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How To Determine If A Military Career Is Right For You!

Choosing the Military (Needs Assessment)

You should have made a list of your primary motivators before you ever set foot in the recruiter's office. Whether your list was long---containing such items as money for college, job security, opportunity to travel, technical training and good pay---or contained only one item, such as having full-time employment, the number of items on your list is not what's important. What is important is that you are able to satisfy those motivators.

What are YOUR Motivators? Make a List. Check it Twice!
Whatever your list contains, the first course of action is to collect your list of primary motivators and put them in order of importance to you. This process, known as rank-ordering, will help you determine if you should proceed with the enlistment process.

It should be noted, however, that at this time you may not have all the information necessary to determine whether or not you should enlist. For instance, if your most important primary motivator is receiving technical training, you will not know if the military can meet this motivator unless you have taken the Armed Services Vocational Battery (ASVAB) and physical examinations. If this is the case, you must make the assumption that you will qualify for technical training and base your decision on the information provided to you by your recruiter. It will then be necessary for you to return to this chapter later on and reevaluate your situation if needed.

Rank-Ordering Your List
Rank-ordering your list is a simple process of deciding which motivators are most important to you and then listing them in order of importance. List your most important motivator as number one, your next most important as number two and so on.

If we apply the car-buying scenario here, your primary motivators may be finding a car that costs under $20,000, has a four-cylinder engine, gets at least 30 miles to the gallon, has leather interior, is available in blue and has a sunroof. If you put those motivators in rank order, your list might look something like this:

1. Costs under $20,000
2. Gets at least 30 mpg
3. Has a sunroof
4. Has leather interior
5. Available in blue

You'll notice that the number one, or most important, motivator in this case is cost, while the last, or least important, motivator is color. The more important the motivator, the less likely you'll be willing to settle for something different or to live without it altogether.

Meeting Your Needs (Motivators)
After you've rank-ordered your motivators, proceed to the simple process of going down your list and determining whether or not those motivators can or cannot be met by enlisting in the military. Simply write "yes" next to those that can be fulfilled by enlisting and "no" next to those that cannot be fulfilled by enlisting.

If you find that all your motivators can be met by enlisting, that's great; but even if only some of your motivators can be met, you may still want to consider it. Seldom does a product meet all our needs and wants, and you may be able to make satisfactory compromises and still be happy with the outcome.

Decide What is Really Important to YOU!
For instance, in the car-buying scenario, you may find that a particular car meets all of your needs but is not available in blue. Although the color of the car was important, it was the least important of all your motivators. For this reason you may decide to purchase the car despite the fact that it isn't available in blue. Or suppose you could get all your motivators met (even color), but instead of $20,000 you would have to pay $21, 000? You might decide that you're willing to compromise on the cost to get the car of your dreams.

If you were buying a car, however, you probably would compare several makes of cars to see if any could meet all your motivators before buying one that just met some of them. The same applies when determining whether or not to enlist. You should compare all the alternatives to enlisting---gather all the facts---before making a final decision.

Comparing the Alternatives
Several alternatives to enlisting may be available to you, such as going to work at a local company, attending college or attending a local vocational school. You should perform the "yes/no" test on each of your motivators as they pertain to each of the available alternatives.
For example, let's assume that one of your alternatives is a job at the local factory and your primary motivators are (in rank order):

1. Money for college
2. Technical training
3. Job security
4. Opportunity for travel

Let's further assume that the local factory offers its employees tuition assistance for college similar to that offered by the military. It also has an on-the-job technical training program and a great track record when it comes to keeping employees. However, since this is a local company, your opportunity for travel will be nonexistent.

You may need to modify your approach to your motivator list depending on the alternative. For instance, job security really does not apply when you are talking about attending college as an alternative. You might, however, consider things like the job security of people in occupations related to your intended major or even the graduation rate of the college you are thinking about attending.

Although you are well on your way to making a decision, there is still one very important piece of the puzzle that must be considered---the negative aspects of each alternative.

Negative Aspects
Returning to the car-buying scenario, let's assume you have found a car that matches all of your motivators. But the closest dealership is 100 miles away, the particular make of car has a terrible maintenance record, and after looking at the car you just don't like the style. These are the "negative aspects" that must be considered.

What Can YOU Live With? What Can YOU Live Without?
When you go out to purchase your car armed with your motivator (or needs) list, you should have (at least in your mind) a list of negative aspects that you just can't live with when considering a new vehicle.

The same applies to enlisting in the military: There may be certain things about military service that would conflict with your desires. For instance, if you wanted to stay in the local area, you would probably not want to enlist for Active Duty, although you might want to consider enlisting in the Reserve or Guard.

Putting It All Together
Once you have gotten all of your lists together, it is time to make a decision. At this point the decision can be whether or not to continue processing (i.e., take the ASVAB), or it could mean making the decision to enlist.

Whatever your decision, it should be made based primarily on the facts, with very little emotion as part of the equation. That said, I must also say that although I am "preaching" about keeping emotion out of the decision process, there may be times when emotion may be the one thing that will sway your decision. In fact, emotion may actually be your primary motivator.

Emotion As A Primary Motivator
When I enlisted, I met several people who joined the military for primarily emotional reasons. For instance, there was one who had immigrated to the United States with his family. He lived very well here (better than he could have ever hoped for in his home country), received a very good education and genuinely loved the United States. In his words, he wanted to pay something back to the country that had given him so much. His way of doing that was to enlist in the military. He didn't base his decision on the facts; he was motivated solely by emotion.

Use Your Head for More Than a Hat Rack!
In other cases, individuals because they want to keep a family tradition alive. They joined because their fathers and grandfathers had joined, and they wanted to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.

The emotional reasons people have for enlisting in the military are many and aren't necessarily bad. However, as a word of caution, be very careful of making any "buying" decision based on emotion alone.

"Excerpt from the book Guide to Joining the Military, by Scott Ostrow (ARCO Press, 2001) used by permission. (Available for sale online and in book stores)"

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