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Lack of recent experience in field for Transition


Gregg Reinbold Tuckerton, NJ

I started a Masters Degree in Business Intelligence and Analytics in 2011 and finished in 2018. While working on my degree I used programs such as Tableau, JMP, R and plenty of Excel. But I have not done much with anything other than excel in the past several years.
I plan on retiring from Army this fall. My concern is I may struggle during a job interview, because I don’t have any recent work experience and I’m rusty on the analysis tools.
Any advice on how to compensate for that?

7 June 2019 13 replies Interviews



John Faber Arlington, VA

Hi Gregg –

There are several ways to compensate for this: 1) take free training classes offered through Coursera to learn new skills, 2) do mock interview sessions to help with job interviews, and 3) highlight your ability to analyze data with your education.

Also, you do have work experience serving in the military. The challenge is translating these skills and experiences into civilian terms for people to understand. Hope this helps!


7 June 2019 Helpful answer


Mark Umpenhour Columbus, OH

Try to add in some python. It really depends on which company you want to apply. VBA for excel is a good skill to have because most places use excel daily for information. Python can be used to create excel documents which will add to your tool set.


Pat Romano New York, NY

Hi Gregg - I realize this is a few months down the road, but noticed this on a weekly ACP newsletter and the topic sits in my wheelhouse. For some quick background, I run a BI team at Dow Jones and work a lot with our wider Data Science, Engineering and Transformation team. I've interviewed tons of Data Analyst / Science candidates over the past year to get my team up and running, as well as to help staff other teams as we grow.

The most important things to us when hiring are explained well in a Medium article -- humility, curiosity and empathy (you can read more into it via the Medium article below). I'm most interested in finding someone who is a good fit for the team, can demonstrate genuine interest and excitement about the role and our company, and has the ability to perform the role and grow at the company. I prefer someone with a less than ideal technical background who can come in and help work with stakeholders to solve problems over someone who just has great technical skills and may not be strong working with others.

Hope that helps and if you're interested in discussing more or have further specific questions, feel free to reach out directly or on LinkedIn.


Link to Medium article referenced:


Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

I have worked with many people who know they are deficient in interviewing. After a one hour session I can help you to become a "Killer Interviewer". If interested just let me know. I do this this gratis for vets.


Paul Trejo Austin, TX

First, Gregg, thanks for your years of service.

Secondly, if I was in your shoes, here is the route I would take:

1. First and foremost, stick with your career plans -- you are on the fastest track there is today, namely, Data Analytics.

2. In the absence of experience, I would take a low-paying job in a great department.

3. With your education, intelligence and discipline, I would expect a 6-month review, which you would pass with flying colors.

4. I would get an early promotion -- not at my desired rate -- but higher than my starting rate.

5. I would keep pleasing my boss with stellar BI and Data Analytics reports.

6. For my one-year review, I would get the job I originally wanted, at the pay I deserve.

We have to SHOW people what we can do. Then we can get what we deserve. Without experience, all we can do is "eat humble pie" while we push and haul and get our experience.

Best wishes.


Jerome Wong Scarsdale, NY

Hi Gregg,

Thank you for your service. I am going to offer some ideas from a slightly different perspective, you should focus on what types of jobs you are interested in pursuing and translating what you have done in your career to demonstrate these traits/talents - being as specific as possible when your craft these stories/anecdotes. With all due respect, the reason someone will hire you with your experience and background would be because of your traits, not because of your ability with a spreadsheet or some other technical skill.




Bob Graf Rock Island, IL

Gregg, my only add to the very good responses above... just exude confidence regarding your comfort with analytics. You mastered all those previous tools; you can learn any other needed tools in the future. The 'analytical mind' comment is apt. We can teach people tools but necessarily how to think critically. Be ready with some examples of how you applied critical thought to achieve results. That's your distinctive value-add.

Best regards, Bob


Ed Pniewski Okemos, MI

BI tools are always changing and most companies would only require that you have education (which you have) and proof of your analytic mind. Bring any original reports with you in a portfolio and examples of how your work in analytics has benefited a program/organization, mapped a strategy, or solved a business problem. Since there is often a lot of crossover with databases, it would help to have skills in SQL or Python, even if you are just a beginner. Remember to see the big picture in answering interview questions - Your answers should clearly communicate an understanding of the business goals, the customer expectations, and customer services - Your coworkers are often the end users in BI, but keep their goals in mind as well. Finally, BI positions are now the linchpin role in a lot of organizations, bring a good attitude and a desire to help anybody no matter how unrealistic the request sounds at first. A good attitude and an approachable nature will get you into any door.
Best of luck to you.


