Sense of Entitlement

Updated: April 25, 2013


By Kelly Crigger

‘Haha. I wouldn’t work for that,” Lieutenant Colonel Bighead tells me.

“It’s a fair salary,” I respond. “Everyone is cutting their budgets now.”

“I’m worth more. Find something better,” he says hanging up the phone.

This is a real conversation. I’m a recruiter that specializes in placing veterans in tech jobs and management positions and I had this exact talk recently. I used to make fun of the Occupy Wall Street kids who squatted on public parks and made unreasonable and oftentimes laughable demands for the world to take care of them like they needed an extra large teet to suckle off of. But now I was getting pretty much the same attitude from a 20-year military veteran with an overblown sense of self-worth.

I’m a huge champion of that oh-so-core capitalist value: a free market economy. And I believe everyone should aspire to capture their market value and then some. If you discovered Einsteinium and you’re worth a bazillion kajillion dollars a year then by God demand it. But here’s what most people don’t realize…the market dictates a person’s value, NOT the individual and Lieutenant Colonel Bighead doesn’t know what I do-that the market is turning down sharply right now so the days of demanding $150K to be a Program Manager in DC are over. Some people can still get that salary, but very few and certainly not ones coming straight off of active duty.

Military retirees are in dire straits in 2013. The recent government budget cuts have forced every company in this industry to cut corners, slash budgets, and do away with the free M&M supply in the break room (the horror!). I have a friend who recently retired from the Air Force after a VERY distinguished career as a Nuclear Missileer. Right now he’s in training to be a postal carrier because there are no opportunities for him outside of uniform. No joke.

So the attitude of “I’m worth more” needs to be checked at the door.

And now…the rest of the story.

owesIn a strange way I’m just as guilty as LTC Bighead. When he copped an attitude with me, the first thing I thought was, “you disrespectful fucko.” I didn’t like the way this guy talked to me. He’s easily 4 years my junior and in uniform I would have jacked him up until he cried. In reality he probably wouldn’t have talked to me that way in the first place because he would have been more professional (I hope).

But that’s the exact same narcissistic character flaw that I was pissed about in the first place-that somehow I’m owed something for my service. For a minute I felt like this guy should show some respect for my time in uniform when I realized a blinding truth: no one gives a shit about your service when you take the uniform off…and shouldn’t. Your rank, your badges, your cool beret doesn’t continue into civilian life. It’s over and overnight you go from Joe Cool to Joe Bag-O-Donuts when it is. No has to give you respect or recognize your authority. It’s just like starting over, so once again…check your attitude at the door.

When the Occupy Wall Street movement was going on everyone (including me) kept telling those kids with an overblown sense of entitlement to Ranger Up and get over it. That’s good advice no matter how old you are.




  1. leftoftheboom

    April 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Oh so true. Supply and demand. I competed for a job requiring a bachelor degree against individuals with doctorates. I could do the job. They could write the book on it. Forget what level you think you are at. The job market is fierce and full of over qualified civilians just as desperate and most times with more direct skill.

  2. Will Black

    April 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Nice to hear this coming from a site that people respect. I’ve been saying it for almost four years now, since I got out, and normally I’m told to shut up by other vets. It’s disheartening, but it’s true.

    Somewhat related to this is the fact that I know many vets who try to convince me to go get some PTSD money, even though I don’t have it. There is a decent-sized chunk of the vet community that feels entitled to PTSD/disability cash simply because they fought in OIF/OEF. I hate pointing the finger at my own tribe, but we can be whiny little bitches sometimes. Nice to see others can recognize faults in our own community as well.

  3. Jack

    April 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

    That second to last paragraph is spot-on. A lot of people seem to be showing resistance with this article and, assuming most of them are either active-duty or newly separated, they’ll have to learn what he is conveying the hard way. What you accomplished in the military is certainly notable, but the private sector could give a shit most of the time. Once you realize you have to scrape and claw to get what you want, you’ll be ready to compete in the real world. Take the tools you learned in the military and use them to your advantage, but never assume simply being in the military will get you anywhere.

