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After my four years of active duty in the U.S. Army ended in 2001, I struggled with what to do next. Talking to other veterans, this seemed to be a common dilemma facing exiting service members. In the hopes that it might be helpful to other military vets and mid-career professionals navigating similar career decisions, I thought I would lay out some best practices that worked for me in my career transitions (both out of the military and from one industry to another).

Having spent about 20 years in the workforce, I’ve crossed the paths of quite a menagerie of colleagues. From my early days waiting tables to my current role at Schwab, I have met and worked with some of the most phenomenal human beings I could ever imagine. Since we spend nearly a quarter of our lives at work, it should come as no surprise that workplace relationships are a major driver of job satisfaction.

In my post A Career… Without College? I shared how I landed in human resources without a formal education in my field. After that post was published I received quite a few positive emails from readers sharing their own stories of overcoming challenges on the path to their dream job, as well as some from readers that were given a push in the right direction after reading my story. I was thrilled to hear that my intended message was received loud and clear: YOU control your career destiny. A positive mindset is a major part of guiding your career towards your ultimate dream job, but positivity alone will not get you there.

Some people are “naturally” organized, some are not. I would place myself in the second category, and for that reason have had to make a concerted effort in both my personal and professional lives to stay on track and complete all my deliverables.

Let’s face it: social media and the internet have taken over our lives! Perceptions and desires that once were driven by “traditional” media such as television and print are now controlled by the almighty mobile device. Many have tried to resist the impact of social media on our daily lives, scoffing at the “poor etiquette” or “lack of real conversation” that technology has created. Love it or hate it, this new way of obtaining information is here to stay. So, will you allow social and online media to enhance or inhibit your online brand?

I started my career at the tender age of 19. New to the working world, I didn’t really know just yet what I wanted to do with my life – I only knew that I wanted to learn and grow, and I hoped that wherever my path led, I would achieve professional success. Throughout my career I have been influenced by many people; some have driven me forward and some have held me back. I’d like to share the story of one of the single most important relationships that has helped drive my career forward; it’s about a person who took me under his wing but also let me fly on my own when the time was right. This is the story of my mentor.

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