This article is aimed at the frustrated veteran who has years of leadership experience but just can’t seem to leverage his or her leadership experience into a good leadership job. Hopefully this will help change your perspective of the civilian job market and set you on the path to getting a good job.
I want to echo what Peter Gudmundsson said in a recent U.S. News magazine article. Peter said that veterans after they leave the military really only have three career choices and those are: making stuff, selling stuff, or counting stuff. Notice I didn’t mention leading people which so many veterans would count as their strong suit and would hope for job opportunities to lead people. While in the end you might wind up leading some people that won’t be your primary responsibility for the new job. Your primary responsibility will be making, selling or counting stuff and the leading will come in second. Don’t get me wrong the new employer will appreciate that fact that the veteran can lead people and that might get them promoted ahead of pears who cannot lead well but first and foremost they expect the veteran to make, sell, or count.
My former boss from Fort Knox is now an employee at GE where he has done well in the manufacture of refrigerators at GE’s Louisville, Kentucky plant. He has been promoted but his job is still primarily that of making stuff…in his case he started with the right hand door of refrigerators. My last job was that of selling stuff…I sold cars in Louisville. Ever since my retirement in 2012 I have misunderstood why employees didn’t hire me to lead. I have fantastic leadership credentials from my 23 years in the Army. However, as Peter points out, that is not what civilian employers are looking for. I thought getting my MBA would change that…but it didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, leadership skills are essential and necessary but they are assumed. They will assume that if you rise through the ranks of making refrigerators or selling cars to the point that you are responsible for people that you can then lead. It might prove to be a false assumption but it is the nature of the civilian job market never the less.
So when you find yourself transitioning from the military whether after one enlistment or a long career you need to start thinking which of the three primary functions you’d like to perform for the next phase of your working career…making, selling, or counting stuff. This should be one of the first things Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are told when they begin the transition process and start working on a resume. That they need to build a resume to target one of those three functions and they will have more job hunting success.
Here is a link to the U.S. News article.