Are you getting ready for any opportunity?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Shrader
  • 50th Operations Group deputy

In his leadership book, This is Day One, author Drew Dudley identifies three things in life you must have, or one day you’re going to miss out on a cool opportunity:  1) the ability to drive stick, 2) an up-to-date passport and 3) two saved-up vacation days.  These are not societal norms or local laws, but they are important nonetheless.  Why?  Because, oftentimes, the chance to do something really interesting or rewarding requires fast action.  There simply isn’t enough time to complete the prerequisites in order to meet the fleeting timeline.  Those unprepared don’t get the opportunity to participate.

On the surface, Dudley’s proclamation may seem irrelevant to your career in the Air Force, but his logic contains many important applications to military life.  Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed countless notifications for temporary duty or permanent change of station to paradise destinations, requests for aides to work for a dynamic leader and educational positions at prestigious institutions to name a few.  Applying the principles above does not guarantee success, but rather ensures that you significantly reduce the probability of self-elimination before you even submit a statement of intent.

Here are my three tasks that you must have in order to avoid missing out on a cool career opportunity:  1) complete the appropriate level of professional military education 2) a current passing fitness assessment and 3) up-to-date records including a resume, biography and official photo.  Each of these things signal your readiness to seize an opportunity.  Fortunately, accomplishing all three of these things is 100% within your control.

First, complete your PME.  There is no discernible benefit in waiting until the absolute deadline before finishing PME requirements.  Usually, the hiring authority or selection board for these opportunities targets individuals complete with PME because it demonstrates self-motivation.  Or perhaps, the educational facilities or job demands are not optimal for continued PME graduation pursuit, thus potentially jeopardizing future promotions.  Either way, starting and completing your PME right away increases your odds of selection for these opportunities.

Next, mind your fitness.  As a squadron commander, individual physical fitness was my highest priority.  The main reason for this was to give our teammates the best possible chance of survival in any dangerous, stressful situation they would likely encounter, especially a deployed environment.  However, on a practical level, everyone needs the ability to present a passing fitness assessment for each of these opportunities.  If you need help improving your fitness, it will take work; just don’t put it off.  Find a wingman that can motivate and hold you accountable to meet your fitness goals and always in a position to pass.

Finally, update your records.  We’ve all seen the announcement that provides the opportunity to apply, but requires a package to be submitted up the chain by the end of the duty day.  In these instances, it usually isn’t possible to update your resume, biography and official photo to meet the deadline, resulting in qualified personnel not applying for the opportunity.  Could you apply today for a fleeting opportunity?

Your duty performance is the biggest factor to capitalize on many opportunities, so focus on that first.  In the meantime, don’t let your lack of readiness allow these chances to pass you by.  The philosopher, Seneca, stated that, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Create your own luck by tackling your PME, consistently maintaining your fitness and updating your paperwork.  If you do, you’ll increase the odds of catching a cool career opportunity that will likely change your life.