  4. T. Morris

    April 25, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Ouch… Truth hurts, though, and you’re right. I left the Army as an E5, I did my time as a private, I should be able to jump right into a management job, right? Ha-ha, nope. Try minimum wage at an automotive parts store, mopping floors like a day-one joe again, or $13/hr busting my knuckles under the hood of a car. My CIB, my rank and five bucks could get me a beer at the bar. It sucks, it hurts, to have my service basically ignored, but at the same time, my job skills boiled down to “I can jump out of a moving airplane, kick in a door and shoot a bad guy in the face.” There isn’t a job requiring that skill set in the civilian sector. But that’s one thing we’re good at – adapting, improvising and overcoming adversity. Lose the ego (its a kick in the dick, I know!), adapt, drink water and drive on. The Army taught me how to do that. Sure, its not the same as humping a 240 through the desert, its an easier adversity, and were not getting shot at. We can do it.

    • Mr. Twisted

      April 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Well said, T. Morris.

    • Mike

      August 20, 2013 at 3:19 am

      Great post. This should be on an recruiting poster somewhere.

  5. Froggy

    April 25, 2013 at 10:36 am

    The transition is harder because when you are on active duty you never even think about where your next paycheck is coming from. That kind of financial security breeds a sense of entitlement and it institutionalizes a person. That’s why many vets head straight for the GOV civil service in order to get that certainty back. Once you are out for a while, and those checks aren’t hitting on the 1st & 15th, that’s when LTC Dbag will get wise to his real status.

  6. Mike

    April 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I always tell people that if you are worth more go earn it.

    I was part of a small business forum in Atlanta last year, and when they heard my question (“Where are all of these so called unemployed? Because I’m hiring and I can’t find anybody willing to actually WORK. They just want to get PAID).

    I am willing to pay someone a lot of money if they bring a lot of value, but I need to see that value. And just because you were an O-5, doesn’t mean you have value to me. I need to see that on the revenue side.

  7. JG

    April 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The two things I learned in my military careeer that I have always leaned on in my civilian career are work ethic and leadership. (I have the incredible Airborne and Special Forces NCOs that I served with to thank for both of those.) When I got out,as a lowly E-5, I checked my ego at the door and worked several entry level positions and had the mentality of give me a chance and I will prove myself. Ten years after my service ended, I have the kind of job that the LTC mentioned in this article wants and I am truly blessed. Like T. Morris said, adapt, improvise, and overcome adversity and do it with a positive attitude and there is no limit to what a veteran can accomplish. No one owes us anything for our service. We owe it to our country to take the skills we were taught, in its service, and make America even greater. God Bless America.

  8. Just another Dirt Bag

    April 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    We all know somebody whose sense of entitlement has held them back, someone who thought they were “worth more than that.” I would respectfully submit that the majority of actual OIF/OEF vets do not fall into this category. (disclaimer: I’m basing this entirely on personal experience, which is in the close to baby vomit in value)

    Rather than entitlement, most GWOT vets are strapped with a false perception of the civilian world as a bigger, more fake, more lame, military. This leads to confusion and despair when they encounter different rules that produce different results.

    No mater where you go, you run into the same kinds of people but in the civilian world, the “wrong” kind of people succeed. Fat people, selfish people, whinny people with no self-discipline, ignorant people with little perspective and lot of opinions, cowardly, risk averse people…these people pretty much run the civilian world. You try try to adapt, you try to “tone it down,” and try to get along. But you are not them, and they know it and they do not like it.

  9. JC

    April 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I think this article shows half of the story. I agree that Veterans do encounter corporations that don’t value what they bring to the table. There are many challenges for Veterans entering the workplace today when it comes to finding a job that’s commensurate with their experience. How many corporations will trust a 22 year old with a GED to lead a team of 9 employees? Let alone take responsibility for planning, resourcing, and execution. An Army squad leader does this, in combat, under the most miserable conditions on the planet. On the other side of the same coin, a LTC who led a Battalion of 700 Soldiers in those same conditions has the same challenge. What corporation will turn over a multimillion dollar part of their business to a war hero with no “industry experience”? Those of us who have been there know this and we look for it. Mr MBA business leader typically has no idea what these men and women are capable of, and won’t trust them to lead anything until they cut their teeth as an individual contributor on a project or program that will challenge their patience more than their capabilities.
    In my case, I was an Airborne Ranger with a CIB and two company commands under my belt. I ended up taking a job at an IT company in a logistics role that a good E5 Supply Sergeant would absolutely rock…for less money than I was making as a senior Captain. Instead of leading a company of 200 Soldiers, I was in charge of me, myself, and I, answering the phone at all hours of the day and night, pushing repair parts around the country. Fortunately, I proved to my company what I was capable of and ascended rather quickly over the next 4 years through a ton of smart/hard work and dedication. The process seemed slow, the process was frustrating, but it the long run it has paid off. It has paid off financially and has also paid off in terms of earning a role with a scope and responsibility that challenges me. Now that I can hire folks, I find Veterans with the right skillset and hire them into roles that match their capabilities, and I try to pay them for they are worth.
    I think its key for Veterans to find those like themselves in the business world. Only a Veteran knows what a Veteran has been through, what a Veteran is capable of, and what a Veteran can do for your company. The civilian workforce needs you, they just don’t know it yet. Good luck!!!

