Today we’ll continue our segment on how to make Chief. The first installment covered the first part of the equation; becoming a superstar on paper. This installment will cover the second half of the secret formula; becoming a superstar in person. These are all suggestions I have used in myself and have found valuable in my own career. I feel that they are pretty common sense for the most part, but sometime we need a little reminder to do the things we should be doing.
My first tidbit of advice is to BE PUNCTUAL. Actually, you should be early…to everything. Get to drill (work) early. If you already do this, you’ll notice the other people who get to drill early are the Chief, 1SGT and the other big wigs of the unit. If you ask one of them why they get there so early it will probably be one of two answers; because they have a lot of work to get done and to set the example for their subordinates. Both very valid reasons! You should be falling into both of those categories. Even if you don’t have more work to get done than you can do in the normal business hours, it doesn’t hurt to have others think you do. Also, it’s good to let them know you are indeed following their example.
On the other side of the coin, I always stay a little later than the masses. At my unit there is a stampede at 1630 to sign out for the day. At about 1700, the guy who runs the sign out station is ready to go home and pages everyone who hasn’t signed out yet to come sign out: be in that line. I know you don’t want to just sit around bored just to look good and neither do I. I’m a big advocate of not working for work’s sake. I live by a work hard, play hard philosophy. With that being said, if you follow the advice in the rest of this column you will have plenty to keep you busy. I’m not saying you’ll be doing stressful busy work, but enjoyable and productive work.
The first aspect of productively filling your time is just to DO YOUR JOB, WELL. Whatever job or task you are assigned to in the unit, do it well. The typical duty position in the Air Force (or any career) generally isn’t that difficult. I always make sure that I’m taking care of the basics so no one else is left to pick up my slack. If this isn’t enough to fill your time you can always follow the advice of one of my favorite excerpts “Always improve upon your position”. This is from an Army manual in regards to a temporary fighting position that I read in basic training. I’ve kept this concept with me and apply it to every aspect of my life. It can be applied to work, fitness, finance, relationships, and really just about anything else. So you can always use your time to streamline your process or develop better ways of doing things.
Another way you should fill those extra hours is to DO EXTRA. There are several ways to do this. My first, and biggest recommendation is obtaining a position that gets (has) to speak in front of everyone during Commander’s Call (or any sort of group meetings). My good friend Dave was fresh out of tech school as an E4 when he was assigned as the safety….guy (not sure the real title). Early on in his career he had to present a short safety briefing to the entire unit every month. Dave has a unique ability to be unintentionally humorous and did a good job with his briefings to the point that everyone looked forward to them each month. This got Dave known, so while the other E4’s were mindlessly clicking away at CBTs (computer based training) in the back room Dave was making waves in the unit. This contributed to Dave (and me) on the “good” annual tour to San Diego our first year. Even as I type this, Dave is in Las Vegas getting his respiratory technician training through the Air Force. This is really an excellent opportunity that doesn’t come along often. I’m not saying Dave got this only because he made everyone laugh, he’s also smart and works hard, but the deciding powers may not have noticed him amongst all of the others without his extra duties.
Another opportunity to be known and get to know others is to JOIN A COMMITTEE. Your unit no doubt ably has several to choose from. Dave and I both joined the MWR (morale, welfare, recreation) committee early on. We joined this committee because it’s the fun group to be in and we got to help plan all of the fun unit events. This also helped us get to know others and become known as we went around selling raffle tickets for various fundraisers. Before long he and I were elected President and Vice President of the committee, getting us even more publicity at Commander’s Call. Don’t get me wrong, weren’t doing this just for publicity, (that’s just a bonus) we actually like contributing to the unit and making it more fun.
Be cautious of what you volunteer for, however. For example, I’m qualified as a PTL (Physical Training Leader). A PTL supervises the fitness testing. Although fitness is an area of interest of mine and PTL’s are in high demand, it’s just not time effective for me. I often spend an entire morning standing around counting the number of laps people run. It’s not a bad assignment, but it’s far too time consuming and there are dozens of tasks I’d be better off using my limited weekend time for.
Another high visibility area is training. I recommend you ATTEND OPTIONAL TRAINING. First, it’s often informative and beneficial, second it gets you noticed. Example; I attended an optional briefing on EPRs (Enlisted Performance Reports) and general leadership at the wing level one weekend. The only other person from my squadron who went to this briefing was the Chief. Bookoo brownie points right there, plus I learned a thing or two.
I even more highly recommend you PUT TOGETHER YOUR OWN TRAINING. We all have areas of expertise that could benefit others. Just put it into a power point or a hands on training session and tell whoever does your unit scheduling to pencil it in as an optional class on the next drill weekend. I enjoy this for one because I like to teach and share my knowledge. Secondly it helps you develop your public speaking skills. Thirdly it’s beneficial to those who attend. Fourthly it gets you noticed as a go getter in the unit and someone who cares. There are dozens of benefits to teaching classes, so get out there and do it.
My next tidbit of advice is to TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN CAREER. What I mean by this is know your own requirements for training and keep track of your own timelines. I know this should be accomplished by your supervisor but it’s tough being a supervisor so help them and yourself and track this stuff. As long as you’re keeping track of when all of your CBT’s and upgrade training is due go ahead and get it done ahead of time. You don’t want to wait until the month it is due to find out that you have to do some mandatory sit around in a gas mask ORI training all weekend.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR EPR BULLETS (or accomplishments in general)! You should be keeping a running log of your EPR bullets every month. EPR time should be simply a cut and paste of the bullets you’ve been keeping for the past year or two with a bit of polishing. It should not be the stressful, rack your brain trying to think of what you’ve done for the past two years and ending up with “he’s a swell airman” bullets. Again, don’t count on your supervisor for this one. They probably have little knowledge of what you are accomplishing outside of your one weekend a month anyhow. I also do this for my civilian career and recently was asked to provide a list of accomplishments for my boss so she could submit me for promotion. I gave her a list of accomplishments within minutes and her response was “Wow, you should be doing my job!”.
My two final pieces of advice; first DON’T COMPLAIN WITHOUT TAKING ACTION! We all know that things in the military are often messed up and change constantly. There’s no use in complaining about it unless you have the power to change it. Just suck it up and drive on. No one likes the person who complains constantly about the massive number of flaws in the military. We are all affected and notice the same things, negativity doesn’t bring anything good to the table.
Last but not least, ALWAYS WALK FAST AND CARRY SOME PAPERS. I can’t really explain the science behind this one, but it will help your career. Obviously, it gets you where you’re going faster, leaving you more time to get things done. It also makes you look busy and important. I always carry some papers or an entire folder of papers, even if I’m just going to the bathroom. Just try this one, you’ll be amazed.
What other advice would you offer?