Veterans Transition Easily to Project Management

Posted by Bob Wheeler

Eric Wright Vets2PMWith nearly 600 jobs in the field of project management currently available on ClearedJobs.Net, we contacted Eric Wright, Co-Founder and CEO of Vets2PM to explore how transitioning service members can prepare themselves for project management positions.

Why are veterans a natural fit for project management

Almost any Military Veteran ranked E-5 or above (E-4 or above in the Marine Corps) or with multiple enlistments/contracts has planned, led, controlled, reported on, and closed out ‘missions’ which are really temporary endeavors producing unique results or capabilities. To do this the Veteran assembled, developed, and led teams and stakeholders. This means “mission accomplishment = project management.”

While I can appreciate the factors that play into the officer = executive and enlisted = manager perception, the reality is whether officer or enlisted, both used their executive functions. Both were responsible for planning, executing, controlling, and communicating about project and program (read missions and battles here) as well as performance and outcomes. Additionally, both were responsible for assembling, developing, and inspiring project teams, i.e. leading. Project management is about making decisions about trade-offs among constantly competing objectives, and both did that.

Additionally, Veterans are comfortable in the project environment. They are adept at maintaining technical competency while simultaneously sustaining the leadership effectiveness expected of their rank. The project environment is similar. It consists of the system, which includes the schedule, budget, scope, quality plan, etc. and also the various stakeholders, such as the team, sponsors, subject matter experts, organizational support staff, vendors, and regulators.

What are some of the challenges that veterans need to overcome

The first misconception is that many recruiters and hiring managers, even when some of them are Veterans, think Veterans only know how to lead through authority, rank, and position — i.e. yelling, screaming, and discipline — instead of through quiet, competent influence. In interviews veterans should make sure to play up their ability to lead through influence instead of authority. They should seek to shatter this misconception with clear examples and success stories.

Additionally many Veterans think their occupation or specialty doesn’t translate. And if left in the language of direct action operator, logistician, aviation, and the like, it usually doesn’t. Civilians don’t understand these “professional dialects,” and they won’t make time to research them to translate them either. The onus to create understanding in the mind of hiring manager or recruiter rests squarely with the Veteran.

How can veterans learn to speak the right lingo

Veterans can use the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the PMP application form to translate their military experience. These documents act as a Rosetta stone, giving us a language common to both military and civilian dialects.

• “I was a highly decorated tank platoon leader” becomes “I developed high performing project teams recognized consistently for superior performance.”
• Plan of Actions and Milestones (POAM) is now a project schedule.
• Letter of Instruction is now referred to as a Project Charter.

The PMBOK is the field manual (FM), and the application of it is the TTP, the tactics, techniques, and procedures Veterans use to run the project and the team.

What is the value in a PMP certification

The ability to translate the skills mentioned above is possible due to the global popularity of the Project Management Institute, the PMBOK, and the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. Because of this many civilian recruiters and hiring managers now understand the dialect of project management.

Project managers are in high demand and Veterans have the necessary experience, skills, and behaviors to meet this demand. They just need to be aware of it. Using the PMBOK to translate their military experience into project management speak, and obtaining a recognized project management credential like the PMP helps them prepare for behavioral interview questions, so that they can respond about their military project experience in the common tongue of project management.


Want to know more? Connect with Eric at [email protected].

Bob WheelerBob Wheeler is a ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager, a Navy veteran, a former recruiter and a certified veteran transition coach. You may reach Bob at [email protected].


This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 9:23 am

6 thoughts on “Veterans Transition Easily to Project Management”

  1. Gentlemen,
    I would like to thank you for this key information as it will be useful in my key career searches. I am a veteran retiring at the end of the month after having served 27 years in both the Army and TX Army National Guard. I will retire as a Command Sergeant Major of REC & RET CMD for the Great State of Texas! My MOS’s are from current to last: 79T REC & RET NCO (1998-2015); 31B, Military Police (1990-1996),and 63H Track Vehicle mechanic (1986-1989).

    How to translate is my biggest obstacle, any guidance is greatly appreciated.

    David Castorena

    1. Thanks for reading and reaching out David.
      You can visit the Web Page above which displays my eCalendar. You can grab a phone slot convenient to you and I can walk you through a couple of job aids promulgated by PMI to help you translate your experience into project management speak perfectly.
      Additionally, this article ( provides some step-by-step instruction on how to get stared.
      I am at [email protected] should you want to email me as well David.
      Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for this discussion. I recently retired from the Army and currently attend the DePaul University Project Management Certification Course. I just finished the first core class and will start the second core next week. DePaul offers a prep for the PMP exam course thereafter, which I also will take before the exam.
    Do you have some specific advice on how “to get my foot in the door” after I obtain the certification? I am in Chicago and know there is a high demand for Project Managers.
    Thanks so much.

    Warm regards,


  3. I have a couple of thoughts to get us rolling Pia. I am confident others will add some great stuff to these!
    First, volunteer at work and with your local PMI Chapter to get onto every project you can. The more you can speak from experience, the better.
    Second, become active in your local PMI Chapter. Some certain percentage of the folks you form friendships with are hiring officials during their day lives. Business is about relationships, relationships are about trust, trust is about service. You have to provide value to someone/organization first.
    Finally, third, network, network, network! Use LinkedIn’s professional groups. Find ones with like-minded individuals. Think of this resource as crowd-mentoring…(but find a mentor or two that knows you personally).

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