Veterans bring unique experiences and skills that are readily applicable to consulting. The combination of individual development, targeted training, and cross functional experiences that come from being a veteran set conditions for rapid development of a wide array of skillsets. However, many veterans face the challenge of knowing which experiences and skills translate to life outside of the military.
We asked Credera’s veteran-focused employee resource group (ERG), the Credera Veteran’s Network (CVN), what elements from their military service translated well to their careers in consulting. The five items listed below are not an exhaustive list but were common themes shared by veterans at Credera. We hope this provides clear examples of how veterans can apply their military approach and skillsets to the consulting environment.
1. Strategic Thinking - Identifying and preparing for second- and third-order consequences
Across all military branches, there is an emphasis on understanding the desired end state or solution. This requires strategic thinking at every level, from the troops on the ground managing day-to-day operations up to the commander overseeing multiple operations simultaneously. This mentality cultivates a culture of empowerment and allows day-to-day leaders to embrace decisions as their own. With this understanding, leaders can consider how the second- and third- order consequences of those decisions build toward overall success.
From special operations to logistics or administration, all service members are trained to think strategically prior to any real-world mission. This mirrors the consulting world and planning in preparation for a project. Mission planning and project planning activities are functionally identical because both seek to identify risk and generate solutions to mitigate.
Takeaway: Veterans invest the time up front to fully understanding the situation, risk, and account for long-term effects of decision-making.
2. Quick Decision-Making Aligned with Strategic Goals - Grasping the commander’s intent so you can make accurate/timely decisions
Quick decision-making is key in a fast-paced environment. The ability to be fast comes from smooth and accurate repetition of an action, coupled with subject matter understanding of a tactic, technique, or procedure. The phrase, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” is applicable across both the military and consulting professions and is driven by shared understanding across a team. Each member of a team should be fully aware of the strategic goals of the organization. A factual understanding of the strategic, operational, and tactical goals empowers team members to make quick decisions while maintaining strategic alignment. With this understanding comes speed and decisiveness when faced with a choice.
Takeaway: Veterans can use their abilities to make quick and accurate decisions with an understanding and alignment with the strategic goals of the organization.
3. After-Action Reviews - Self-assessments/applying lessons learned
After a training event or real-world operation, there is always a conscious and structured forum for gathering lessons learned. This forum is called the after-action review (AAR). To begin, one leader will provide an overview of the situation or exercise that was just completed and solicit “sustains” or “improves” from the group. Within the consulting industry, retrospectives are often held following events, agile sprints, or the end of a project. This process focuses on improvement areas, success areas, and calls for action going forward.
The AAR is a simple yet robust process that delves into significant detail, highlighting every aspect of a mission or situation and identifying all contributing factors, and underlying root causes of both failures and successes. The critical portion of an AAR is the identified action items, which will ensure consistent success or remediation of any improvement areas.
Takeaway: Veterans can use their skills in retrospective analysis upon conclusion of a project or phase within a project to conduct root cause analysis of why a particular milestone was achieved or missed.
4. Breaking Complex Projects into Simple Steps That Can Be Repeated - Set default “battle drills” that create reinforcing loops
Most military units follow an intensive training cycle prior to any real-world engagement, whether that be at home or abroad. At the most foundational level for any tactical training cycle is the repetitive indoctrination of core competencies called “battle drills.” These battle drills are intended to become so familiar that when called to implement them, the team or individual can operate off muscle memory or reflex. In management consulting there are similar fundamental or core competencies. Veterans can apply the same approach to “drilling” the basics from the military to learning the core competencies in management consulting.
Takeaway: Veterans can look for the fundamentals that apply on your client account or project and drill these until they become second nature just like they would in their service.
5. Being a Proactive Teammate - Being a good teammate is a skill built with experience
For veterans, the concept of a team is instilled in them from day one of their military service. The second line of the Soldier’s Creed states, “I am a warrior and member of a team.” Being a team player and a good teammate is a skillset that gets developed through rigorous training and practice. Team members are expected to look out for one another, share the load when a teammate is struggling, advocate for each other, and actively put the team ahead of individual needs.
In consulting, the project team is the tactical element that is delivering for the client. The team may be made up of individuals across practices and disciplines and yet they are united in a common goal of delivering excellence.
Takeaway: Veterans can apply the lessons of being a great teammate in consulting by demonstrating peer leadership and setting the example.
Applying Practiced Skills to New Challenges
Veterans bring their experiences and skills learned through their service to consulting and are ready to employ them. They are positioned to develop a wide knowledge base through the combination of their ability to learn, retain, and apply skills across functional areas.
Through this article we hope to have provided some examples of how veterans have applied their approach and skillsets to this new environment. Credera’s Veteran Network routinely collects lessons learned from the veteran population at Credera to share with new members.
If you’re a veteran looking to take the next bold step in your career, we encourage you to check out our open opportunities. Additionally, we hope you will explore what our employees are saying candidly on Glassdoor.com.