So, you want to manage your career to be better prepared to meet future Army operations? I assume you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. I can also deduce you view your current occupation as a potential profession, worthy of investment. Other than these astute observations, I am sorry to say I do not have a crystal ball and cannot foresee the exact skills you should master for some future need. I can say you are on the right path, seeking out information that will serve you well when you meet the future. So having established I cannot divine the future, let us explore what you can accomplish to be better prepared.
Addressing the elephant in the room, you will not be there to meet future operations if you do not have a career. You must manage your career. That is your 25-meter target. How you execute the current demands of your job can set you up for success while ensuring your future in your career. Become the person others seek out when they need something done right the first time. Be that Soldier or civilian who others trust to immediately pick up a shovel and dig if that’s what’s required to accomplish the mission. Along the way, seek out difficult jobs others shy away from. Leaders, peers, and subordinates alike respect someone who is not above doing the gritty work, and favor goes to the person who humbles themselves for the needs of others. As you build your reputation and career, you will learn to overcome challenging tasks, serving you well as you advance to more senior positions and complex problems.
While going about day-to-day challenges, you also must learn how your career evolves to adapt to that change. Research how advances in technologies and methodologies are transforming your chosen profession. Find out how other militaries, both friends and foes, are planning to employ them. Learn the future challenges your civilian counterparts are facing and how they overcome them. Think about exploiting these future advancements while denying them to the enemy. Don’t forget to look outward at how changes in related disciplines will affect your profession. If you are a logistician, you need to be aware of how advances in indirect fire will affect supply routing. Lawyers and doctors practice their craft because they must continuously learn as their professions change. Warfare is no different. You must remain vigilant to change while constantly gaining knowledge.
Speaking of gaining knowledge, don’t shy away from going back to school or learning a new skill, especially if it’s difficult and in demand. Currently, all things data are in vogue, but tomorrow, it may be something else. Your ability to influence future operations is directly proportional to what you will be able to accumulate between your ears. What should you learn? That’s up for you to decide, but being a lifelong learner, I am confident you will pick up on clues as to what will be in demand tomorrow. Just be wary of following the path everyone else is taking. If you do, make sure you learn more, dig deeper into the details, and don’t just regurgitate buzzwords like so many do to obfuscate their inability, or lack of motivation, to become knowledgeable. You need to know what you know and, more importantly, what you do not know. For those times, look to the people around you.
The final and most important advice is to surround yourself with people you want to emulate while learning to work well with others. The future will undoubtedly present you with challenges you will not anticipate. If you have like-minded peers, the odds are in your favor some will be prepared and can help. Or maybe you were prepared, but now you need to convince others your way forward is warranted. Everything you do will inevitably include others. The time you spend cultivating relationships built on trust and respect will pay dividends beyond measure throughout your career, regardless of your challenges. Introverted or extroverted, you must nurture relationships built on mutual respect and admiration. This advice applies to superiors, peers, and subordinates alike. People will always be part of the solution.
Well, here we are a few paragraphs later, having no more foresight into the specific skill sets you need to procure than when we started. You must work hard, think about the future, continue learning, and play well with others. I wager they don’t sound much different than what you might have learned in elementary school. That’s the thing about providing instruction on how to prepare for the future. The guidance needs to be simple yet applicable in various potentially unknown circumstances. Every day you will wake up and make course corrections as conditions change. Those focused on a definitive goal will often find the goal’s value has changed during the journey. I’m sure that’s not you, though. You are here, trying to prepare for the future. You will remain diligent, looking to the future and gaining insight to help those around you. Our Army will be better because you will be there, prepared for whatever the future holds.
William T. Smith, Ph.D., currently serves on the Operations Research Committee for the College of Applied Logistics and Operational Sciences. He has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in applied mathematics from Naval Postgraduate School, and a B.A. in mathematics from Cameron University.
Editor’s Note: This article was a selection from the Army Logistics University President’s Writing Competition.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.
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