The Art of War
September 1, 2010 4:00 PM   Subscribe

If you knew someone who had an instinctive grasp for tactics and strategy--a person who could, given a specific scenario, immediately determine the most effective course of action for winning a battle or a series of engagements--but who could not serve in the military due to specific physical limitations, what would you advise him to pursue as far as education and career choices, to make the most of this ability?

So, Subject A, as we'll call him, is looking for career options. He is dispassionate, logical, has an uncanny knack for cataloguing strengths and weaknesses in tactical situations, assessing "the big picture", making various calculations determining the best course of action and achieving the desired outcome, especially in military tactical situations. Basically, when put into a simulation of battle or given a set of situational parameters, he can find his way unerringly along the straightest path to success. He is also good at financial analysis, and has dabbled with economics and had some success with picking lucrative stock options in a purely intellectual capacity, not having actual money to invest (yes, I'm sure many of us could empathize with that aspect).

He has considered joining the military or attending officer's training, but he is physically unable to actually enlist. His physical limitations make even the firing of a rifle, for example, a virtual impossibility.

What advice would you give Subject A regarding an appropriate career path and training to leverage his skills into viable employment?
posted by misha to Work & Money (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is he a good writer? If so, it sounds like he'd make a good military historian or historical-fiction author.
posted by vorfeed at 4:10 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would recommend considering a career in one of the intelligence services. Oddly, most of the military doesn't use the skills described. Most of the military is more devoted to the logistics than strategy o tactics.
posted by procrastination at 4:11 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

CIA. Physical limitations: not a problem. Also, appears to be a growth industry.
posted by doublesix at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pro poker player? Bored quantitative analysts make a killing doing that.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:19 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

My dad used to work for a civilian defense contractor and my understanding of his job is that he made real life war games. They were training exercises for the military. They may have been partly logistical, but they were at least partly tactical. I don't know if there is a non-military path into a job like that, but it may be something to look into.
posted by Mavri at 4:20 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

This person would make a good product manager or CEO.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2010

Does he care about social issues, does he have political views, is he passionate about causes and public affairs?

If yes, tell him to consider a generalist degree, and to considera joining a political Party and involving himself in the political process. If no, make sure he stays the hell away from politics.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:31 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

A person like that would be a heck of a litigator or transactional lawyer.
posted by bearwife at 4:35 PM on September 1, 2010

Computer security. It sounds like he'd already be a natural at threat modeling. If he's willing to put in some time learning C and C++ and TCP/IP, to be mentored, and to try his hand at the fine art of exploiting buffer overflows, well...he'd be in demand.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:47 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does this person prefer working with people, doing research, or playing computer games?
posted by sninctown at 5:18 PM on September 1, 2010

What fairlytale of los angeles said, X 2. Not that he would necessarily want to -- that's a different discussion -- but from your description of his qualities he has the basis of a very strong poker skill set.
posted by mosk at 5:41 PM on September 1, 2010

Project management.
posted by ttyn at 5:42 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Business, corporate strategy, marketing strategy, finance, investment banking, securities trading.
posted by fremen at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2010

Seconding one of the intelligence services. He sounds like a born military forces analyst.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:49 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a board game designer? He could create his own worlds with as much depth and complexity as he wanted, then refine the tactics and strategy into an addictive, marketable game.
posted by Menthol at 6:19 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Does this person prefer working with people, doing research, or playing computer games?

I'd say doing research and playing computer games. Not that he can't work with people; he networks online.

Also, he does enjoy writing, doesn't read fiction. Prefers non-fiction and military stuff.

Interesting about the poker pro angle. He is good with gambling; makes sense given his tactical and math skills.
posted by misha at 6:45 PM on September 1, 2010

I can't believe no one has said engineering yet! All those qualities you describe are fantastic traits for an engineer to have. As a design engineer, I spend a lot of time determining the best design solution to fit a given situation and set of parameters - what's going to meet the customer's needs and be easiest to make or install, what makes the most financial sense in the long term, and so on. It's all about the problem solving.
posted by beandip at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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