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If you were ever responsible for receiving, planning and resourcing, leading and controlling, and documenting a military exercise or mission, you have project management experience, which means you should explore project management as your post-Service career.
Because you already qualify for employment in this meaningful, lucrative field. You have experience, as discussed above, and you also already have project management talent. You are an expert at creating cross-functional high-performing teams, with high esprit de corps, capable to delivering to expectations, within time and resource constraints, in high-risk, austere environments, consistently, through clear, consistent communication, innovative problem-solving, and sound, timely decision-making. Backed up with personal integrity, responsibility to team and organization and mission, and accountability for success failure.
The trick is translating your military experience into commercially viable, immediately recognizable project management experience civilian employers will pay you top dollar for. Project management is the dot we can use to do so, because the project management dot sits between the military leadership and general management dots, thus connecting them!*
Check out this article’s header image as I walk you through it.
First, military leaders receive, plan, resource, control, and document mission and/or exercise performance accomplished through small high-performing teams they assemble, coach, and lead to accomplish the temporary mission’s/exercise’s goals within time and resource constraints. This means the project is initiated with mission receipt and description, planned according to requirements, objectives, and standards, resourced and executed through leadership, and analyzed, documented, and briefed throughout execution to close to help improve mission and organizational performance over time using lessons learned.
Project managers do the same thing: they define project scope, requirements, and objectives, then they develop a plan and a team to execute the plan to the required standards, controlling and communicating performance to stakeholders the entire time. This means military leaders and project managers both Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, and Close the temporary endeavors they lead to deliver the expected unique results.
It also means that military leaders and project managers perform the same functions required of general managers in organizations: Planning, Organizing, Performing, and Controlling. Planning includes defining the goals and objectives as well as creating the plan to get there, which determines resources requirements for filling in function two, which means GMs initiate doesn’t it. Additionally, once a team, department, division, unit, branch, or organization hits the desired objective identified for it by the higher echelon, they document their performance and results and share it with the higher echelon to receive the next organizational strategy-driven programmatic or portfolio mission. Hmm, it appears that military leaders, project managers, and general managers all do the same functions! They initiate, plan, execute, control, and close those missions their teams and units are tasked with! See, once we learn to use the PM dot, we can connect the Leadership and Management dots!
Harnessing this concept is absolutely vital to a military Member’s transition to the civilian workforce that I call the CIVDIV. Civilian employers do not understand military leadership and occupations, and because of this, they can’t readily see the immense value military leaders bring them. Unfortunately, exacerbating this problem, is we Veterans usually only talk about what we did and can do in what we know, military leadership and our military occupations. See the disconnect? We talk right past each other, and military leaders baffle at how they can be passed over for jobs as “unqualified”, “under qualified”, or “over qualified”, if the interviewer even had the decency to send you a rejection letter, which also unfortunately, happens more often than you’d think.
However, they do understand project management! They work with them every day, know how much to pay them, and what type of work and professional development to give them. They highly value project managers. When you talk about your project management experience in addition to your leadership experience, they want to hire you because they get you now! They value you because they understand you and the value you bring them.
Eric is a decorated two-Service, two-Era US Military Veteran; Serial Founder; experienced, credentialed project manager and PMI Chapter-recognized mentor; and an entertaining instructor/public speaker on project management, deep learning and the military transition, PMI’s PMP® and CAPM® exams, Vetrepreneurship; and project manager development. He helps Military Veterans change their lives profoundly through project management, entrepreneurship, and AI through inspiration, translation, training, and placement. For more information, please visit https://vets2pm.com, www.militaryvetstone.com, and www.linkedin.com/in/docwright2012.
PMBOK® Guide, PMP®, and CAPM® are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.