It can be hard for military veterans to transfer their skills to the corporate field. The Center for New American Security has identified this to be one of the biggest issues in transitioning from a military career. The reality is that many of the scenarios that apply to military leadership do not necessarily translate all that easily. Yet, being able to adapt to different environments is a key skill that all servicemen and servicewomen learn, and military skills, when used correctly, can provide the foundation that’s necessary for a thriving corporate career. The challenge for military vets is to find the balance necessary to build and sustain a career in private business.
There is certainly something that can be said about applying the intensity of military life to corporate affairs. In business, it pays to have a combat-ready and risk-mitigating mindset. Treating your company’s assets and resources as if they were lives that you have to protect is a good way to get on your boss’ good side. This is why military tactics are often used as metaphors on how to do business. The Marine Corps put an emphasis on developing key characteristics like dependability, judgment, decisiveness, integrity, knowledge, and courage, which are all obviously useful in running or working for any private business.
For a veteran to excel in transitioning from a military career to become a business leader they have to take the above traits and integrate them into corporate culture. Finding that balance is crucial, as not everyone in the office will have the same disciplinary foundation as you do. Value and use the skills you’ve learned and developed in the military, as most companies have to teach their employees the skills that come to veterans instinctively.
Another big challenge that faces the around 360,000 military vets who leave the service yearly is how to thrive in a completely new culture. While corporate and military cultures have many things in common, there are key differences that may affect a veterans’ performance early on. For instance, while military personnel are trained to wait for their superiors’ orders before acting, the corporate world places a much higher value on initiative.
We Hire Heroes have previously discussed how to make it in management by applying initiative to corporate tasks. Rather than just telling your boss what the problem is, assess the situation first to see how you yourself can provide solutions using your own skill set. Once you’re armed with one or two viable suggestions on how you can approach the given situation, then you can present these solutions to your boss as your own professional recommendations. As the old adage goes, a little initiative can go a long way, especially in the corporate world.
Whether it’s a fellow veteran who is steadily climbing the corporate ladder or an HR specialist who knows how difficult it is for vets to adapt to business, you need to find the people who can make this career transition easier for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and accept help. Try to see how the veterans before you have applied their own military training to their new careers. With a bit of research, you can find plenty of examples of veterans who have been successful in both the military and business, with some becoming CEOs and top business leaders. Business Insider lists several incredibly successful businesses whose founders came from military backgrounds, including FedEx, Walmart, Taboola, and Kinder Morgan. While the above examples are the pinnacle of success, they show how a military mindset and leadership qualities can be applied to civilian jobs.
From the basic training to the highest officer level, military training is a one-way path to having a leader’s mindset. Veterans only have to look at the numerous courses on studying leadership to see that there is a huge demand for good leaders in the modern workforce. Maryville University points to research by the US Bureau of Statistics that shows: “jobs for online leadership degree grads will increase faster than average for all other occupations.” With more people turning to degrees in leadership in an effort to get ahead in business, veterans have an advantage due to already having practical experience outside of a classroom.
As a military veteran, you already possess nearly all of the foundational skills necessary to become a productive member of the corporate world. Depending on the particular industry you’re targeting when transitioning from a military career, it’s up to you to determine specifically which of these skills and mindsets can give you a leg up in the private industries and lead you to become a business leader.
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Written by VetAdvocate18