    • Just another Dirt Bag

      April 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      JC, I’m glad to hear things worked out for you, but I’m inclined to believe that your story is the exception, not the norm. Especially in an industrial or warehouse setting, civilian co-workers and junior supervisors don’t like go-getters, they like non-threatening mediocre oxygen thieves like themselves. learn their shipping/inventory software and all its functions, too fast? not a good thing. too pro-active? not a good thing. don’t smoke? (ha ha you’re really screwed it you’re a west pointer) not a good thing. Not involved in anything shady on the side? Not a good thing.

      I like how you say the civilian workforce needs you and “just doesn’t know it yet” because right now, you are their worst nightmare and you have to watch your back

      • JC

        April 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm

        JADB, man I totally get you. In my same company there are plenty of organizations who feel threatened by what guys like you can bring to the table. Just shows that we “Damn Few” have got to look out for each other, not only on the battlefield but in the civilian world as well. Take care!

  10. Sahal

    April 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Hey guys remember the We Must Fight video?
    Here’s a video from the same person, its called “Courage to Stand”.

  11. ET1(SS) Princess

    April 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I could not concur with this post more. I didn’t want to leave the Navy. She had been my love and life since I was 18. It was all I wanted to do since I was 6, and after 6 years and 9 months of service I was leaving. I could have stayed but I would have to of selected a different position and any true submariner can tell you they would rather burn alive than do that. If it were not the best decision for my wife and daughter I probably would have taken the offer and explored another side of the Navy (I’ve been blessed with 3 fantastic jobs while enlisted). But my family had earned the right and deserved to spend more time with me; so no more deployments.

    When I left the biggest concern for me was employment. I decided to take the summer off and collect unemployment until I could figure things out – take a break so to speak. It was by far the worst summer of my life. I had so many role conflictions with who I used to be, what I was supposed to be and what was actually happening before me. I had been a LPO (Leading Petty Officer-I would say this might be the equivalent of a 1st Sgt?) and had lead 2 divisions, each consisting of 60+ sailors. I had years of nuclear submarine experience and maintenance and repair. But it didn’t seem to really register with anyone and it made me angry; angry at them and myself. I would yell at myself “Don’t they understand who I am and what I can do?” After some humility I realized the truth: “No one owes you anything. You want it? Go get it.”

    I finally perfected my resume and let it hit the market in upstate New York. I was really lucky. A couple days later the phone calls started coming in from head-hunters. There were some bogus ones but for the most part 2 companies requested phone interviews and then office interviews. After about 2 weeks I got the interview that landed my current job.

    That first paycheck was a huge eye-opener. My wife looked at the pay-stub and the plans we had set before us and asked me with tears in her eyes “Can you go back into the Navy?” It was the reality of civilian life that had hit her. Suddenly the separation conversation I had with my 2 leading Master Chiefs played out before me. I had so many emotions flash through me at once that I couldn’t say anything but just look at her. The pay was about 2/3 of what our take-home was as an E-6. It was a difficult decision but we decided to stay the course. Even now, almost 2 years since I was honorably discharged our pay is still about 2/3 of what we made when I was in. But the time spent with my family and the ability to not be called in on my days off is worth it in my personal opinion.

