Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 Crucial Skills for US Military Veterans Seeking Corporate Careers

I served in the US Army after my studies at the University of Notre Dame.  Some of my ROTC program classmates stayed on active duty for the long haul, longer than I thought would be sane.  They are now approaching their 20-year service milestones, which means some of them are considering life on the outside.  I have them in mind when I think about the references I used years ago when I started my own transition to civilian life.  The published works available to help military veterans make career transitions could fill a whole library shelf.  Most of that material is general and repetitive.  Hardly any guidance is tailored for someone with a more technical career goal.  Fear not, senior veterans, because Alfidi Capital is here to fill the knowledge gap.  

I have identified three skill sets germane to a large corporate environment.  These skills are portable to any corporation and are particularly useful in very technical fields.  Acquiring them requires mastery of peer-reviewed bodies of knowledge.  These qualifications are vastly more credible with corporate recruiters than any military-specific skills a veteran possesses.

Six Sigma certification is the first skill set that veterans should acquire if they want corporate careers.  Completing a Six Sigma project within the US Department of Defense confers a resume bullet more valuable than experience with real bullets.  The American Society for Quality (ASQ) maintains extensive references on Six Sigma and related topics.  The International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC) lists options for completing the qualifying exams.  Completing the appropriate training and exams is not cheap but is absolutely necessary for official qualification.  

Knowledge management (KM) is the second skill set.  Practitioners become the go-to people when an organization translates the DIKW Pyramid into real operations.  Experts read KMWorld for the latest developments.  The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) defines many KM best practices.  The KM business discipline does not yet have a universally recognized body of knowledge and several organizations have emerged with competing certification standards.  I believe that mastering the APQC material through independent study is sufficient at present to claim expertise.  

Operations research (OR) is the final skill set.  The Allied Powers in World War II invented the modern field of OR, and today select US Army officers maintain qualification in the operations research / systems analysis (ORSA) specialty.  The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) is the US governing body for the OR profession; they have all the resources needed for someone seeking qualification.  

Mastering these skills enables a veteran to compete for corporate jobs that have prerequisites beyond entry-level experience.  Combining them with certification as PMI's Project Management Professional would make a veteran's resume very compelling.  Lacking these hard skills can be a serious handicap.  It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that business skills have diverged far enough from the generalist "soft skills" of military leadership to disqualify many veterans from white collar occupations.  Veterans who wish to avoid confinement to the low-income ghetto of permanent entry-level career paths should master widely accepted business knowledge.  This means hitting the books all over again.  

I recently attended a talk by US Marine Corps combat veteran David Danelo about his book The Return:  A Field Manual for Life After Combat.  The audience at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Club recognized that veterans' passion for a meaningful life should carry over into a civilian career once they leave the military.  Passion hits a brick wall when civilian employers find a veteran's resume devoid of recognizable prerequisites.  Veterans who master the three disciplines above prove they have the passion to carry on as relevant civilians.