How to Make the Most of Opportunities for Success!

career start college Jun 16, 2022

So let me take you back to my youth. I go into my high school guidance counselor’s office, firm in my knowledge. I want to be a Marine, and the Naval Academy is the perfect route. So what should I do? I ask her.

She replies that (1) I do not have good enough grades to get in (which was true) and that (2) I need to know a senator to get nominated (not true). So basically, she said to give up going to college to get a Marine Corps commission.

The Vietnam War had recently ended. I don’t think she thought much of the military and offered no alternatives to me.

So, where did all this determination to be a Marine come from?

I have to blame my family.

My father was an enlisted Marine in WW II. He made three amphibious assaults and was wounded twice. His older brother was also an enlisted Marine and took part in several assaults, although he never got shot.

My other uncles were also veterans. So picnics at the Guzik house involved a lot of sea stories, which greatly influenced me and instilled my desire to go into the Marines.

So, what did I do after being shot down by my guidance counselor?

I went to the Marine Corps recruiting office and enlisted in the Marine Corps on the Delayed Entry program.

What does that mean? Well, I was to finish high school, then get a twelve-week vacation at Paris Island, the Marine Corps boot camp! So if I made it through that, I would be a Marine, although I would not have gotten the chance to go to college.

Why didn’t I just go to college?

I did not have a clue about how to do that. My father did not graduate college because he had to quit school to work during the depression, plus we could not afford it.

All set, right? It wasn’t my first choice of a career start, but at least I had a plan.

That is until one day, a life insurance salesman tried to sell my Mom a plan. He mentioned that he had just gotten out of the Air Force and that they had paid for his college with something called ROTC.

What is ROTC?

It stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps. It is a college scholarship where you take some military courses during college and do military training over the summer. Then finally, at completion, you are made an officer of your particular service. The Marine Corps and Navy both used the Naval ROTC.

Why didn’t my counselor tell me about that? Probably because she thought I couldn’t get in anyhow.

But I thought, “Go For It!” and I applied. But I never really thought I’d get selected.

Now, what is the selection process?

In addition to your high school records, they give you a physical fitness test, and you have to do an interview with a Marine officer.

That interview was with two Marine Corps officers, both of who had Vietnam combat experience.

This was held in Newark, NJ, and since I had just turned 17, I could not yet drive alone in NJ. So my father took me.

Instead of having my father wait outside, the officers invited him to come inside during the interview.

As soon as they learned my father was a former Marine, they all started talking about their Marine Corps experiences.

I tuned into a potted plant for the rest of that interview.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a letter from HQMC saying I had been selected for a full scholarship. Furthermore, the letter stated that I had had a great interview!

I think I have to thank my father for coming in and comparing combat experiences with the two Vietnam veteran Marines.

But what did my Mom think?

Mom called and said they must have made a mistake.

“No, Ma’am, we are the Marines; we don’t make mistakes.”

I had to leave the Delayed Entry program,

I remember telling my recruiter that I got selected for NROTC. I called him from a pay phone at school, and he congratulated me and said, “Now, become a good officer.”

So what’s next? I needed to find a college that would take me.

However, I discovered that having a full scholarship made me more accepted to colleges. But I still wasn’t sure if I could handle college academically.

New Jersey had no NROTC programs, so I applied to several very large schools across the country.

I felt there was a good chance I would “rock out” (fail) of the school (rock – intelligence of a rock). So since I was just a number at a large school, I would then get on with going to boot camp and hopefully becoming a Marine.

I chose The Ohio State University because it was the closest of the schools that accepted me. So off I went, driving west from NJ, with no idea what to expect.

College, it turned out, was challenging but also a good time.

Someone told me I should major in engineering, so I did. That was tough, and my grades sucked, but I kept pushing on.

It took me almost 5 years to get through. Still, I graduated and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

I had achieved my goal of becoming a Marine officer.

So, here are my 3 career coaching takeaways.

1. The more you know what you want, the more likely you will get it.
I knew I wanted to be a Marine officer and was aggressive about finding a path to that goal.

2. You don’t control much of what is around you, but if you are alert, you can see opportunities. That is what happened with the insurance salesman.

3. If you want it bad enough, go for it, even if the odds are against you. You don’t want to be that person who, later in life, wonders what they could have been if they had tried harder for what they wanted.