- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Hot jobs for 2011
by Heidi Russell Rafferty, Contributing Editor

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The U.S. employment rate isn’t still quite up to par. But there are a lot of “bright spots in the dim picture,” especially for skilled military veterans who are transitioning into the civilian workforce in 2011, says Dr. Laurence Shatkin, author of “150 Best Jobs Through Military Training.”

In the coming year, “hot jobs” can be found in industries ranging from health care and information technology, to logistics and accounting / finance, not to mention the plethora of opportunities in the federal contracting arena, says Shatkin and other employment experts. And, despite the slow economic recovery rate, they note that veterans stand a better chance in a sea of civilian candidates when competing for those jobs.

“One thing I stress is the military teaches skills you don’t learn in college: teamwork, the idea you’re there to complete a mission and you have to complete it, and leadership and self-reliance,” Shatkin says. “The competition has changed. But these things give veterans an edge in the market, which is so difficult right now.”

Here’s a rundown of industries that have high-in-demand jobs and that also require niche skills commonly found in the military, vis-à-vis Shatkin, Jordan Rayboy (President and CEO of Rayboy Insider Search, a recruiting firm specializing in the data storage industry) and John McSpadden (CEO of MAC & Associates LLC, an executive search firm):

Federal consulting firms. This industry has the biggest push for new blood, say McSpadden and Rayboy. “The reason is that the federal sector is so hard to understand from a regular civilian viewpoint, that they look for the pedigree from the military,” McSpadden says. “For every service line in the military, there’s a crossover that has to be consulted with.”

In this field, a lot of veterans segue their specialized skills into sales roles. Veterans are working in Iraq and Afghanistan, consulting on and selling heavy machinery and Humvees to defense contracting companies, McSpadden says.

Military members also have a competitive edge for jobs within the federal intelligence community if they have security clearances, Rayboy says. “Right now there’s a 12- to 18-month backlog to get cleared. Anyone with a current (clearance) has a huge step up, and companies will give clearance bonuses from $10,000 to $20,000,” Rayboy says. Companies such as Northrop Grumman and Boeing are always seeking qualified veterans, he says.

Information Technology companies or government programs. If you have IT skills, expect to find jobs having anything to do with capture management, project management, team leadership and executing on deliverables, Rayboy says. “Folks are always looking for database administrators Ð pre-sales and post-sales engineers. It could be getting your hands dirty on the keyboard, but you might also have the personality to work well with customers. You could be in pre-sales designing architecture or the post-implementation of project management. Those with the personality to be good in front of customers can drastically increase their job chances,” he says.

Health care industry. There are “excellent opportunities that are good now and will continue to grow as reform legislation kicks in and is phased in gradually,” Shatkin says. “Did you know the occupation of physician assistant was created in the civilian sector as a way of using people who were paramedics in the Vietnam War?” Shatkin says. “And today, there’s more of doctors’ work being trucked off to physicians’ assistants.”

Opportunities also include all levels of health care workers. One “terrific” option is home health care, he says, especially as the Baby Boomers age.

Accounting and finance services. McSpadden notes that defense finance and accounting services organizations hire “thousands of people” annually, from single-year contractors to full-time employees. They service both military and civilian pay tables. In addition, as more bills are passed into law and more guidelines are put into place for homeland security, this will also translate into accounting jobs, he says.

After 9/11, the government went after terrorists harboring money in the States, and anti-money laundering was an issue. So veterans who have security clearances are needed to stop the terrorist funding coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, McSpadden says.

The “C-Suite” jobs. Executive higher-level military ranks can easily cross over into top business leadership roles, McSpadden says. “It’s a big need in that world for people with senior backgrounds,” McSpadden says. For example, the CEO of 7-Eleven is an ex-West Pointer. “They want that type of pedigree. What they’re lacking is strategic decisions and management. With C-level positions in general, you see a hybrid professional with a heavy military background,” he says.

Transportation and warehouse companies. “People doing logistics have experience in this area,” Shatkin says. “Jobs range from truck drivers to people who deal with organization.”.

Green energy companies. Although in 2011 it’s not quite as hot as the other industries, one future trend will be in the solar power green energy field, Shatkin says. People who are currently serving in military engineering roles may want to get training in the field now, ensuring that, by the time they exit, they can easily transition into this hot job of the future, he says.

“The military is actually ahead of the private sector, to some extent,” Shatkin notes. “They have to truck fuel to run a generator from the seaport to the hills of Afghanistan, and it’s a target for the insurgents. They’ve discovered it’s safer to have a solar panel providing energy. They’re also looking into biofuels, but particularly solar power. They don’t handle wind, because you can’t put a military installation on a hill and make it a target. But green energy is an important skill, and the military is a great source of training for that.”

As technology evolves and the business world does along with it, veterans should remember they not only possess the opportunities to learn niche skills in the military, but they also embody “what the business world is lacking,” McSpadden says.

“And that is the aspect of being able to lead. It’s something that can’t be taught in college but is taught in the military. If companies did that better, there would be better leaders for our companies as well. So a lot of companies are seeking people with that military background,” he says.


Freelancer Heidi Russell Rafferty is a reporter with 19 years of experience who writes about employment and business issues.

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