Most military jobs have a civilian counterpart, but that doesn’t mean a transitioning service member wants to continue in their field. There are challenges that come with transferring from a military job to a civilian job in the same field, including reciprocity for specific certifications, education, and the ability to explain experience in a way civilian employers understand.
But some who are moving on to a new field may be worried about what jobs are available. US News & World Report prepares an annual “100 Best Jobs” list that ranks the careers that are growing quickly and discusses how to pursue a career in them. Listed amount the top business jobs on the most recent list are several that veterans should consider. These include analyst positions in operations research and information security, computer support specialist and business operations manager. Coming in at No. 3 is financial adviser, which may appeal to those with specific financial experience in the military, and to those whose careers focus on a wider variety of skills.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates growth in this position by almost 30 percent through 2024, increasing jobs by 73,900 new positions. The field has a 2 percent unemployment rate and a median salary of $90,530.
Special Forces to Finance
When Steve Mannell retired from the Special Forces community in 2009 as a lieutenant colonel, it was a tough year to find a job. “I was interested in finances ever since I was a cadet at West Point,” Mannell said. “I majored in economics, severed as a course director for macroeconomics and was still interested in the subject when I retired.”
Utilizing his military experience like one would an apprenticeship, Mannell said most of his military skills didn’t transfer directly into his new job. “I came out of the military as a generalist, with a solid background on education finance,” he said. But the Army gave him many more skills that helped his civilian career progress. “The Army gave me resilience and the value of teamwork. Through selection and Ranger School, I had lots of opportunities to apply what I learned to different jobs.”
When facing retirement, Mannell took his transition time seriously. He signed up for the Army Career and Alumni Program (now known as the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program) and began a weekend executive MBA program. “I spent the last two years of my Army career trying to learn how to translate military experience to civilian words. The horrible job market in 2009 gave me lots of motivation.”
Mannell mastered the transition technique, and went from the Army to being the chief financial officer at a startup defense contractor to his current position as CFO at American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association Wealth Management & Trust. He look for a place where he could make a difference, some place that understood his military resume and where the culture of the company fit him.
From NCO to Entrepreneurship
When Robert Gessner and Charles Miller founded Millennial Financial Planning, they did so with the goal of addressing the needs of the demographic that has been overlook by traditional financial adviser firms. “We saw that true financial planning has a lot more pieces than just investments and insurance. People look for guidance on their day-to-day financial questions, and we have the opportunity to help them improve their lives,” Gessner said.
These NCOs believe their leadership roles had the biggest impact on how they transitioned from the military to the civilian workforce. Gessner, who still serves as a recruiter in the Pennsylvania National Guard, trained as an Army combat engineer and rose to the rank of sergeant. Miller served eight years in the Air Force security forces, achieving the rank of staff sergeant before transitioning.
“Being entrepreneurs means you need to do everything yourself: seek answers, find mentors and ensure the mission gets accomplished. The leadership skills we developed in the military have taken us to great lengths in the business world, and it will become even more important as our company grows and brings on additional advisers to our practice,” Gessner said.
Gessner credits his military experience for the values he carries over to his practice. Their motto, “Integrity…greater than returns,” helps make clear their intent to be honest with their clients. “We have the flexibility to provide advice without conflicts of interest. We just want to help people, and that’s why we started our own business,” Gessner said.
As a veteran-owned business, Gessner and Miller plan to offer veterans preference as they expand, hoping to assist others through their transition.
Mannell, Gessner, and Miller are happy to share their experiences with those on the brink of transition. Mannell highly recommends establishing a solid network, starting now. “If LinkedIn had been around in 1985 when I started creating a network, it would have made life simple,” he said. Gessner said research is critical. “There is a lot of technical expertise that can go into being a financial adviser, and the majority of it is nothing you came across in the service.” Certification is the second half of Mannell’s advice. “Fundamentally that’s it. Get certified for what you want to do and network,” he said. Gessner agreed and encourages those in transition to start early. “The studying for licensing can be time-intensive, and the exams are not particularly easy.”