    The truth is exactly how you and everyone above have stated it. No one cares who you are or what you have accomplished after the uniform is taken off. You are just another somebody in a sea of nobodies. That’s why it is so important for me to be a part of RU as it reminds me of who I was, who I stood beside, and who is still out there. I know now that I can still give the support needed. Just a month after I started working for my employer I sent an e-mail the VP and HR Rep requesting to do a fundraiser for troops. Together with another veteran owned business we raised almost $2K in coffee care packages and sent them to Afghanistan that January. This was a big boost to my damaged ego.

    Yesterday my wife and I saw a sailor in his NWU’s driving through town. She saw me looking at him and turned to me and said “You still wish you were wearing the uniform don’t you?” I looked at the sailor as he drove off and replied “I never wanted to take it off.” And although I have taken it off I can still give support where support is needed. And I intend to do just that.

    Thank You for your post. You hit the nail on the head.

    “All men are created equal. It’s what you do after this that matters.” Do something that matters because no one will do it for you.

  12. GunnyH

    April 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I get what the article is saying, but after 20 years I work my way up to making $77,000.00 plus benefits. Now I’m offered an IT job at $45,000.00 with few benefits, it’s very hard to deal with that. I’ve had to seriously cut back across the board. Had I known things would be this bad, I would have stayed in as long as possible. We may have been wrong, but my wife and I both expected I would make at least as much as I did in the Corps in the IT field. You have to at least admit that this is a major let down for a family to have to give up so many things we used to enjoy, just to get by. I don’t want to say that the LTC in the article is right by any means, but I can understand why he was that way. The transition to civilian life has so far, been very disappointing.

    • Kelly Crigger

      May 23, 2013 at 11:19 am

      GunnyH – send me your resume and I’ll see if I can help. I specialize in placing vets in IT jobs. [email protected]

  13. Used to be Chief

    May 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

    In my 24 year career, I never let the Navy define who I am. On base I was the Chief, when I left the base I was Greg.

    The ones who don’t know how to separate their rank/rate from their personal live have a harder time remembering they are now civilians.

  14. Tony

    May 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

    This is good shit to hear. I can’t stand that I want to give into the bitterness that comes from dealing with the civilian world, because even when I’m at my angriest I can still see how corrosive those feelings are. I know we’re all conditioned to work a job, but you all should consider starting your own companies. The entrepreneurial world is the only place where you can really have your capabilities shine. Even if you’re struggling paycheck to paycheck, starting your own venture can be as simple (and cheap) as coming up with a product idea and finding a company to license it. I’m dipping my toe into this world and the feeling of being in charge of your own destiny is totally moto. Stay hard and drive on.

  15. luckysob

    August 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I guess I just got real lucky. I got out as a Sgt. 11B, squad leader, went on vacation to the Bahamas and when I got back I got called in for an interview. Started off making 45k a year, 2 years later I started making 70k a year. Now I’m at around 85k a year. I haven’t seen my manager in almost a year. The jobs are tout there if you word the resume right.

  16. Jeff

    August 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Well, you CAN still wear a beret if you want to…but everything else was spot on.

  17. Randy Hamme

    August 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Definitely agree. I have been out of work since last year and would be grateful for anything I could get as a job. As far as my military experience, I am in Austin, TX, which is a wannabe Berkley, CA. I have been told to keep my military experience off the resume and not mention it if I can. While my background hasn’t kept me from getting a job, I sure as anything am not going to be acting like I am owed anything because of it.

  18. Durham

    August 19, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I never was in the military but I did spend a lot of time around it. And what a friend of mine says smacks of truth, to the same tune as this column. Your rank (or metals or any other achievements) and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

  19. TxRadioguy

    August 20, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Still not seeing the connection. The Occupy idiots are mainly a bunch of pot smoking trust fund kids that want something for nothing. There’s a huge difference between soldiers and the Occutards. Are there a few cheats in the Army system? Sure. Are we all that way? No. Kinda unfair to say we all have a sense of entitlement.

  20. GrHunter

    August 20, 2013 at 6:39 am

    As in any job military or civilian you need to roll your sleeves up and get to work! I am a retired LTC and went to work as a contractor four years ago. I still get up early, work a 10-12 hour day (and add a commute) – but the key word in that phrase is I “work”. Yes it is an office job…but I don’t spend my time around the water cooler telling war stories. If there is an action or a project get it done and move on to the next one. Treat each member of your team with respect and value their contributions just like any leader (not manager).

