That 70s Rule: How Veterans Can Be Sure They Should Get That Certification

1970s image man with sunglasses

In a career coaching session last week, a thirtysomething Army veteran was trying to decide whether it was worth it, at his age, to get a certain qualification required for the career he wanted. I thought we should apply “That 70s Rule”: If you are still going to be thinking woulda-shoulda-coulda about it in your 70s, you should definitely get that thing right now.

I learned That 70s Rule from my mom while walking on Virginia Beach a few years ago. I was carefully explaining to her that I decided not to finish the last step of my master's degree -- the 156-page thesis. I didn't really need the degree for my job. They would not fire me without it. Besides, there was so much math involved in the thesis, I would never, ever get it done.

My mom stopped me right there with the waves crashing on our feet. "You know, I'm 70 years old. I have a great life. And I still think about how I should have finished my bachelor's degree!"

Gah. I knew my mom had good reasons that she did not finish her degree back in the day. I was probably one of them.

But "reasons" evidently don't stop regret. I could not help but see myself walking on the same beach someday with my own daughter. I could almost hear myself saying, "I'm 70 years old. I have a great life. And I still think about how I should have finished my master's degree!"

Was I grateful to my mom for her wisdom? Hell, no. I was mad. My mom had no idea how impossible that math would be for me. Or how math could still make me ugly cry. As the summer went by, I realized it is hard to fight a 70-year-old woman armed with the truth.

You know what happened next. Six weeks later, I finished my thesis -- math, snot and tears included. I graduated.

I'm glad I did -- partially because I ended up needing the master's degree to get the job that led me here. Partially because I never have to think about my degree ever again.

As the transition master coach for's Veteran Employment Project, I see how this story is typical for how so many spouse employment stories go. It is typical for military transition stories and veteran job stories, too. During the job hunt, we all inevitably walk up to a decision point where we have to do something we do not want to do.

The thing might be hard or time-consuming. It might be inconvenient. It might be uncertain. It might be won at the cost of something else you also want to do. It might be nearly impossible. But you must decide. You must act.

If you can afford it and if two or more people have said that the certification was necessary, try going forward with That 70s Rule. Make the decision with your theoretical 70-year-old self in mind. Because so often in the job hunt, we do not regret the things we do. We regret the things we don't do most of all.

Jacey Eckhart is's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, Reach her at

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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series, including our next class. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page or reach out on LinkedIn Jacey Eckhart.

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