Don’t Wait for Your Career to Find You


After my departure from the Army, and for the first time in my life, I found myself lost. I had been a Combat Medic for so long that I did not understand the civilian job market. I knew that no amount of medical experience could be used outside of the military without a diploma. The G.I. Bill was an option, but I needed to work in order to support my two children. I decided to remain in the Federal Government because at first glance, the GS system seemed to be somewhat similar to the military ranking structure. Some of the other reasons I took into consideration for my decision included:

  • Experience acquired was accepted as education.
  • My years of military service counted towards total years of Federal Service for retirement.
  • Great retirement and health benefits.
  • Job security.
  • Ability to work anywhere in the United States or abroad.

Getting Unstuck

A common mistake made by many government employees is to apply for entry level jobs just to get their “foot in the door.” This decision becomes problematic for employees when their hypothetical foot becomes stuck in the hypothetical door. As a manager, I have witnessed multiple instances when my employees became complacent with their entry level job. Many seem unhappy but the job has become a routine or just another part of their daily lives.

When I began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, I accepted a GS6 position. I used my experience in the Army as a hearing conservationist to work as a technician in the Audiology and Speech Department, at Hines VA Hospital. I became a valuable member of the department and treated coworkers as well as my patients like family, but I became too comfortable in my entry level job. I made up excuses to avoid getting back in the job market. I was afraid to leave a job I knew well. I kept asking my supervisor for a promotion because I did not understand how the GS system worked. My manager’s inability to secure a higher grade for me made me feel unappreciated, but nothing could be further from the truth. All it took for me to understand how to succeed was to take a chance and use my military leadership experience to apply for a supervisory position.

Learning to Grow

The following are some signs that maybe it is time to broaden your career horizons:

  • Your current job does not bring you any joy.
  • It makes you feel redundant or unimportant.
  • You feel like it is causing your health to slowly deteriorate.
  • The job does not challenge you.  
  • You dread going to work.
  • All leave options have been exhausted and you still need a vacation.

To remain in a job that brings you no pleasure or a sense of accomplishment, at the end of the day, is a choice. There is no obstacle too great when the rewards are worth the sacrifices made to achieve them. I made a choice to grow, to change my circumstances, to become more than what I thought I could ever be. Believe in yourself and remember that it is your choices, not your circumstances that, more often than not, prevent you from reaching your full potential.

Alberto Principe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Yves Domingo

I like your message brother. I’m a former Marine who took a GS6 entry job and I totally get what your saying. I’ve found that my pursuit lies outside the government. I recently just had an argument with my friend about not letting circumstances of life dictate how we want to be fulfilled out becoming or doing something we always wanted to do. (following our dreams). Long story short, he thought I was being self righteous trying to spreading that message of “not settling and to follow your passions regardless of life circumstances”.

Bennie Gonzales

This is excellent advise. Having been through all of the phases described in the article I finally “got it” and took control of my own life. I found that too much of my time was spent having and wanting others to “take care of me,” that is, being safe and wanting to remain the protégé and not the mentor. When I became the mentor, I found what I now believe my role in life was meant to be. I am very happy. Life is short and we can all make a difference. William Johnson said….”If it is to be, it is up to me.” Yep, finally got it …(: