Their Success is My Success

This one is overtly Navy-themed. I just couldn’t figure out a way to talk about this in different terms.

People who don’t really understand the Navy often ask me what I do. When I was in medicine, the answer was easy. I had a technical trade with a title that everyone understood. Nowadays, it’s a little harder. A simplified but honest description for my job is to make the organization and the people in it successful.

I’m not trying to sound like a recruiter here, but my organization does a lot of things right. The instance that has me all warm and fuzzy today is that we take career development seriously. At every ship and station, there’s someone whose primary responsibility is career counseling. As a matter of fact, career counseling is its own profession for us. That person’s job is to talk to everyone about career options, special programs, transfers, and commissioning opportunities. Since this Navy gig is the only full-time job I’ve ever had, I’m not sure if everyone else has this, but I hope you do.

This career counselor sits with me more than he’d probably like so we can talk about our people, their choices, and what direction they should be led. I’d be crippled without him. For larger commands, the counselor even has assistants in each department to make sure everyone has that one person they can start asking questions to, and that’s just the beginning.

Also, in our organizational culture, every person in a uniform like mine is expected to take an active role in making our junior personnel successful. For those who want to promote towards where I am, they are measured specifically by how many of their juniors they make successful in some way.

But wait, there’s more!

On top of making an entire group of people professional career counselors, giving them assistants, and tasking the senior enlisted tier with making our people successful, every person is required to have a meeting with certain people at various times in their tour to talk about career development.

On a regular schedule, everyone has to sit with a group of people whose sole purpose for that meeting is to talk about one person’s career, what the organization expects, and how to benefit from all we have to offer. We help set reasonable goals and are required to talk about money, school, retirement planning, transitioning to civilian life, and special opportunities. Even now, after 24 years, I have someone who sits with me in a formal capacity to talk about my career and how to be successful.

Mind you, this isn’t the annual evaluation or the mid-year counseling. This is entirely different, because career development doesn’t always follow a set path. As much as possible, we try to make it about the individual. Sounds too good to be true, you say? For us, it’s the expectation.

I use a phrase regularly that was preached to me as I learned my way ahead: Their success is your success. To this day, that statement remains true. My people’s success is still my success, even at the top of the rank structure. The only way I can make the organization successful is to make the people in it successful as well.

We didn’t have this formal career development program when I first joined. I remember when these boards first became mandatory and I was forced to attend. I had to stop whatever I was doing to listen to a bunch of people I didn’t really respect lecture me about a bunch of stuff I didn’t need to hear. Believe it or not, I got nothing out of those meetings. These boards only work when both sides participate, and no one will take your career growth seriously until you do. When I finally started listening to the people who wanted to see me successful, great things started happening.

We have guidance and career counselors in high school and college, but what about now, in the workforce, when we need them most? I hope your organization has some group or person dedicated to talking about individual careers. If not, there are other options.

We all have someone in our lives who wants us to be successful. They may be traditional mentors or people assigned above us, or they may be friends and family. Find those people, talk with them, and listen. They’re trying to make you successful.

– Who in your organization has a vested interest in seeing you be successful? Have you sat down with that person?

– More importantly, because you can control this part, who do you have a vested interest in making successful, and have you sat down with that person to talk about his or her future?

Have a great week out there.

– JT

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.