Veterans and Project Management

Making the transition from active duty to a civilian career can be difficult.  Heck — just changing jobs from one industry to another is difficult.  Add in the very different culture within the military vs. the civilian commercial world, and misimpressions of military culture held by many civilian hiring managers — you have a grand canyon disconnect to overcome.

The leap to overcome this disconnect is achievable.  The first step is to recognize and respect the challenge, and then to strategize to successfully make the leap.  

What to do?  Depending on what you did in the military, various ideas might come to mind for a civilian career.  Often though, military experience can seem hard to leverage directly into a civilian career.  We don’t call in airstrikes on our competition in the civilian world…  what’s an Army forward observer to do?  One interesting line of thought is to recognize that the discipline, responsibility and leadership skills you developed during your service in the military can be leveraged in project management.

Project management is different from day-to-day operations management.  Projects are unique endeavors, with a beginning and an end.  Hence they are laden with uncertainty (risk) and require careful planning, adaptability and brilliant leadership of people with different skill sets, pulled together specifically to accomplish the project.    Hey… is this starting to sound familiar?  Every training mission, every exercise, every deployment, every patrol, every combat mission you were a part of in the service… was a project.  You’ve been doing projects throughout your military career. 

How about a civilian job as a project manager?  It could be the start of a satisfying career as a respected driving force — responsible for leading teams to accomplish important strategic objectives —with flexibility to evolve as opportunities arise over time.  

This thought line — that military experience lends itself well to a career in project management, is being promoted across the country and two of the most important contributors to this line of thought are LTC (R) Jay Hicks and Sandy Cobb, who wrote a book titled “The Transitioning Military Project Manager”.  

This book connects the dots — relating military activities to civilian project management terminology.  It highlights important contributions that military projects have made to today’s framework for project management and provides a survey of project management certifications.

Especially valuable and unique is the self-assessment regimen detailed within the book.  This enables transitioning veterans to conduct strategic planning so as to experience a smooth and successful transition to a civilian career.  Whether project management is of interest, or some other field, this regimen will be of value.  The book is recommended for all transitioning veterans.

Leadership skills, Discipline, Responsibility — where else do you see these prized attributes developed so well as in the military?  Transitioning veterans:  you might like to meditate deeply on these aspects of your military experience, and weave them into the value proposition you present to prospective employers.  Combined with a strong strategy developed through guidance in the book… hello world.