Professional Versus Personal Development – And Why You Can Have Both

As a non-commissioned officer, I came to understand two aspects to the average soldier I served with. The first was that most wanted to be very good at what they did. The second was that most wanted someone else to tell them how. It seemed obvious then, that if you wanted to get ahead of your peers, you simply had to be proactive enough, to go out and do it yourself.

Thankfully, the military places all kinds of opportunities in front of service members to allow them to demonstrate their abilities and be the best. From administrative boards to job specific training, the military is in many ways a place where people define themselves by their successes, and remember each other for their failures.

Back in the mid 2000’s, the Army focused on the correspondence courses for promotion points. These ridiculous classes which seldom had anything to do with one’s job were tedious and, thankfully, the answers to most could be found in cheat sheets available online. Awards were good for promotion points, but they were harder to get outside of a deployment unless a service member did something impressive. Military boards were important, because they provided the soldier the opportunity to dress in their Class A uniform, be inspected, and then regurgitate a variety of answers to questions asked by 1SGs and CSMs. The winner was usually a shoe-in for an award, which meant recognition, and promotion points, and it also meant an opportunity to compete in the next level board as well. Finally, there were schools. The military has so many schools that it can be hard to keep track of, but generally speaking there are schools that are good for the individual, and schools that are good for the unit.

ClassMost people would agree that Ranger and Jumpmaster school benefits the unit as well as the individual, but not in the same way as SHARP or UPL. That is definitely a unit benefitting school. Soldiers that demonstrated a propensity to pass the challenging schools, were often afforded opportunities to fill positions of greater responsibility, which invariably led to opportunities for promotion.

After transitioning over to the officer side, I came to realize that the military was overemphasizing the military schools and competitions, and underplaying the benefits from civilian and personal development. While there are promotion points for completing educational courses, the emphasis of the leadership was seldom as intense to encourage this direction for service members. The benefits are often less quantifiable, although they can be profound.

The soldier that understands how to articulate themselves clearly due to public speaking classes will likely perform better at a board. The one who has a better grasp of the English language will have their documents kicked back less times, resulting in awards, evaluations, and sworn statements that do not have to be proofread a dozen times. People who learned how to use common computer programs, word processors, Power Point and Excel files will be able to quickly process information into an understandable format and move on with their day.

Education, both practical and analytical, will always benefit an individual. It is as a result of this that encouragement of personal and civilian-based development would, in the end, benefit both the individual and the unit by increasing the educational level, knowledge, and problem solving skills of the individuals involved. Whether it is through encouraging soldiers to take college classes, setting aside training opportunities, or simply being a mentor, it is in the best interest of every leader to have, and encourage, a combination of both learning styles within the organization.

Failing to pay attention to either will result in a less-prepared unit on many different levels. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek opportunities where available, and the responsibility of leadership to see how the benefits may outweigh the losses, and encourage this development.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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