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For more information on career trends read “5 Hot tips for growth industries” here.
By Molly Blake
Take a look around John Abbamondi’s contemporary office deep beneath the flawless baseball field at San Diego’s Petco Park, and you’ll spot remnants of his former life.
Besides photos of Abbamondi, the Padres vice president for strategy and business analysis, with beefy athletes, there are unit coins, squadron patches, and a small model of the aircraft he flew for the U.S. Navy.
The roadmap Abbamondi followed: college, the Navy, business school and now corporate America, represents what many current and former military service members hope to accomplish—a successful transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. The problem for many, however, isn’t narrowing down the career options or locating companies willing to hire vets, it’s how best to capitalize on the skills earned while serving in the military to land a job with real potential for advancement.
“It’s not a matter of the military folks having more skills; they are the only ones who have the skills at all.”
—Holly Mosack, Advanced Technology Services
“My military experience meant a lot when I was applying for a job with Major League Baseball,” says Abbamondi. “It demonstrated that I could lead the department.”
Many companies are going to great lengths to seek out former military applicants, encourage them to apply and in some cases, says Holly Mosack, “we figure out where they fit and reach out to them.”
Mosack is the director of military recruiting for Advanced Technology Services, a manufacturing company based in Peoria, Illinois, that specializes in maintenance for production equipment. Twenty-eight percent of their staff is former military, including Mosack, who served in the Army from 1997 to 2004. After separating from active duty, Mosack’s transition into civilian employment got off to a rocky start, but ATS eventually hired the former company commander to build its budding military recruiting sector. Today, Mosack receives an average of 100 military applicants per week for highly technical jobs that involve, for example, taking over the maintenance department of a company.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the Department of Labor reports that from 2010 to 2020, jobs similar to the tech-based positions at ATS, involving equipment installation, maintenance and repair, are expected to increase by 15 percent—ideal careers for job-hunting vets who have the aptitude and technical training.
“It’s not a matter of the military folks having more skills; they are the only ones who have the skills at all,” says Mosack. Technology isn’t the only sector where career experts see growth.
“One of the hot places right now is in supply chain and operations,” says Morgan Kinross-Wright, director of University of Minnesota’s Carlson Undergraduate Business Career Center, who points to Walmart and Amazon, behemoths that are adapting business practices to meet rising consumer demands. Both companies are currently competing for a share in the next-day shipping arena. Amazon is also testing same-day delivery options in a few select markets. It’s a game changer for big box stores like Target, Sears, Best Buy and companies like NetFlix that may have to amp up their delivery assurances to customers.
Regardless of which shipping trend sticks—same day or next day—companies, including FedEx and UPS, will have to compete. To an Army supply specialist, it’s nothing new. Dwight DeJong, the director of Site Activation Task Force aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, explains that the best candidates to fill those logistics roles are military men and women who “. . . have, for a couple decades, been getting things from point A to point B in an extremely expedited and cost-effective fashion.”
Captain Tony Hatala, a Marine Corps fire control officer is a serial entrepreneur who hopes to one day own his own business. He says solving problems and finding inefficiencies in work practices is a passion of his. A few years ago, Hatala was shocked to see printed and bound base directories handed out to service members and spouses—an outdated information distribution model that “needed a disruption.” Hatala and a buddy developed Military Traveler, a military base directory app containing installation phone numbers, operating hours and useful websites. Military Traveler recently hit 30,000 downloads.
“The status quo was so poor,” says Hatala who, along with his partner, has signed contracts with the Army to help manage some of its content. They plan to expand the app’s capabilities and user experience. In Hatala’s case, his military background may not exactly match his civilian career aspirations. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“One of the hot places right now is in supply chain and operations,” says Morgan Kinross-Wright, director of University of Minnesota’s Carlson Undergraduate Business Career Center.
