Apply Your Military Training to a Logistics Career

Military veterans looking to transition into the private sector face a challenge. Moving from an extremely ordered and disciplined environment to the civilian workforce can be a bumpy road.

However, many already have the answer to the career they seek. It’s in the training they’ve received in the military.

One area where this proves true is logistics. Managing a supply chain is something many veterans learned in the armed forces. Because of its global nature, those who worked in military logistics have developed exactly the kind of skills that hiring managers in the private sector seek.

Army veteran Garrison Ham, who now works in logistics and supply chain management at Flexport, a global logistics firm, said in a post on Medium that his military background has propelled his civilian career. Ham can apply the military’s mission-driven approach to providing good service for his clients.

In the military, Ham said, “You are tasked with impossible goals when shipments are derailed, but you find a way to make it happen.”

What is Logistics?

Logistics, which is part of supply chain management, handles the movement of goods from one destination to another. The job has become increasingly complex as businesses expand operations in the global economy.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) defines logistics as a facet of supply chain management focused on planning and implementing systems that ensure goods make the journey from start (point of origin) to finish (into consumers’ hands).

Logistics includes some or all the following, depending on the specific industry:

  • Transportation management
  • Fleet management
  • Warehousing
  • Order fulfillment
  • Production planning
  • Inventory management
  • Supply and demand planning
  • Managing of third-party logistics providers

Logistics managers are typically involved with all levels of strategic planning, both short-term and long-term. They work with people across many areas of an organization, including marketing and sales, finance, and information technology.

Qualified, experienced employees are needed because without an efficient logistics system, businesses may find themselves in trouble.

Job Growth and Salaries in Logistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% growth for logisticians through 2026, with more than 10,000 people moving into the field. The average annual salary was $77,810 in May 2016, with the top 10% earning $117,310.

The job also has become more complicated. Technology and globalization have added new dimensions to the job. The BLS notes that the best candidates possess some experience “using logistical software or doing logistical work for the military.”

Getting into Logistics

Because of the importance of logistics, most organizations require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, although some may be hired with an associate degree. The good news for military veterans is that some schools may give college credit for military training and experience.

College degrees for logisticians can come in many different areas. They include earning either a two-year or four-year degree in business administration. Those interested in logistics and supply chain careers may focus on logistics, transportation, purchasing and business operations.

How Military Experience Translates into Logistics

Working in logistics in the military is an excellent training ground for future logisticians in the private sector. Those who have worked in military supply chain management have learned how to quickly overcome obstacles and get the job done.

Of course, the goals are different between commercial and military supply chains. The former provides goods for customers quickly and efficiently. The latter supplies military units with necessary food, water, weapons and ammunition.

But many of the tools and techniques used are the same. And the drive to “complete the mission” instilled in veterans can make them more attractive candidates for supply chain jobs.

What helps veterans switching to the private sector is to translate their military experience into language that civilian hiring managers will understand. It’s important to keep your target audience in mind when preparing a resume. For example, “troops” become teams, “deployment” becomes overseas assignment and “soldier” becomes employee or team member.

When applying for a job or a college program, veterans should list training and accomplishments during their time in service. This should include any innovative changes in which they played a role, as well as any leadership roles.

The U.S. Department of Labor provides both a CareerOne Stop Veteran and Military Transition Center and My Next Move for veterans that offer tools that match their skills with civilian positions.

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