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How have military officers translated their transferable skills when seeking an industry outside of their military expertise?


Caleb Gowan Odenton, MD

As an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps, many would consider it a given that I would work as a civilian intelligence officer after my transition. However, I'm not interested in working as an intelligence analyst unless I needed something to fall back on. Officers tend to be generalists, specializing in "leadership" and management, operational planning, etc. However, we don't possess many of the hard skills and certifications that most of our enlisted counterparts develop.

How have others successfully translated the skills and aptitudes that make for a successful military officer toward landing a position as a management consultant?

3 January 2019 10 replies Career Exploration



Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

Caleb first you need to decide what you wish to do. Your other question is about entering the counseling field? Quick answer for that, most states require an MSW to counsel people directly, and many times you will need to work under a Psychologist or Psychiatrist. This depends upon the state. Of course there are many avenues to work, i.e. public schools, college/universities, states, VA,.... Your leadership and analytical skills will be an asset to your ability to connect with people, I think you need to be sure and watch USMC stereo type and lead with your people skills.
I took a peak at your LinkedIn profile, the first thing recruiters look at or search is the TAG line, which is the line following your name. Be specific, this statement needs to define the CAREER AND VALUE you could bring to an organization. LinkedIn is a search engine, put more than just what you do or your selected career; tell them what you offer. Your current TAG line will not be reviewed, as it will pop up with too many potential positions-recruiters will not chose your career for you. That TAG line needs to be what you want to do. Look at my profile, down further you will see what I did for 30 years, I NEVER receive requests for connections for the GPO industry, also search Google for Jerry Welsh veteran transition. You are found by what you list up top in the profile. LI profiles are an invitation to see your resume.
Your summary is 2,000 characters that companies via LinkedIn’s algorithm will search for key words. Start researching your career on line and use civilian career keywords that is what the companies will be searching for. Sounds like tough talk, companies want to see value early in the profile. The profile is way too long and much to philosophical. My priorities in life are God, Family, and Work(now I just volunteer)-but you do not see that in my resume, or my profile. Stay away from politics and religion, just like you do in the Marines.
Your experience. Target the CAREER or more specific employment area you are looking into. Quantify results and accomplishments, a few of these will catch attention. LI profiles do not need to be a book, in fact you do not need to qualify your entire career, especially the pest control, save that for the application. Think quality targeted accomplishments versus documenting a career.
A couple of recommendations that speak to your career specific talents help. Try to have recommendations speaking to your career. These are very important on social media, unlike a resume where you do not list references. See the attached article for a summary of what civilians want to see and do not want to see in a profile.
Again, TAG line concise to a career field, short summary of your qualifications, and a couple of accomplishments with #$% to accent value. Again, LI profiles create connections to a request for the resume. Remember that you are part of the 0.5% of Americans who serve their country. You are very well respected, but the chance civilians have been part of the 0.5% simply means they will not understand your language or experiences-without translation. The previous answers gave you good recommendations for research, you need to decide what avenue you want to take and then research and then speak the civilian language and use civilian #$% for your accomplishments. Thank you for your support and sacrifices. God Bless.

7 January 2019 Helpful answer


Nancy Quartey Palo Alto, CA

Hi Caleb,
It looks like you've received some great advice. I'd like to throw you another alternative... You can own your own business without going to school by investing in a franchise. Franchisors respect the transferable skills (mentioned above) that veterans bring to the table and often offer a VetFran discount.
Franchises aren't all fast-food/retail models. With thousands of franchisors available, they span most industries and models ("solopreneur" to large staffs, virtual to industrial, and everything in-between). I can help you explore franchise possibilities and introduce you to funding resources. Reach out to me if you're curious!

29 January 2019 Helpful answer


Donald Gourley Reading, MA


Some items to consider:

-Your general management skills are likely your greatest asset.
-Your lack of specific industry expertise outside of intelligence is likely your greatest professional liability
-You should expect to be hired and compensated for the lesser of the two.
-Be careful of the assumption that you can "work your way up" from an entry level position where you build specific industry knowledge. The way to think of this would be if you suddenly transferred to the Air Force/Navy. You would not be a O-3, you'd have to start again at O-1, and compete against younger (22/23 years old) versions of yourself. I'm certain you are the kind of guy who could succeed....despite the odds. However, why set yourself up for an uphill battle from the start? Surely, you'll need your energy for unexpected surprises along the way. No need to "build in friction"

Consider this alternative course of action for its merits:

- Get an MBA and buy a business and run it as its owner & CEO. It's called Entrepreneurship through Acquisition. You'll learn everything you'll need to know during your MBA from classes, and your own research. Why not "take command" again in the private sector?
-Why would this work? Smaller privately held businesses ($5-$30 million in revenue) are a little too big for a first time owner without an MBA and proven leadership ability. They are a little too small for a Private Equity firm to purchase and install an experienced CEO to operate it. There are many investors (an entire community in fact) that back and fund guys just like you to search, acquire, and operate such businesses.

