It is better to be average in a great industry than to be a star in a declining industry.
You are not special. A few years ago, veterans clubs existed only at a handful of MBA programs. Today, every top MBA school and most top MBA recruiting companies have veteran recruiting programs. We have become the holy grail of diversity recruiting. Step aside women, minorities, and LGBT. Veterans are the hottest game in town. And guess what? Veterans were already everywhere, they just weren’t organized around an affinity group. So to repeat, you are not special.
So what do you do, you average SOB? Find an industry that is growing and be the best at one thing. What are some growing industries? E-commerce, luxury and retail, mobile apps, mobile anything. Do NOT work for newspapers, venture capital (this will require a larger discussion and separate post), advertising agencies, traditional retailers, etc.
Isn’t specialization the one thing we weren’t supposed to do? In the military, we were general managers. All MBA programs are positioned as “General Management.” And all the top positions go to people with general management backgrounds right? I don’t think this is an either or type of situation. The trend these days is to become very specialized and that will make you rise to the top 15% of the company. Then you can bring out your “General Management” skills, and probably more likely, your political skills.
In conclusion, we all think we are above average, and we probably are when measured against the total population. But we should measure ourselves against the top 10% because those are the people competing for the same jobs, promotions, etc. And when compared against the top 10%, maybe you aren’t that stellar. And that is okay. It’s okay to be average among the highest performers. Just find an industry that is growing, do a great job, and the rest will take care of itself.