Cartier: Graduation: excited or lost? |

Cartier: Graduation: excited or lost?

Springtime is an exciting time of year. Our ski resorts had an incredible season, many with record snow, yet everyone is ready for a change. 

In addition to weather, spring is often accompanied by life changes. One of the most significant is graduation. Those completing college have had a few years to explore and begin focusing on a future career. High school graduates have had less experience and can become overwhelmed by choices. 

The security of small-town life in Happy Valley can make the idea of leaving home both enticing and intimidating. So many options, and nearly all involve a move away from home. Suddenly, there are additional considerations, which impact decisions such as college, tech school, online academic options, apprenticeships, gap year programs, job offers, family obligations and the costs associated with each. 

I have written extensively about college admissions, skills development, career training programs, continuing education, life changes and other related topics. In this column, I’d like to address the military option.

In a world where social media dominates, it opens doors of awareness, offering possibilities previously unimagined. The internet makes may opportunities available, which were previously inaccessible. However, we must be cautious not to mistake the reading about an experience, to be the same as doing it. It’s like reading about swimming; you can become an expert on describing technique, but you aren’t a swimmer until you hit the water. At graduation, it’s time to put on the wetsuit. 

One of the advantages of enrolling in college is the instant camaraderie one gets, upon arriving with thousands of other new students. While from various parts of the country and even the globe, you are all beginning a new venture in life at the same time. Even with vastly different interests, there is a bond which develops in moving forward together in the process of growing up. 

However, that connection can come with a rather large price tag, which may be cost prohibitive for many families. There is always that balance between cost and benefit; in corporate terms, your return on investment (ROI). A college degree is more than academic knowledge, it is the time to mature, explore career options, learn to engage with people different than you, make connections with organizations and individuals who may provide new opportunities and attain a degree of competence in new life choices. What if you don’t have the funds for the college or tech school experience?  How can you acquire these advantages and skills to move forward?  

One area that used to be a right-of-passage for many young people, is the military. Since we have become all-volunteer, the experience has become less common but even more fulfilling … everyone chose to be there. The military is now in competition with the private sector to secure talent. And, just like their corporate counterparts, they must attract and keep incredible people. They must provide better career opportunities, quality of life and financial incentives to succeed. 

Most people are unaware that 75% of military positions are non-combat. The careers available are exactly like those found in cities and towns everywhere. 

The Department of Defense offers over 800-military jobs, and while some professional level positions require a previous degree (doctors, attorneys, etc.), most require no experience. They will completely train you at no cost. While all support our military readiness most are not directly engaged in combat. What’s more, upon completion of your four to six year agreement, they will pay for your college degree, in addition to the training and certifications you’ll receive while on active duty. 

Some of the jobs include: electronics, paralegal, musician/band member, nurse, media/broadcast journalist, police officer, athlete (Olympic training), dog handler, horse trainer, chef, teacher, firefighter, construction, architecture, attorney, lab techs, cyber intelligence, plumber, doctor, stem, welder, audio/video production, veterinarian, mechanic, pilot, computer science, historian, medical researcher, robotics, rescue swimmer/diver, astronaut, engineer, meteorologist and many others. These specialties prepare you for advanced academic and career opportunities in the private sector upon completion of military service. 

While all branches of military service offer similar jobs, each have a unique culture and focus. Air (Air Force), Land (Army) and Sea (Navy/Marines) plus Coast Guard. They are different in approach but unified in mission. 

If you are uncertain about what you want to do upon graduation, take four years to become part of a team, and give yourself the training and experience to achieve the life you envision for yourself. You can even enter in your late 20s. It costs you nothing and you will gain more than you ever thought possible. 

Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. She may be contacted at For further information, visit

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