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I remember that day well. November 1, 1994 marked my first day of unemployment after taking what I like to call a "settle for" job just after my rollercoaster ride of a military-to-civilian career transition. I toyed with the idea of collecting unemployment. For me, that was not an option. Call me hard-headed, impatient, or prideful, but I considered that a "NO-GO".

I drove around the Unemployment Office located at 300 E Main St, in El Paso, TX near Fort Bliss. I drove around not once, but several times. The thought of no job and the effects this would have on my Wife & 2 kids made this reality even more daunting. My tiny income equaled approximately $127.00 and came from proceeds from our recent garage sale. After a series of left turns circling the place in my recently purchased foreign car, I wasted too much gas and too much time. Things looked bleak. Each lap got me thinking to myself, "There's got to be a better way!"

You might be next! Will you be ready if this happens to you in 2013?

According to Stars & Stripes Reporter Chris Carroll, if Congress approves the Defense Department budget request revealed Monday, the service would lose 3,900 active-duty airmen, 900 reservists and 5,100 Air National Guard members.

Stars & Stripes Reporter Leo Shane III wrote about the potential reductions in both the Army and the Marine Corps. He wrote that The Marine Corps will lose about 5,000 troops, and the Navy will cut 2,500 civilian personnel under the Pentagon's fiscal 2013 budget plan.

The Army will shed almost 10,000 soldiers and 14,000 civilian employees in fiscal 2013, and spend less on aircraft and ground vehicles, under budget plans announced Monday at the Pentagon.

Guard and reserve numbers will be unaffected by the end strength drawdown, the first year of a five-year plan to drop about 72,000 soldiers from the payroll.

Will you make the cut?

You could sit around worrying, waiting, wondering, and whining about the impending cuts, but that really won't do you any good. Your best bet is to prepare now, no matter what happens.

Cut & Paste

Find all of your evaluations, training records, and letters of appreciation, emails, "atta-boys" & "atta-girls", and anything that sings your praises. Create an electronic file with all of these things that document the great things you've done. These are the things civilian employers need to know about.

Cut the Fat

The last thing you want is to have anything negative in your personnel file. No doubt, someone will soon look through your files to identify reasons to either keep you in the service, or invite you to leave. If you're overweight or otherwise fail to meet the Height & Weight requirements established by your branch of service, you could be noticed for the wrong reasons. If you have not updated your official photo, you might consider scheduling a new photo shoot so you can put your best lean, mean, fighting machine physique in your official file.

Cut Your Time

Likewise, your physical fitness is important. If you're at risk of failing a physical fitness test, now is the time to step it up and get in better shape. You should workout even harder now than ever before. Do some extra exercise each day. Cut your run times by developing a physical fitness routine that you can do in addition to the normal day-to-day physical training.

Don't Cut Out Early

Arrive early and stay late! Go the extra mile. You'd be surprised at all you can accomplish after the regularly scheduled work activities end at close of business. You need to be perceived as the "go-to" person who can be relied on to stay until the work gets done. Your actions need to be documented too. Not so much as to log the hours, but to personally keep track of what you were able to accomplish. These types of activities may go unnoticed, so you also need to determine how you can make your accomplishments known. You don't want to necessarily toot your own horn, but you need to capture things you were willing to do when others failed to take the initiative. But, it is also important to maintain balance in your life. Don't overdo it!

A Cut Above

Finally, you'll want to raise your overall personal bar of performance. Push yourself to improve upon something you're already good at. Find a weak area in your life and read a book or take a course to help you improve that area. Share knowledge with a younger, less experienced service member. Strive to do your best in everything you do. Maintain your personal integrity, and never forget the concept and tenets of Duty, Honor, and Country. Be able to look yourself in the mirror knowing you performed your duty with the utmost respect to the uniform and the branch in which you serve.

Hopefully, you'll be able to stay in the military as long as you wish. Ideally, these personnel cuts will have no effect on your military career. But, the fact remains that some will be forced to make the military-to-civilian career transition. By following the steps outlined above, you'll either boost your chances of staying in the service OR boost your chances of impressing a civilian employer. You've got to keep written proof of the great things you do! If you do get word that your military career will end prematurely, I hope you find a better way than I initially did. Remember, you have lots to offer in or out of military service, so never forget that.

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