15 karmaJoined Nov 2020


Still useful to talk with a recruiter and ask specific questions, but they have their own priorities and are going to shuffle you into whatever slots they get the most points for. Looking at the websites of the military services which detail different jobs is helpful to get a baseline. But the most helpful thing will be talking to people who have done various jobs and been in various units. Your unit and the leadership are comparably important in the Guard/Reserves to the job you are doing. You can only figure that out by talking with people and finding a good unit.


There might be some new Space Force opportunities to build things out because they are so new, but there will be growing pains as well as they figure out how to actually add value without stepping on other branch's toes. Generally your job, unit, and leadership are the most important regardless of the service, though there are various stereotypes over different services which may hold true in more situations than not (Molly gets at some of them above).

The Guard has been activated stateside more in the last couple of years than in a long time. COVID, extreme weather events, January 6, BLM, and probably a couple of other things I am sure I am forgetting. Deployment cycles abroad for the Guard are generally once every 5 years, though sometimes units will get skipped over. So you'll have a trainup for 4-5 years and then deploy somewhere (in addition to the random as-needed activations). Generally the Reserves will only deploy abroad somewhere, but their deployment cycles will be more consistent (vs. skipping years) and they may be shorter. Unless you are in a super intense Guard/Reserve unit though or you have a terrible relationship with your leadership, you can generally choose not to go because (at least currently) there are fewer slots for deployments than slots in the units matched to those deployments, so not everyone gets to go.

You can find a Guard unit or a Reserve unit nearby to where you live.

The answer below is correct about tuition - you need to be activated outside of your initial training time to get the main GI Bill that covers a lot of tuition, and you need to be activated for 3 years collectively to get the Yellow Ribbon Program which covers full tuition at an expensive private program.

Insurance is the same - Tricare Reserve Select -- Humana Military / Concordia Dental. Unless you are activated, then it is Active/free insurance (Tricare Prime I believe?).

Career capital depends on what you are trying to do after/in the military. Generally though, I would say the flexibility of the Reserve probably outweighs any marginal benefits the Guard may have. But it also depends a lot on your specific unit in the Guard or Reserve and your specific commander/your commander's commander.

  1. Yes, from an EA perspective definitely.
  2. No, CSET did research showing that the chasm between Silicon Valley and DoD is not that significant. The perception is mainly based on the one Google/Project Maven issue that got a lot of press. The opportunities in tech national security (especially within the government - major opportunities) have greater upside than those few companies that might not want you on their team. Also legally there are protections for veterans and companies have legal incentives to hire vets. It is more a way to stand out than to scare people off.
  3. There is always a risk that you'll be in a position where you are working on a project or receive an order to do something that you'd rather not. But I'd say that risk is very low for doing things that are potentially harmful on a large scale, and you have opportunities to further reduce the risk based on your job, your unit, who you know who's higher up, etc. If I had to guess, the very likely/100% upsides of joining are orders of magnitude higher. Even if you're just thinking about the upsides of potentially being in a position to make a really important good decision (vs. the counterfactual other person in that situation), the upsides probably outweigh the downsides (but that is not the main reason from an EA perspective to join - it's more the career capital).
  4. Generally don't trust a recruiter unless either you have to or you get them to talk with someone who has been in the military before and who can get another recruiter's take on what the recruiter you are talking to is offering you.

I think this is great advice for planning any career.  You can't know how big of an impact you'll have unless you know concretely what you'll be doing and how that will have an impact.

However, I think there is a danger in going too far in trying to understand - specifically  for careers which,  by the nature of the career,  you are bouncing around between different types of work.  In these more generalist careers, the exponential relative impact of certain individual opportunities might make exploring more opportunities/putting yourself in a position to explore more opportunities more valuable than understanding exactly what you will be doing.

Time boxing or holding yourself to talk to 'x' number of people about a given career seems like a simple solution to this.

This makes me think of the contrast between systems analysis and net assessment/strategy.  Yes, Fermi calculations are a valuable input into the discussion, but the nature of the problem is likely too complex to give sole weight to that calculation (in most circumstances - I think your example of comparing different research papers is a relatively simple/constrained environment).  

In net assessment/strategy, the nature of the choice and your assessment of that nature determine the best methods of analysis.   In systems analysis, a one-size-fits-all approach of measurement and analysis is taken.  In certain circumstances that method of measurement is hugely valuable (why it became so popular in the US DoD), but in many other circumstances (like the Vietnam War) that method is deeply flawed.  

It takes a solid assessment of the problem space to identify the key aspects of the competition.  From there you can assess which methods and measures are most useful to judge the decision upon.  And from there you can search for the data available to match your assessment.  

Although choosing a career isn't a competition against a competitor, your search to do the most good is a clearer objective than most adversaries can articulate regarding their objectives for long-term competition.  The same meta-methods of analysis (to determine the best methods of analysis to fit the problem) apply.  And then you can go on to finding the right data to fit those methods you've deemed most effective (maybe a Fermi calculation, but maybe 5 expert opinions in your career field or maybe your own gut feeling).  I also think that in a career decision (unless it's super major and clearly between two choices), the data you are going to be looking for is closer to a startup's lean experiment than a longitudinal study.  As you mentioned, Fermi calculations being readily available and usable doesn't mean that is an effective tool for your decision.

Looking back at my answer, this didn't really answer your question.   The most effective technique I have found for deciding career choices though is to talk to as many  career-related people as you can - because 1. they'll be able to help you better understand the nature of the decision; and 2. they'll open up doors for future opportunities, potentially even avoiding the need to make your current decision.