Why Military Veterans Should Consider Project Management
Originally Composed by Tim Dalhouse, CEO PM-ProLearn
The global demand for civilian project managers has been growing steadily for many years, but is not even close to peaking yet. Several studies indicate that the current rate at which qualified PMs are being produced is not enough to keep up with demand; and this is across all industries. Most encouraging is the news about PM compensation. The average salary for PMs is very competitive, and sometimes much higher, than other career fields that US Military Veterans transition to.
The last piece of this puzzle is how your Military Leadership Experience (MLE) fits into the picture. Your MLE is so closely related to what civilian PMs do on a daily basis, that it makes you a perfect fit for the job. Not only are you a good fit from the perspective of many employers, but you will likely find that being a PM comes natural to you, because you have really done it for many years in the military, perhaps without even knowing it. It doesn’t much matter what your military technical specialty was; what counts is all the time you spent managing. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
What this means to you is that the PM field is wide open with opportunity, if you can become credentialed and fully qualified in the eyes of employers.
Now, let’s talk about how your MLE relates to project management. First, what’s the definition of a project? A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines a project as "any temporary endeavor which produces a unique product, service or result." Since there is no set time frame in the definition of a project, they can last as short as a few days to as long as a few years. The key thing is that the work was temporary and undertaken to achieve a specific goal, or deliverable. That sounds very much like Mission Accomplishment to me, and isn’t that what you did every day of your military career?
With the definition of a project in mind, a few military examples might be:
Leading a unit/work center overseas deployment
Coordinating a unit physical fitness test or training evolution
Setting up a promotion & awards ceremony or birthday ball
Preparing for a readiness inspection
Implementing a new weapon system
Reorganizing a warehouse
Executing a computer tech refresh
Improving an administrative process
Standing up a new unit
Managing a safety stand down
If you think about your experience from that perspective, I bet you can name 5 projects you lead or directed right off the top of your head!
The Credential Challenge
There’s no legal requirement to be Project Management Professional (PMP) certified to be a PM; however, many employers either require or prefer candidates to have it. Plus, job searching is always competitive, and usually the one with the better credentials and resume wins. Getting the PMP credential is the first milestone you need to hit, and it requires documenting enough project management experience to qualify to sit for the exam.
If you can’t document enough experience, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credential is a great way to get started, because it doesn’t require that you document any experience. However, before you go thinking that you need to go for the CAPM, let’s take a look at what you need for PMP and how to get there.
The PMP credential requires that you document enough hours leading and directing project work to be considered an experienced PM. Plus, there is a project management education requirement. There are two qualification tiers, depending on your level of education. See the table at the link below to determine what your personal experience requirement would be.
So, thinking about your professional military experience from the perspective I’ve presented here, you should be able to start formulating a vision of yourself as a bona fide project manager. But, if you think you might fall short of the requirement, don’t forget about another key area to pull project management experience from…
In addition to your professional experience, you can also think about any volunteer work you’ve done. What about that Boy Scout jamboree you helped organize or food drive you coordinated to help the homeless? And don’t forget that church youth retreat you headed up and even the deck you built on your house. All of those things meet the definition of a project, and can add to the hours you document on the PMP application and examples you use on your resume. By the way, many employers love to hear about volunteer experience because it tells them something good about your character.