Since I was really young, I have always shown passion for the military. Whether it was watching action packed war movies or running around with toy guns pretending to be a soldier, this was my lifestyle after school. My dad, along with much of my family heritage, also served in the armed forces. He was my number one hero, even though he didn’t talk much about the time while he was in service. My grandfather as well as my great grandfather also served in the military. So this was a tradition in my family tree and how the military became part of our lives.
Therefore, one can assume that right out of high school, I would head down to the recruitment office and enlist in the military. Six months after I enlisted, I was a certified United States Marine. My dad came up to me, shook my hand, and expressed how proud he was of me. That moment, along with my wedding and the birth of my son, would become one of the defining moments of my life.
I advanced through the early stages of being a marine fairly quickly. After 8 years, I had reached the rank of gunnery sergeant and just returned from my third tour of duty; my second term of service was coming to an end. With my wife and 4 year old boy, we made the decision for me not to reenlist. It was extremely difficult to adjust back to the cultures of civilian life after my military history. It had been 8 years since I did the simplest civilian activity such as getting a haircut. Also, I was 26 years old and didn’t have experience other than my job in military communications and a paper route when I was in my early teens.
After a few weeks, I became quickly overwhelmed and discouraged with finding a new direction for my career. My family supported me in every way and soon enough I came to my senses. Aside from my physical experiences, what kind of mental experiences gathered from my services could be useful in this situation? I came up with 5 rules that kept me going through my rough times:
1. Going on Patrol.
Apply for a job is like going on patrol. It’s usually repetitive, boring and uneventful but is always important. When you least expect it, something could happen which turns out great or for the worse.
2. Positive Morale.
When you get discouraged or frustrate, don’t be afraid to take a step back to gather yourself. Stop thinking about how much job hunting sucks and participate in your hobbies to build your morale up. Nobody wants to hire a discouraged worker. Don’t go A.W.O.L.!
Learn about the position and company you are applying for. You’ll never know what questions will be asked in your interviews. Having a good amount of knowledge can strengthen your resume and your interview. You may find job opportunities at unexpected places, don’t miss them. Practice your interviews frequently and be prepared for whatever is out there.
4. Never run out of ammo.
Always bring multiple resumes as well as supporting documents at all times. Having to fall back to re-supply may cost valuable time as well as missing opportunities that can make a difference. Have resumes as well as personal business cards on your person at all times. The next interview could happen while waiting in line for coffee, or on the train.
5. You lead your platoon, your platoon takes care of you.
Remember, you’re not going through it alone. You have family and friends that love you and support you in your search, and are always there. This is one of the hardest things I’ve found many military vets to realize, they feel like they have to internalize and take on the burden and stress all by themselves. It was my wife that would cheer me up and stay positive, and bring me up out of the dark when I felt I had a particularly bad string of interviews.
John Durfee is an Operation Freedom War veteran and markets Airsoft Guns at Airsplat, the nation’s largest seller of Airsoft Rifles.