I graduated from a competitive dual-degree master’s program last May, but instead of launching into my post-SF civilian life with momentum and joy, I found myself full of frustration and regret when I left school. For three years I had been searching for a career and life in the civilian world that could match the sense of purpose and brotherhood I had left behind. I came up empty working through the career services offices of both Wharton and Johns Hopkins, and while each provided good advice and access to opportunities, I felt that going this route just would not be the key to finding that meaningful next step.
The answer, it would turn out, came out of a welcome but unexpected conversation with an old teammate, my last team sergeant, and good friend: Herb Thompson. Before setting off on a solo road trip this past summer, I reconnected with Herb, and he connected me to other former Green Berets who had gone through the same challenges after separating/retiring from SF. He also encouraged me to reach out to former teammates. On the road in the remote expanses of the American West, away from all the noise and madness of graduate school recruiting seasons, the conversations I had with all of those Green Berets – old friends and new ones – got my mind back in the right mindset. Simple words like “don’t settle,” “remember where you come from,” “be unreasonable” were exactly what I needed to hear after grad school.
It all came together a couple of months ago when I reconnected with another Green Beret from my old company who had made his way out to the west coast. At the end of a series of incredibly uplifting conversations, he introduced me to a defense tech startup trying to revolutionize the entire defense industry with hard work, creativity, patriotism, and a driving sense of purpose – all boxes I had struggled to check in the career opportunities I had been considering after the Army. After several initial-round conversations/interviews, five actual interviews, and an eventual offer, I finally feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be – thanks to my brothers showing me the way and getting my head back on track. For the last ten years, virtually every major accomplishment in my life has been the result of someone – almost always another Green Beret – interrupting their busy life to reach back and to help me. And for this, I am grateful.
I didn’t rely on my Green Beret insider network to simply get me the job offer. Instead, it was enough – more than I deserved – to simply be shown the opportunity. “Here it is…go get it if you’re good enough and if you want it bad enough.” The great power of our amazing network doesn’t lie in favoritism or in the idea that we simply give random jobs to each other. Instead the power and potential of our network comes from two facts. First, we are all by any definition extraordinary. And second, no one understands or knows how to communicate our unique strengths, capacity, and ultimate value better than we do. When combined, imagine what we can do.