Mar 23

Military Leaders Mean Business

Military leaders are experienced operators in uncertain environments – on the battlefield, in unfamiliar territory, making life-or-death decisions in a matter of seconds. They must lay out a vision and provide the leadership for its successful execution. The private sector can provide an excellent place to segue these talents into a very rewarding and challenging second career, especially for those who enter the corporate world with the right mindset.

I asked Carl Savino, President of Corporate Gray, a 15-year old company that provides military to civilian career transition resources, to share his advice for senior military leaders looking to transition into the private sector:

VSB: What are the three most important things you would advise senior military leaders to remember as they prepare for their transition into the civilian workforce?

Savino: a) Relationships are key. People do business with people. The strength of your relationships with other senior-level people, both in and out of the government/military will be a significant factor on how easily you transition and, more importantly, how well you do once you have secured your new position.

b) Understand profit/loss. Companies operate in a profit/loss environment and you need to understand the ramifications.

c) Leadership remains important. Like the military, companies want bold, innovative leaders who will take them to the next level. Apply the same leadership attributes that made you successful in the military but without wearing the rank.

VSB: What are some of the common misconceptions transitioning senior leaders have regarding work in the private sector?

Savino:  Some senior leaders may believe the transition to a senior-level corporate position will be quick and easy, and while it may be for some, for most it involves considerable planning and hard work. My advice is to start thinking about your military career transition two years out. Develop a transition timeline with specific milestones. Involve your spouse in your career transition planning. If your spouse is like mine, he/she will be happy to keep you on track.

VSB:  In your Corporate to Gray publications, you address the issue of adjusting to a new culture upon separation from military service. Would you talk about what this means in a bit more detail and why it is so important to understand?

Savino:  The corporate culture is very different than the military culture and will vary from company to company. The basic difference stems from the military operating in a service environment whereas companies operate in profit / loss. While that seems simple, the ramifications to decision making are significant. In the military environment, winning the peace through preparedness and armed conflict is the overarching goal and while there are certainly limitations in funding, the government will generally do whatever is needed to accomplish the mission. As corporations operate in a profit/loss environment, business decisions will ultimately hinge on whether the firm will make money.

VSB: How can senior leaders best prepare themselves for transition into the civilian workplace, beyond having a solid resume and appropriate civilian business attire?

Savino: a) Read books on winning in business. Examples include: On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t by Jim Collins, and In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman.

b) Continue to build and exercise your network. Join professional associations and civic organizations that will afford you the opportunity to refresh and extend your professional network. Join LinkedIn.com and use it to help you track and interact with your connections.

c) Research companies in your target industry. Initiate informational interviews with people you know and trust who work for those companies. Understand their corporate culture and what those companies seek in terms of senior leaders.

1 ping

  1. Meeting the Challenges of Military Leaders in Transition | Corporate Gray Blog

    […] and Founder of the Corporate Gray military to civilian employment services, was posted on the Military Leaders in Transition blog. Click here to read the advice he shares for senior military leaders. Check the Military […]

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