Operation Employment

Military background can be major boon when looking for job

Posted: Monday, July 03, 2006

Piloting fighter jets, shimmying under barbed wire, or planning the logistics of a ground attack aren't your typical resume staples. Some may think these are the only talents soldiers have to offer a prospective employer. However, returning military personnel possess far more skills than the ability to use a rifle. In fact, many soldiers take advantage of training the United States military offers, ranging anywhere from public affairs to medical training.

Lt. Col. John Amberg, who joined the U.S. Army after high school, was eager to take advantage of the Army's alliance with leading companies, such as Ketchum, a public relations agency. Spending a year with the company learning the necessary skills to succeed in public affairs was well worth it, he says. And, often, both the employer and employee gain something from the experience.

"We understand a mission; we know how to focus; we can do more with less; and we focus on how the project can be done, not on how it can't," explains Amberg, who is currently director of public affairs, Midwest, for the U.S. Army. "We're good at understanding a chain of command - you've got to know how to work within the organization. Finally, we understand how to wear a uniform."

Though not every organization has a traditional uniform, most employees are expected to be dressed in an appropriate manner, whether that means a suit and tie or business casual. That is something that is not taken lightly by veterans, says Amberg.

Wally Adamchik, a former U.S. Marine and author of the soon to be released "No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know to Win in Business" (Firestarter Speaking and Consulting, $24.95), says former military personnel are highly sought after in many companies - and rightly so.

"Former military people, by nature of who they are and what they have been through, naturally bring their skills to work," he explains. "The bigger question is what are companies doing to integrate these high performers into their workplace as opposed to what are these high performers doing to integrate themselves into the company. All too often, I have seen firms say they want the qualities that former military employees bring to work, but the reality is the firms don't know how to manage these self-starters and often end up stifling them."

In his experience, Adamchik says success on both ends depends on being upfront about expectations from the start. For employers, it's important to keep in mind that while some former military employees may have a limited amount of experience in a corporate environment, they are used to a high impact workplace where every movement counts, Amberg stresses. That stellar work ethic and to-the-point way of doing things is an ideal trait anywhere.

"The transition for veterans really depends on the person and the company," Adamchik says. "Most veterans integrate quite well, however, employers need to be sensitive to the stresses of combat and the challenges the veteran faces as they return to work or enter the civilian sector for the first time. Best of class leaders do a great job of taking care of their people, by extension, best of class firms do a great job of this also."

Self-motivated and driven, veterans are goal-oriented and ready for action. Though some may need a bit of help in the transition process, that extra support is a small price to pay.

"Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, and it takes work to help the veterans transition and succeed, but the effort is worth it as they come with integrity, a strong work ethic, high confidence and they are drug-free," adds Adamchik. "They are highly valuable and will contribute and work as hard as anyone in the firm if we do a few extra things to make sure they don't fall through the cracks."

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