When I was in the Marine Corps, I had this big vision for what I was going to do when I got out. I remember sitting around with a few marines, talking about it. I said I was going to go back to school. Another marine said he was going to get his iron workers apprenticeship. The doc had the grandest vision, after we all went through our list of dreams he said, “I’m gonna open a whore house in Tijuana.”
Not sure if doc ever followed through with that.
For those of us who served as enlisted members of the military, college education is often dangled in front of us like a carrot. It is characterized as the gateway to a better life and being seamlessly integrated into the civilian world. From my experience, entering the civilian world as a college student is anything but seamless. After my last deployment, I went back to school as a grad student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
While I’d already earned a bachelors degree prior to entering the Marine Corps, I still went through many of the same issues that other vets go through when they choose college. I was five to ten years older than almost everyone around me, including the grad students and I was the same age as my academic advisor. I really couldn’t relate to most people I interacted with, and I really never felt like I was learning anything new or valuable that I could contribute to the world. The truth was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was only hiding out from the real world by going back to school.
Has my degree helped me? Well, all of my degrees are in political science and international relations and I run a fitness business and this clothing company. The truth is, with the addition of a few personal training certifications and some accounting classes, I could have saved years of my life and thousands of dollars while being better prepared for my eventual career path.
I’m saying this all in hindsight of course, and I’m not saying that you should never choose college. If you want a career in law, education, or medicine, then you need a university education. On the other hand, if you don’t know what you want to do, then college can be a complete waste of time and money.
What should you do? Well the better question is what should you consider? You should consider the fact that your training and experience in the military makes you the perfect candidate to become an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs often fail because they have difficulty making quick decisions and lack leadership ability. By the end of your military experience, it’s likely that you’ve accomplished more, managed more, and led more than any frat boy with a four year degree.
Entrepreneurs are often forced to live below their means so that they can put money back into their businesses so they can grow. You just spent the most recent years of your life eating MREs, chow hall food, and sleeping in sleeping bags, racks, bunks, and poncho liners. Hardship is not a problem for you.
MBAs often make the worse entrepreneurs because their education causes them to rely on complex plans and preset models without flexibility, while you know that even the best plans can change at a moment’s notice.
Not all of us can be entrepreneurs. Some of you may just want a secure job or even to take a four year vacation at a university. The point of this article is not to steer you away from any of those choices, but I also do not want you to be bullied into believe that they are your only choices.
My reason for writing this blog is that I don’t want you fall for the same pipe dream I did. The civilian world has stereotyped you as being under skilled, dysfunctional, and machine like creatures who have been brainwashed by their military service. They want you to go to college because they look at it as a whitewashing finishing school that will ready you for civilian life. Your military experience is not something that needs to be reprogrammed out of you, and you don’t need a four year degree to make amazing things happen in your life.
This is the beginning of my series on becoming a veteran entrepreneur. Next week’s installment will go into choosing your business. If any of you have any questions at all or if you are a veteran entrepreneur who wants to relay his or her story, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org