Steve Adolt Lancaster, PA


Some good advice from folks here for things you can do yourself.

The one that wasn’t offered was guidance in your transition to make it better for you, to help you with any questions and truly prepare you for both the interviews and the transition to a civilian workplace.

I would like to make this offer to you. There’s no cost and this isn’t a sales pitch.

If you’re interested in a quick discussion to see if i can be of help, please reach out to me at

Hope to hear from you!



James OBrien Williamsburg, VA

First things first, thank you for your service, it is greatly appreciated. My background is operations finance, analytics(operations, acquisitions, cost accounting and problem solving) so I hope I can help some. Degrees are great but where they come from is important so tying your practical experience in the military with a masters is somewhat difficult and without a name university for point of reference even harder. In my opinion its tougher with finance as I can teach anyone accounting but most people are not analytically inclined so tangible experience is very important.
So I have a couple of thoughts. First you can self teach many analytical tools and statistics as well as operations methods like Six Sigma from free online sources There are many things to learn and try them in practice environments so you can at least navigate through the disciplines if questioned. Then take some of them and apply to the military in your last months, you might do this without using the formal tool names but just as process improvement ideas.
Another good idea is to volunteer as an unpaid intern at a company if possible. Seek to get some hands on experience but at least some additional exposure to software. Hopefully you had some good case study textbooks as part of your degree. Use the examples and do a company analysis which hopefully you can get feedback from professors. Same thing try to link up with a person at a local company in their finance function and see if you can analyze their company from public records. You can learn a lot through that process without getting into proprietary/sensitive materials.
A huge advantage you have is that in the military you had to do planning, analytics and changes on the fly so your experience in handling change, adversity and crisis is at a maximum and I highly value that. Just like there no substitute for industry experience I can't teach real world problems, shortage of resources and overcoming adversity which you have in abundance.
A useful perspective for interviews is using the AAR process where you have a fairly set scope of questions, need to answer questions on good as well as bad, open to lessons learned and ability to articulate all. So practice with different sets of people using a job opportunity that is in a written form and apply it to a real company name so you can be quizzed and tested on the merits of something almost real.
Lastly the resume is an endless pursuit of perfection. Each iteration should improve on the last and seek many reviewers to gain perspective on their points of view. I'd be happy to help with any and all of the above. Reply back if you'd like to connect. Best of luck,

Best Regards,

(James) Kevin O'Brien


Henry ("Dr. Hank") Stevens Fort Lauderdale, FL

Agree with the other answers HOWEVER, as an employers recruiter and hiring authority, as much as I considered a candidates' education and experience, I ALWAYS tilted in favor of his/her TALENTS. That is, education means that you CAN learn. Experience means that you have applied your knowledge. But talent means that you have the native ability to ________ (fill in the blank).

Thus, talents are universally applicable and it is your job, as the person being interviewed, to educate the interviewer about just how YOUR talents fit in with the demands of the prospective position. So . . . . . if you know what your talents are, GREAT! But, if you need a little help identifying them or putting them into words, this FREE web site will help. If you need some assistance interpreting same, record the letters and associated numbers and share same with me (also free) . . . . and feel free to communicate off-channel, at this address:

Dr. Hank


Sarah Johnson Houston, TX


I would capitalize on your expertise in excel and your learnings from your Masters degree, and bring in additional skills with Power BI. You could practice converting KPIs and other reporting and dashboarding mechanisms in your current role thus attaining some workplace experience using the program.

I agree with John and his Coursera suggestions, and also look into LinkedIn Learning if possible. There are also communities of practice or meetups you can attend where professionals meet and share best practices and learnings. You can find them with a search online. By connecting to the civilian working communities now, you will expand your network and gain a better understanding of the challenges in the workplace and how you can tailor your skills and experiences to interviews.

Good luck,



Gregg Reinbold Tuckerton, NJ

Thanks John,

I’ll look into the Coursera site and see what m my base transition office has for interview practice.
My last two years of military experience have been geared towards Key Performance indicators; Measures of Effectiveness and measures of performance effectiveness and measures of performance

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