How to Start an Industrial Career After Military Service, As Told by Veterans

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Soldiers Using Laptop Computer for Surveillance During Military Operation in the Desert.

Transitioning back to normal day-to-day life can seem like a daunting task for veterans who've recently returned from service. Many veterans feel overwhelmed by a long list of new responsibilities and tasks that were previously covered during their service; a common hurdle is finding a job and starting a new career. 

Many veterans don't realize the extent to which the skills they learned on the battlefield can translate to boardrooms and factories alike, making them great candidates for industry and manufacturing positions.

Thomas Insights spoke to veterans in the industry for their advice on how to make the transition as seamless as possible and how to take advantage of the diverse employment opportunities available in the manufacturing sector. 

Taking Advantage of Veteran Resources

According to Dan Guzman, the OE Manager of Continuous Improvement & Operational Excellence at Ingredion, utilizing veteran resources is a crucial component to reentering the workforce. Guzman, who previously served as a staff sergeant in the Army's Special Operations Command, found that resume services can be incredibly helpful in translating veterans' transferrable skills they learned in the military into "civilian workplace descriptions." 

"Use your updated resume featuring career interests and transferrable skills, qualifications, and related vitae of your military service to build a complete LinkedIn profile," Guzman explains. "While today’s job market favors employees, serious job seekers with no LinkedIn profile are essentially non-existent and disconnected personas in this virtual job market; job postings and employment-related connections are an essential resource for veterans in [a] career transition to make their presence known to recruiters and begin building their social network for employment opportunities."

Matt Butler is the founder and original manufacturer of lawn game Rollors and was an officer in the Air Force for 20 years, which is actually where he came up with the idea for his product. During his free time on base, Butler learned woodworking and started to create the first prototypes of his game.

Butler is a major advocate for taking advantage of veteran resources, even teaching a program he calls Boots to Business, a two-day entrepreneurial boot camp that helps put veterans in touch with resources to help with things like loans and learning how to run a business. He also participated in a nine-day boot camp through the Insititute of Veterans and Military Families, a Syracuse University-based organization that has continued to offer him a wealth of wisdom and connections since his graduation. 

"As my business grows, they connect me to areas that I might need more information. Say, for example, liability insurance or other things. Maybe intellectual property questions I might have," Butler says. "[It's a] great resource and program for veteran entrepreneurs."

Finding employment can be an arduous task for anyone, and knowing how and where to begin the job-search process is a challenge in and of itself. However, the job market for veterans has improved considerably in the last few years. There are actually a number of resources designed to specifically help veterans transition from military to civilian roles; some of them are listed below.

Heroes Make America

The Manufacturing Institute, a brand of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), offers Heroes Make America, a veteran training program specifically for service members in the middle of transitioning out of active duty. The program is an accelerated 10-week course that builds upon the work ethic and technical skills military veterans already possess. Through the program, veterans can earn specific industry certifications, targeted manufacturing credentials, and job placement assistance.

Military.com

This large military and veteran membership organization connects service members, military families, and veterans to career and education services, including scholarships, mentors, and even a military-to-civilian skills translator.

Military.com's sizable career selection offers a veteran job board where individuals can search for jobs, manage résumés, network with other veterans, and find nearby career fairs. The job boards feature positions from a wide variety of industrial sectors, including manufacturing, maintenance, aerospace and defense, engineering, and construction.

My Next Move for Veterans

Created by the U.S. Department of Labor, My Next Move for Veterans is an online tool where veterans can enter their experience and skills in the field to be matched with relevant civilian careers. Users can also explore positions within specific industries.

Browsing the manufacturing career section, for example, reveals a large list of different positions typical in the manufacturing world, as well as a large list of related careers. Users can thoroughly research any career, as the website offers a massive amount of information for each position, including information such as job outlook, salary ranges, required skills and education, and personality profiles.

G.I. Jobs

G.I. Jobs provides a range of helpful employment resources for veterans transitioning from military to civilian life, including advice, job boards, and connections to education programs. Their job boards cover a variety of industries, including manufacturing. Users can filter jobs by a number of factors, including location and military title.

G.I. Jobs also sets itself apart in other ways; their resources and services are available for military spouses. The site also offers a consistent supply of engaging content designed to assist veterans in all aspects of the post-deployment reintegration process.

Networking with Other Veterans

According to Butler, being part of a network of veteran-owned businesses has allowed him to work with other veterans; more than 90% of Rollor's employees are veterans themselves. 

"Entrepreneurs are always willing to help each other out and are always willing to go the extra mile for them," Butler explains. "But when it comes to a veteran entrepreneur, because we've all worked together — sisters and brothers in arms — you'll even go the extra couple miles for them."

"You'll make sure that they won't fail into whatever business they're in. And maybe they're not able to necessarily help them directly, but they'll get them connected with somebody that can," he continues. "So that's really a big part too, is they'll just bend over backward for each other."

Butler extends the help to fellow veterans frequently, between running his course and offering any interested veterans consideration for open positions at his company. He emphasizes the importance of networking, especially among fellow veterans. 

"It's important to network. I see a lot of veterans who, because they've been put under challenging positions and scenarios, are used to working on their own. I always tell them it's so important to network and ask for assistance," Butler says. "I think sometimes veterans just don't want to ask for that, but they need to. And then once they start to see how helpful people are, that light turns on; [they realize] that people are here to help them and want them to succeed."

Applying Your Military Experience to the Civilian World 

One of the qualities Guzman found to be especially helpful in his transition was the leadership experience he had from his military service, and he applies it to his work every day at Ingredion.

"From my four-plus years of work experience with Ingredion, I’ve found the manufacturing leadership and employees in my company to be most welcoming to new and transitioning employees from the military and other career paths," Guzman says. "In my new Continuous Improvement role... the work continues to challenge me to 'Be All That I Can Be,' providing ample opportunities every day to apply leadership skills and implement solutions that enable personal growth and advance operational excellence through collaboration with manufacturing Plant Leadership teams and operations staff across the U.S. and Canada."

Butler has also found leadership to be a crucial trait in civilian workplaces; he explains that veterans are putting in challenging positions, and inherently possess qualities that would make them excel in business. "We are always evaluating risk, which is really important for business, [to be] risk-averse. We're great with the developing goals and objectives, developing a plan, and [working to] accomplish those," Butler says. 

Additional reporting by Kristin Manganello.

Image Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

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