- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military Leadership in Action:

A Q&A with J.W. Marriott, Jr.

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Article Sponsored by: MBM Food Service

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J.W. Marriott, Jr. is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, Inc., one of the world’s largest lodging companies. His leadership spans more than 50 years, and he has taken Marriott from a family restaurant business to a global lodging company with nearly 4,000 properties in over 70 countries and territories. Mr. Marriott earned a B.S. degree in banking and finance from the University of Utah and served as an officer in the United States Navy.

To help commemorate the Top 40 Under 40 Military issue and Veterans Day, MTN caught up with Mr. Marriott and asked him for his advice for transitioning military and veterans.

How did your military service help you when you transitioned back into the civilian workforce? Did it also make things more difficult in any way?

When I was commissioned in 1954, my father was growing our Hot Shoppes restaurant chain, so I opted to join the Supply Corps of the United States Navy where I could further my skills needed to assist with the family business. My two years of active duty provided me with valuable lessons that translated well into the civilian workforce; the most important was to have respect for those who serve under you. I brought this back to Marriott, and it is still at the heart of our spirit to serve philosophy: take care of your associates, the associates take care of the guests, and the guests will come back to our hotels.

What are some ways transitioning military can prepare for the changes associated with becoming a veteran employee?

I would suggest that transitioning military seek out companies that share common values. The hospitality industry offers veteran job seekers opportunities to leverage skills honed in the service to chart them on a path to personal and professional success. Rachel Hamaker, Director, Engineer at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common, found that her leadership and operation skills honed as a Nuclear Power Machinists’ Mate Petty Officer First Class in the U.S. Navy translated well to her engineering role. Her commitment has earned her a place as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Military featured in this issue.

For her fellow transitioning servicemen and women, Hamaker recommends using social networking sites to develop a professional network. Sites such as LinkedIn “allow you to gain exposure to career opportunities, see where everyone is moving to and from, and learn about jobs you might not know were out there,” Hamaker said. “Service members should avoid limitations and start opening doors whenever they have the chance.”

How important is it to employ veterans at Marriott?

Employing veteran job seekers at Marriott is critical in developing a robust, diverse workforce, and through Operation Enduring Opportunity, we have committed to hiring 1,500 veterans by 2015. Veterans come to Marriott with values the company shares: loyalty, integrity, respect. As an employer, we value the leadership skills and determination veterans bring. We’ve launched a careers website targeted for transitioning military and vets,, where job seekers can use our Military Occupation Translator tool to identify current Marriott openings that match their experience. 

What advice would you offer men and women who are serving now with a goal of transitioning over the next 12 to 18 months?

Leverage civilian and government agency transition resources to help translate your military experiences and skills into language employers can appreciate.

Prepare for interviews and research recruiting methods of the companies you are interested in. The questions a recruiter will have will be different than those in the military. It is often easy for those who have served to focus on the success of the team or unit; while this is admirable, do not forget that the end goal is to sell yourself as an ideal employee. When describing unit accomplishments, be sure to emphasize your personal role and experience.

Do you have any other more long-term advice to help service members as they navigate their way as a civilian?

Leverage post-service resources offered by the military. They include how to structure your finances, create a budget, find continuing education, understand healthcare options and locate support groups. Most important, be proud of your service and confident in the skills you developed during your time in the military.


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