Connecting Your Military Background to the Business World

In Chapter 2 of PCS to Corporate America, Roger Cameron explains the importance of quantifying your military success in such a way that the business world can not only understand, but can also see the relevance of what you have done and how it specifically relates to the role for which you are interviewing.  He describes an officer who was ruled out during an interview because the officer could not explain the significance of why he did what he did. He did do a good job explaining how he accomplished a task, but failed to describe how the task ultimately had a significant impact on the operational goals of his organization.  This step is critical in connecting your experiences and accomplishments in an interview.

To further the point, think about it this way.  The bottom line goal of the military, in its most general sense, is to fight and win our nations wars, both home and abroad. When describing your experiences and accomplishments, your stories should connect directly to this goal.  Does this mean that every accomplishment you describe must be about fighting on the front lines? No, of course not. It does mean; however, that every story you describe should somehow have a positive impact on this goal.

In Corporate America, our primary goal, in its most general sense, is to increase the profitability of the company for which we work.  In doing such, we focus specifically on a few important areas that directly contribute to this goal:

Customer Focus: Because customers ultimately pay for a good or service, the business world is focused on ensuring that we understand the needs of our customers. We are focused on finding creative ways to, in the case of customers being other business, help them grow and become more profitable. As you consider the jobs you have held in the military, identify “customers” you have had in the past or currently have and how you have built relationships with them in order to understand their needs and provide solutions that allow them to be more effective.

Innovation: It is rare to pick up a business periodical such as Fortune Magazine and not find at least a couple of articles on companies and how they are innovating. Companies are constantly innovating processes in research and development, production, supply chain, marketing, sales, etc. Companies innovate to outperform their competition or to improve a process to reduce costs, all with the intent of increasing profit. When thinking about your military experience, consider the times when you have made processes better by improving efficiency or effectiveness in delivering results that relate to the operational goals of your unit. These experiences directly connect to what is important to the business world.

Competition: There is rarely an instance in Corporate America where a company does not have competition. Why? Because if a company is making money selling a product or service, someone will come along and determine that they can do what that company is doing faster/cheaper/better and compete for a share of the market.  In the military, you do not necessarily compete for market share. There is only one Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Coast Guard. You do; however, compete. You compete to be the best officer and lead the best unit. You compete, not to make others look bad, but because you are driven to be the best.  It is this spirit of competition that you should embrace and be prepared to describe in an interview.

As you contextualize your military experience and how it relates to Corporate America, use these concepts and ideas as a starting point. If you would like discuss this topic further, feel free to contact the Cameron-Brooks team directly.

Pete Van Epps