, assessed October 4, 2020. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/opportunity

George Day, “Is It Real? Can We Win It? Is It Worth Doing? Managing Risk and Reward in an Innovative Portfolio,” Harvard Business Review, December 12, 2007. https://hbr.org/2007/12/is-it-real-can-we-win-is-it-worth-doing-managing-risk-and-reward-in-an-innovation-portfolio

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