Veterans, You Really Only Have 3 Career Choices

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By Peter A. Gudmundsson

In America, we like to tell children that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. It is an encouraging message that speaks well of our open capitalist economic system and relatively fluid social structure. For adults, however, that narrative is both inaccurate and misleading to those who attempt to fashion career goals. Furthermore, many of our job titles obfuscate the actual value creation purpose of each role and confuse job seekers as to what the job occupant really does every day. This confusion of national myth and functional purpose conspire to create noise and distraction in the job search process, especially for transitioning veterans.
Almost all jobs fall into one or more general category of activity: making stuff, selling stuff or counting stuff. When reading a job description or imagining a role, it is helpful to organize the function into some combination of these factors. It is a shorthand way to assess fit and likely success in the role. Many will resist initially the notion that all jobs fit into one or more of these categories, but upon further consideration and understanding of the job, most will understand the utility of this classification.
1. Making stuff. In our increasingly service-based economy, it may be tempting to think of “making stuff” as only including manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. However, making stuff includes the performance of all sorts of services, many of which are entirely intangible. Writers, educators, engineers, manufacturers, logisticians, customer service personnel, drivers and the performers of most services are makers. When looking at these fields, the job seeker must consider whether she wants to be evaluated based on quality, timelines and other service metrics. It is a world where efficiency and reliability are prized and organizational skills are paramount. Constructive and creative people often thrive in these fields.
2. Selling stuff. 
3. Counting stuff.
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