For 22 years I was a proud member of the United States Marine Corps, rising through the ranks from Private to Chief Warrant Officer. I learned so much during my time in the Corps—hard work, team focus, commitment to a cause, myself, and my colleagues. When I decided to transition back to civilian life, I also thought that I could move easily from the military to the business world.
I was wrong.
It’s a tough transition. Not because I wasn’t capable or qualified or committed. But because I spoke a language that was different than my corporate peers. We each spoke English, but we didn’t always understand one another.
Now, 14 years later as a Managing Partner with Lucas Group’s Military division, I work diligently to bridge that communication gap between those transitioning from the military and those anxious to hire top talent in a highly competitive employment environment.
In my last blog, I wrote about how to translate military rank into business-speak. Today, I’m going to cover how to translate military experience into tangible post-military careers. My focus is on job assignments in the military and helping employers understand why a fire control technician in the Army has nothing to do with a heavy hose, a red truck and a Dalmatian.
At Lucas Group, we focus exclusively on transitioning Junior Military Officers (JMOs), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Senior Military Officers. While I believe that military talent can work in any industry, I’ll focus on a few of those in which we typically have high placement rates.
This area is a strong fit for military personnel. They emerge from the service with excellent credentials in manufacturing and other related fields. They include the ability to coordinate the delivery of people and equipment, purchasing, maintenance, logistics and experience with round-the-clock shift rotations. Those characteristics make them highly suited for work in a plant environment, managing inventory, production, automation, quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA).
On the engineering side, JMOs and NCOs emerge into the talent marketplace especially skilled to be process, project, design, and application engineers, ensuring that design is accurate, automation embraced, maintenance is systemic and budgets are met or exceeded.
Almost 20 percent of our military candidates go into these professions and we place military personnel into positions such as Production Supervisors, Manufacturing Engineers, Distribution/Logistics Supervisors, Process Engineers and Maintenance Technicians.
In the armed services, Military Technical (MilTech) professionals were the people who kept equipment in peak condition. They repaired and maintained complex communications, navigation, power distribution and weapons systems on ships, submarines, aircraft, along with complex systems, computers and optical systems.
They are technically-adept skilled leaders embodying many of the same qualities of their JMO counterparts. In addition to their work ethic, communications skills, team-building abilities, they are the professionals that companies employ to service and maintain electronics, machining, control systems, communications and computer technology.
With diverse skill sets, they are strong candidates for manufacturing organizations, field engineering forces, technical service groups, research facilities and training departments. They represent another 20 percent of our placements with many going into manufacturing, utilities, oil and natural gas, and IT service companies.
They are excellent candidates for many positions, including:
- Field service engineers
- Manufacturing maintenance technicians
- ENI technicians
- Planner / Scheduler
- Maintenance Supervisor
Management is a diverse category but one that, in many ways, is the very foundations of the business world. Management and Operations draw from manufacturing, sales and engineering and we consistently place transitioning military personnel into these types of M/O positions.
- Business Operations: BizOps cover everything from commercial loans and consumer credit to equipment leasing and financial services. To secure employment in this area, returning service people need a background in business, either through education or experience, and preferably both. Other highly desired traits are leadership, team-building and strong interpersonal skills.
- Material Management: Military personnel often find employment in materials because they have extensive leadership and logistics experience. We typically place candidates in fast-paced environments that leverage technology in a distribution, warehouse and/or manufacturing environment.
- Procurement Analyst/Buyer: Like logistics, transitioning military often are experts in pricing and purchasing, having received, and distributed a vast array of equipment to outposts all over the world. We place people with experience purchasing materials from vendors/suppliers based upon a company’s strategic objectives. Whether it’s cost, delivery time, quality or local sourcing, professionals transitioning from the military are often very strong candidates for quality procurement opportunities.
- Sales: Sales positions are natural opportunities for returning service people renowned for their straightforward approach, competitive juices and ability to go beyond the basic to exceed expectations. Sales is attractive because it affords military personnel to set their own goals and often achieve them through tenacity and outstanding work ethic, while being handsomely compensated in the process. We place military personnel in a wide variety of sales positions, including Industrial/ Technical, Pharmaceutical, Medical, and Financial sales.
Characteristics of Military Experience
One of the reasons I’m so anxious to get into the office every day is that I have the privilege of working with candidates returning home who possess outstanding characteristics. They have excellent leadership skills, technical talent, a powerful work ethic, budgeting prowess, high energy levels and a strong “can-do” approach to any task. Even in today’s highly competitive work environment, they are powerful assets for any company that’s hiring them. In short, they consistently generate a highly favorable ROI for companies who hire them.
I’m also very impressed by what corporate America has undertaken in recent years to both talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk about hiring U.S. service people. There are hundreds of other companies reaching out to returning service men and women but a few examples include:
- GE offers the Junior Officer Leadership Program to allow recruits to work in a variety of the global conglomerate’s functional areas. This two-year, cross functional program gives recruits three rotations in various functions and incorporates classroom and on-the-job training.
- The Accenture JMO programs combines training and structured mentorship engagements to help returning military transition back into civilian work.
- Bank of America touts their Military Recruitment/Military and Veteran recruiting program designed to help returning military make the transition into civilian life. They offer a 10-week training program in Manhattan for people interested in financial markets, providing access to B of A senior leadership and networking opportunities. They also allow returning military to leverage their technical expertise find careers in operations, service delivery, analysis, and technology through their Global Technology & Operations Military Development Program.
Making the transition home from military service isn’t easy. Nor is understanding the distinctive culture and taxonomy of military life simple for businesses looking to find new talent in a hiring environment that puts a premium on success. My task is to bridge that gap between military and employer and help both candidates and clients understand what employment opportunities make the most sense for both parties. As a recruiter, I am always interested in hearing about your experiences in navigating the military recruiting framework. I welcome your thoughts.