A decade ago when John DiPiero retired from the Air Force as a colonel, he knew that a career within the commercial airline industry, a nearly seamless transition for an aviator, didn’t interest him. Instead he landed a job that “didn’t have a lot to do with my military experience.” However, his initial role in USAA’s military affairs division did tap into his network of connections, a formidable advantage for veterans. By maintaining connections with service members, current and former, new and unique opportunities may present themselves.
“Network, network, network,” says DiPiero, who recommends job seekers join military-focused LinkedIn Groups, take military transition classes and attend hiring fairs. After five years with USAA, DiPiero interviewed for a position in their recruiting sector—again with little relevant experience. Communication, sensitivity to others’ needs and diplomacy—the soft skills earned in the squadron and in his marketing role—proved useful, and he got the job. Now as the senior military programs manager, it’s his job to help vets extrapolate the skills buried in their military experience, exactly what he did to find what he calls, “the sweet spot.”
“Military folks might have a limited view of their skills because they were a tank driver or a grunt,” said DiPiero. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
That tank driver whose true skill set includes leadership, integrated electronic systems management and risk management skills, not to mention discipline, loyalty and reliability, make him an ideal candidate for a job in USAA’s expanding customer care and IT area. And USAA’s long-term goal is to have vets and military spouses account for 25 percent of its workforce.
The Department of Labor also reports that personal care aids and home health aids are the two fastest growing occupations followed by biomedical engineers. Dr. Laurence Shatkin wrote the book, literally, on job hunting. The author of 150 Best Jobs for the Military-to-Civilian Transition and a regular career blogger says health care is exploding with growth for “people with a whole range of skills and levels of ability.”
A wounded member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade is treated by Army medics, November 1967.
After the Vietnam War wound down, thousands of medics returned home to an employment void. . . .
After the Vietnam War wound down, thousands of medics returned home to an employment void. Either they were overqualified for nursing positions or under-qualified to perform some of the more complex procedures a physician would perform. The medical community recognized the benefits of a well-trained, cool-under-pressure practitioner and rather than waste those talents, created the Physician’s Assistant role. Today, PAs are just one of many jobs in a rapidly growing health care industry that’s expected to increase by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, posting 20.5 million jobs over this decade.
That’s good news for corpsman who have an education and extensive trauma treatment, as well as other veterans. The health care industry net is cast far and wide to include lab techs, physical and occupational therapists, writers, sales, administration and “people who don’t have to come anywhere near blood,” says Dr. Shatkin.
Roy Cohen, career coach and author of Wall Street Pro Survival Guide, agrees that health care is booming and someone who is comfortable with crisis situations will outshine the competition. Cohen also sees mounting calls for strong leaders and managers in medical and health care billing jobs that require a specialized certificate. In some cases, employers will sponsor the necessary training.
Over this decade, more than 150,000 management analyst positions will be added to the economy, according to experts. These analysts, sometimes called management consultants, examine companies and make suggestions on how to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase revenue. Cohen says military folks are generally logical and structured and, like Hatala, are able to look at a situation and identify areas where improvement is needed. Similar positions in the accounting field, operations research and administrative service management are all directly related to problem-solving and fine-tuned decision-making.
“This is a time of monumental change in business, so consulting is busier than ever,” says Cohen. “Who better than a military person to understand what is necessary and important to helping a company out of or through a difficult situation?”
Many of these jobs require a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a certificate. However, Cohen says that a vet who doesn’t have a degree but who demonstrates a commitment to continuing education will offset any hiring managers’ skepticism.
The good news is that private sector is stepping up. American Corporate Partners, a non-profit organization, matches vets with business leaders, hosts free networking opportunities, and provides career counseling and mentoring. Vets and spouses of those wounded or killed in action are also eligible for a yearlong mentorship through ACP that focuses on resume building, interview skills and business development.
Even if a disconnect exists between civilian hiring managers and the military culture, the jobs environment for military folks is vastly supportive. In an effort to reduce the unemployment that plagues vets and military spouses, many companies have pledged to continue tapping into the military community for workers. As USAA’s DiPiero says, “We understand the value vets and spouses bring to the marketplace.” ★
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