- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Instructions to Get You Home

Advice from former P&G leader and veteran Bob McDonald

Share |

Article Sponsored by: MBM Food Service

Return to November/December 2013 Issue

P&G for transitioning military

West Point Grad, Bob McDonald, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering in 1975, graduating in the top 2% of his class. He served as the Brigade Adjutant for the Corps of Cadets and was awarded the Silver Medal from The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, for being the most distinguished graduating cadet in academics, leadership and physical education. McDonald later earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978.

As Captain in the U.S. Army, he primarily served in the 82nd Airborne Division completing his qualifications for Airborne, Ranger, Jungle, Arctic and Desert Warfare, Jumpmaster, Expert Infantry and Senior Parachutist. He served five years, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal.

Twenty years later, McDonald would head one of the world’s most powerful companies as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of The Procter & Gamble Company. During his tenure from 2009 to 2013, P&G expanded its developing market, adding nearly a billion more consumers to the number it serves. The company realized annual sales of over $84 billion and P&G’s stock price rose from $51.10 the day he became CEO to close at $81.64 on the day his last quarterly results were announced – a sixty percent increase. P&G’s market capitalization puts it among the top fifteen most valuable companies in the world.

Here he offers some advice to troops transitioning to civilian life

What advice would you give to military who are preparing to transition to civilian life in the next 12-18 months? How should they prepare?

I suggest a couple of steps. First, examine your life experiences, your values, your identity and develop a purpose statement for your life. It is important, in my opinion, to lead your life inspired by a purpose rather than meandering through life without direction. We are sometimes reluctant to create a purpose statement for fear that we get it wrong. But it is important to develop a commitment to a purpose, and then change it over time as your point of view changes. I have been doing this for about 25 years.

Secondly, prepare a resume of the accomplishments you have had. It is important that this resume contain accomplishments and not just descriptions of what you did. In other words what impact did you have? What would not have happened had you not been there?

What should transitioning military say to civilian hiring managers about their service?

“I have a purpose in life, which this career will help me achieve.” While I may have been an Airborne Ranger Infantry officer in the Army, and those skills don’t translate directly to business, I had gained a lot of leadership experience, which did translate. So in the resume I wrote, I had to demonstrate that leadership experience. Think of yourself as a brand. You are selling a brand - you! Think of why you want that civilian hiring manager to hire your brand, you. It will probably have something to do with the leadership experience you gained in the military. As such, make sure your resume reflects that.

What contributions does a veteran make to their civilian employer?

Veterans provide greater diversity to the workforce. They have experiences like no other. These experiences can result in greater innovation for the firm. We know that greater innovation comes from more diverse workforces. Innovation usually does not occur in straight lines. Inventions are often not used for what they were designed for. The original computers in the U.S. were built to do the census of the country. Today, we carry more computing power in our smart phones than the main frame computer I worked on at West Point in the 1970s. Diversity provides nodes for potential connections, and those connections result in innovation.

Veterans provide responsible leadership. What is more important than caring for the life of another? The military provides opportunities for responsible leadership at a young age. Capture those accomplishments on your resume, and sell your future employer on your ability to provide that responsible leadership.

Our Top 40 Under 40 Military recognition honors high achievers like yourself. What advice would you give them and others on continuing to set goals?

I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet. My life’s purpose is to improve the lives of others. While we were successful in increasingly improving the lives of the consumers we served over 33 years at Procter & Gamble, the job is not yet done. This purpose will continue to inspire and motivate me the rest of my life. So I am not a high achiever but rather a work in progress. Every night before I go to bed, I wonder and pray that I improved at least one life that day. And, I redouble my efforts for the next day.

What kinds of programs are in place at P&G for transitioning military?

P&G has robust training programs for all employees to enable them to learn skills to quickly contribute to our company’s business. In addition, for veterans, we have a well-developed veteran employee group - our Blue & Green Veterans Employee Group. It has over 1,000 members company-wide in the United States, across multiple company locations. Our Blue & Green Group provides veterans with a network they can reach out to for mentorship and work/family support. There is also a social aspect to Blue & Green, which enables veterans to interact socially with employees with a service background and their families. All of this helps veterans get the coaching and personal and family support they need from other employees who are veterans to help them be successful.

Any other comments or advice?

I am very thankful and appreciative of the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. There is no other higher calling than service to others. That service brought with it the need to develop responsibility and leadership skills that transcend lines of work. That’s what veterans need to communicate to future employers.


Return to November/December 2013 Issue