Service members who are nearing the end of their enlistment have a lot to think about as they leave the military. Readjusting to civilian life is a critical first step, but finding gainful employment is a close second. Vets are highly qualified for many types of positions, from leadership roles in various industries to careers in operations/program management, systems engineering, security/law enforcement, or intelligence. Many vets choose to enter the logistics field and it’s easy to see why: it presents the perfect opportunity to use many skills learned in the armed forces.
Another reason why entering logistics can be a great career choice for former military members is the fact that it’s a $1.3 trillion industry projected to grow steadily over the next few years. A 2014 Fortune article cited a report from the Material Handling Industry forecasting the creation of approximately 270,000 jobs each year through 2018. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median pay for logistics professionals in 2015 totaled more than $74,000 (approximately $20,000 more than the average household income calculated by the US Census Bureau).
So what makes vets so well suited for logistics work?
Success in the military requires a single-minded effort and, according to US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Logistics Roger Kallock, “a passion for getting things done.” Service members are trained to work together to achieve a common objective, do whatever it takes to uncover the data or intelligence required for decision making/strategizing, and implement a plan to the best of their ability. This translates well to the private sector as long as goals are well defined, designed, and coordinated. When a shipment simply has to get to a customer, a vet will find a way to make it happen.
When many people think of military leadership, they often imagine a gruff authority figure barking orders to enlistees who have no other option but to obey. This is a common misconception. Good management requires collaboration and teambuilding – both areas where vets excel. In order to instill faith in a group, a leader must earn respect and show the capability to execute a plan as well as adapt to changing circumstances. It’s this contrast that makes vets such valuable leaders in the private sector. Furthermore, vets know the true value of teamwork and have an unparalleled commitment to helping their peers because of their time in the armed forces. No single employee can manage a supply chain by themselves, so it makes sense to hire associates who understand the power of cooperation and can set aside their egos for the good of the group.
Winston Churchill used the phrase “corkscrew thinker” to describe individuals who were able to find inventive solutions to difficult problems (and devise unconventional ways to fool the Nazis) during WWII. In other words, these were folks who could “think outside the box.” This is just the type of skill set many vets bring to the table. Success or failure in the military is literally a matter of life and death much of the time, especially in the theater of war, so regardless of the resources available, vets use creativity and imagination to meet their objectives by any means necessary. Ingenuity is vital in an industry where even a 1% improvement can mean millions of dollars in savings or additional revenue.
If you’re a vet interested in joining the logistics industry, consider completing additional training or pursuing professional certifications from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals or the Institute of Supply Chain Management. Both organizations have local chapters all over the US, or you could attend a national conference. There are also numerous articles that can provide insight into what logistics work is all about, so read up on the field as a whole to decide if it’s right for you.