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How project management can be a viable second career option for defense personnel

Around 60,000 to 70,000 military professionals of all ranks from the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard – transition to the civilian sector every year, with the majority having between 30 and 40 years old.

While military service often becomes difficult and demanding for individuals, returning to civilian life can present its own challenges. Defense personnel work in an agile, time-critical environment, which requires them to be quick thinkers and good planners.

Throughout their military service, they undergo intense training and practice to achieve key objectives on time, often under difficult circumstances, and with immense discipline. A common, but sometimes underestimated, theme in most of their careers in the armed forces is effective project management.

This theme, if presented well, can ease the transition of many veterans into the corporate world. This approach can also help break down some stereotypes that India Inc. may have in its mind that veterans, for example, are only suited for roles in administration or security.

CHALLENGES FACED BY VETERANS

Today, a veteran making a career transition is often challenged by the diversity of roles and skill options, high competition, and a lack of career path visibility.

A transition to civilian life raises the question of “what next?” as veterans seek a meaningful career option that will leverage their military experience managing complex projects, their ability to think strategically and on their feet, and their inherent leadership skills.

Overall, service members and veterans have the personal and performance skills needed to succeed in project management.

Most veterans (as job seekers) are advised to take technology and management courses as a gateway to corporate employment. They have limited experience in practicing technology or management related roles, compared to project management.

Engaging military personnel in project management is mutually beneficial as it is an excellent post-service career that is a perfect match for many skills and disciplines learned in service.

It also helps bridge the gap between supply and demand for much-needed project management talent now and in the future.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS: A SPRINGBOARD TO A CORPORATE CAREER

Society as a whole, and specifically the armed forces, civic organizations, businesses and industries, educational institutions, government officials and others, have an important role to play in the reintegration of veterans.

It is observed that project management can become a natural choice for veterans of the armed forces, as their leadership, negotiation, communication and conflict resolution skills are repeatedly tested.

Their training, beginning with their earliest days as cadets, instills the importance of planning for the effective execution of time management, team management and resource management, making them adept at delivering even under hostile conditions.

Therefore, training focused on project management can help facilitate the successful transition of military personnel and veterans into meaningful and successful project management careers in the corporate world.

From corporate positions to new era companies, development sector organizations and consulting firms, create a tangible playground for a second career option.

Therefore, equipping them with the skills required for traditional positions will better position them against candidates from other fields.

FROM DEFENSE PERSONNEL TO PROJECT MANAGERS: WHY IT’S A BIG CHANGE

A good example of how defense personnel can be excellent project managers is when the United States Department of Defense (DOD) military health system helped improve national security after the September 11 attacks.

They created and maintained a software system that collected, stored, and evaluated the history of all military exposures to hazardous materials over the lifetime of all DOD service members and civilians.

They developed a web-based application called Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System—Industrial Hygiene (DOEHRS-IH) that facilitated the reduction of catastrophic impact on military and civilians.

This application provided real-time environmental monitoring capability and eliminated the need for patients to provide paper records.

The DOD has demonstrated excellent project management skills in assisting thousands of affected civilians and military personnel.

Although it might seem that the business world and the military world would be on opposite ends of the spectrum, project management is the bridge that can help armed forces personnel transition smoothly into this new world.

They can transfer their skills of solid situation analysis, negotiation, relationship building, planning, risk assessment, etc. to build a new career in project management.

– Article by Dr. Srini Srinivasan, Regional Director General – South Asia, Project Management Institute

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