    I see the reverse of that also when new people are brought on to a task. I shouldn’t have to tell a retired O-6 how to open Outlook or that he is being paid to respond to an email, write a paper or make a presentation for the boss. There could be an new series of comics for “Retired Bob no longer at the FOB”.

  21. Amanda

    August 20, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I was an Army brat and now an Army Wife. When my dad retired, he was lucky enough to be hired on a job doing the exact same thing he was doing in the Army, and that’s only because the company he got hired into, worked in the hospital he was at right before he retired. He worked very closely with this company and was able to show ahead of time what he was worth. When that company had to cut jobs a year later, it didn’t matter and my dad was unemployed after 24 years of military service. He then had to attend classes at a local community college to get certifications so he could qualify for lower paying, harder jobs. While he was in, college classes and taking classes while active duty were not required or even encouraged. What did he do? The same thing he taught me as a little girl, no one owes you anything, work for it or accept the consequences. My mother helped with this mentality and always taught me to accept the consequences of my decisions, whether good or bad. I have a MSCJ, currently owe over $50,000 in student loans, and haven’t had a job other than SAHM for almost a year. You know what I’m worth? I’m that smile on my child’s face when I get her up in the morning. I’m worth that kiss on the forehead hubby gives me when I’m doing the dishes or cooking dinner. I am owed none of it, but I am blessed to have it…

  22. C

    August 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

    “No one gives a shit about your service when you take the uniform off…and shouldn’t.”

    That sentiment is pragmatic and useful, which I’d argue is more important than whether it’s true, but it is not, in fact, true.

    The best chance of driving on is to divest of the entitlement and start from scratch. The only way to avoid being caught in the morass of indignation at an ungrateful nation or a bogged down VA is to expect nothing from them.

    It’s the only way to guarantee you will avoid the trap of anger and bitterness that is crippling so many of us.

    Convincing yourself that our service should not matter to others or be considered in hiring is useful in letting us get some work and start working back up without having a huge belligerent chip on our shoulders. . .

    It’s just that it’s not true.

  23. Neal

    August 20, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Agree with the article, but one thing not mentioned, is falling behind your “peer group” when you get out. I enlisted in the Rangers after getting my degree in Chemistry. When I got out, I fully expected to have an easy time getting a job with a “hero” resume and a strong job market(late 90s). However, I quickly found out that I was competing, as a 27-year old, against recent 22-year old college grads. I guess I felt a little entitled and was somewhat bitter against “young idiot civilians”, like they didn’t understand. But, as the article states, the market is a cold and unmerciful bitch and you better roll with it or perish. My sense of “entitlement” didn’t last long…Fortunately, my dad, who was a CEO at the time, explained the “facts of job life” to me. It hurt my ego, but it was the best come-to-jesus talk I ever got.

  24. edub52

    August 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    There are two sides to this coin.

    Heads–it’s axiomatic that you’re not owed anything by the private sector for your public/military service.

    Tails–understand, but don’t overestimate, the worth of your skills and experience. Speaking from experience, most military officers never use the degrees they’ve earned except to tick off a checkbox in order to be commissioned or promoted to major. Even more meaningless are those masters degrees you earned at [insert your branch here] War College. You’re going to make the transition to “mister” at some point, and for most it’s a planned event, so plan accordingly. Go pick up a degree that you can couple with your experience to make yourself marketable. For example, an electronic warfare officer with an undergraduate degree in architecture is an unmarketable combination; an electronic warfare officer with an electrical engineering or computer science degree who runs the unit’s network gets his pick of jobs from defense contractors and telecoms.

    That said, and continuing the example, if you’re an EWO and get that EE or CS degree, don’t let your recruiter convince you that the best you can do is becoming a factory floor supervisor for some consumer electronics manufacturer. Yes, it involves “electronics,” but that’s not what you’re worth. If a recruiter isn’t familiar with your MOS, rating or AFSC, find one who is. You’re entitled to work with a recruiter that has a clue about what you’re worth and will work to place you in a job that makes the most of your education, skills and experience. Personally, it took three recruiters to finally understand what I was worth and put me in front of an employer who recognized my value. Don’t settle just because your recruiter will.

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