This solves the problem of lack of specific industry knowledge. Certainly there are companies you wouldn't be able to operate (high-end biomedical device design consulting comes to mind) but the vast majority are simple businesses (this is why they have survived) and what the current owner in his 60's/70's really needs is someone to "take the guidon" from him, at a fair price, so that he can retire and enjoy the life he has earned. There is a shortage of quality new "owner/operators" at this time, and former military officers are highly sought after to succeed these baby-boomer founder/owners.

Consider if sustaining your role as an officer and leader of others is something you highly desire. This is a serious issue during transition. Don't underestimate it. I doubt your leaving the Marine Corp because you hate leading people to accomplish important things. Corporate America may not give you the same pride. Perhaps leading a platoon-company sized private firm would. I know that firm would benefit greatly from having a CEO who brings with him the values and ethics instilled in the Corps.

Once you acquire a company, annual compensation in cash usually ranges between $150K-$400K annually, plus usually $500K-$1 Mil of non-cash, equity based, capital gains which you'll realize in 5-7 years. Point being, the money is enough. But don't do it for the money. Do it for the pride and honor of being in charge, and caring and leading your company to success against real opponents and for real customers.

"The war is the same, only the battlefield has changed" Steven Pressfield, "Warrior Ethos"

If you want to learn more: Google "Search Funds" and "Entrepreneurship through Acquisition". Read websites, watch videos, and plan to spend about 30-40 hours to really digest what this is. The information on the Stanford Website is a must-read, front to back.

If this is for you, and you chose to pursue this path, I will teach you what I've learned beyond what you can read.

God Speed,

29 January 2019 Helpful answer


Bryan Lee Ewa Beach, HI


I'm in a similar boat in that I'm an army pilot, looking to make a hard pivot into the business world. One incredibly helpful resource I've come across while navigating my transition is the Beyond the Uniform podcasts.

In the link below, Kristen (who also happens to be a former USMC intel officer) describes how she translated her military experience to the consulting industry, specifically as it relates to case interviews and her day-to-day role as a BCG consultant. What's most impressive is that Kristen was able to transition directly from the military to one of the BIG 3 consulting firms, bypassing the traditional M7 MBA path.

Give it a listen. I think it will be worth your time. Lots more to explore on the Beyond the Uniform website as well.

Good luck!

4 January 2019 Helpful answer


David Andersen Alexandria, VA

How you tell the story varies greatly on what industry you are interested in.
I noticed in your profile that you are interested in management consulting. As an intel officer, that is a perfect fit. Things you have to talk about that matter to management consultants:
- Extensive experience conducting detailed analysis over compressed timelines.
- Routinely led workshops to determine market entry opportunities and conduct competitor analysis.
- Built and led task organized teams of specialists responsible for creating actionable business intelligence from high volumes of disparate data.
- 9 years of organization and process optimization.
- Experience in finding common ground between culturally diverse groups with disparate goals to reach unified solutions.

That is just a starting point.
Spend some time with people in the industry that interests you and learn about what they do. Get them to really dig into the details. This will allow you to look back on your career and look for common threads. Trust me they are in there. Then you have to put those threads together with a cohesive story, that doesn't use any USMC jargon. Learn the key phrases that the people in the consulting industry speak in and learn to tell your story with them.
Feel free to reach out. I am not far away.

4 January 2019 Helpful answer


Caleb Gowan Odenton, MD

Donald, thank you for the inspiring and well-placed post. I hadn't considered this path. I will look into it and see if it is for me. I could certainly see this having potential for me a few years down the road.


Scott Gagnon Winthrop, MA

Ever considered IT security? It is an extremely hot career path.


Richard Buck San Antonio, TX


I am USMC, been in the civilian world now for over 20 years. When I was in the Corps I was a 0311. I was going through the same thing back then. Wanted to get into business world. The key is to look at the full picture of what you did and what you where trained on in the military.
Some of the skills that all military veteran have is: Leadership, Team Building, Program/Project Management and attend to details.

I would be honored to talk with you and help if you would like Sir.


Richard Buck
914 391 3375


Caleb Gowan Odenton, MD

Thanks David and Jerry, I've appreciated your engagement beyond your post and have found it all very helpful. Emanuel, thanks for the article, it's a good place to start. Bryan, thanks for putting me onto the podcast, that definitely was some good insight and I branched off that podcast into many others that seem to be useful. Really appreciate everyone taking time to share experience and resources.


Emanuel Carpenter Atlanta, GA

This article will help:

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