Orion helped me find a civilian job with Cordis, Johnson and Johnson back in 1998. At the time, Cordis had just been bought by Johnson & Johnson. They hired nine other former military officers. We did a lot of networking with each other and got off to a stronger start than most because of it. We didn't go through the normal path to device sales. Most do by pharmaceutical sales first. I truly believe that what contributed to our success was the fact that we regularly communicated with each other about what was working and what to avoid.
I had been a Captain in the United States Marine Corps flying CH-46 helicopters and C-12's and was promoted to Major in the Reserves before I resigned completely. I resigned from the reserves because I started making great money as a salesman. Had I been recalled, my family would not have been able to afford the new life style we were quickly adapting to.
My transition from the Marine Corps wasn't just about the money, though. I really wanted to have the freedom to watch my family grow up. I wanted to participate as the coach of their teams. I wanted to be an environment where my life was no longer in danger. I value my time in the Marine Corps, and I will never forget the people I served with, but my two daughters changed my perspective significantly.
In addition to working with Orion, I did try and work with another recruiting firm, but they were very hung up on the fact that I did not have an advanced degree. At the time I was planning on getting one, but I started making money so quickly in sales that it never became a priority.
My final move from the military was easy. Once I put it in perspective that everyone goes through it, it really was just a matter of taking the most logical next step. My wife, two daughters, and I settled in Florida. To this day, I feel like I made the right decision in location. Each time my family made a major move, we rented for a year first to ensure we lived in the right neighborhood. I highly recommend this.
My family was exceedingly supportive of my decision to transition. They had more faith in my ability to earn more on the outside than I ever did. I was raised on Air Force bases all over the world and really did not have any idea what the business world look like.
I was on terminal leave for two months, which was a nice cushion. Because I had no sales experience, my starting salary was only $45,000 a year. Within nine months, though, I was promoted. My goal was to make more than $100,000 my first year out. I hit my goal. My goal was to double what I was making every five years. $65,000 became $130,000 by 2001, $260,000 by 2005, and $500,000 in 2010.
My career path led me from Cordis, Johnson & Johnson to Bernstein Investment Research and Management. From there, I went to GenSpring Family Offices followed by Seaside National Bank & Trust. Most recently, I worked with BNY Mellon, Wealth Management, where I was Managing Director of Sales for the State of Florida.
I have now started my own company called Makingluck Inc. It would have been very difficult to clear $1,000,000 working for someone else! Makingluck, Inc. helps local, regional, and national businesses identify and implement successful sales tactics from prospecting, to closing the sale, and customer retention. I still plan to stick to my goal. I do know, though, that this goal may cap out in time. Falling short of a big goal is still fun, and trying to hit a big goal is even more fun!
Like everyone, I'm sure I was a little hesitant about the move to civilian life. You will never find the kind of loyalty you had in the military on a broad scale. That said, you will find that the average civilian truly appreciates your service to our country. Once I found out that there were former military people in corporate America, and that they still had all the loyalty that they learned on their first job, I found life in corporate America quite fun. Most of all, I loved the freedom of deciding when I would go on vacation rather than asking permission.
The military gave me an edge, because nothing was really hard after that. I found that being persistent came naturally to me, but that was not the case with the average civilian. The most specific instance I can think of where the military experience helped me is with regard to standard operating procedure. I truly enjoyed all the forward thinking checklists that we used in the military. We anticipated future maintenance and emergencies as part of the normal course of action. In corporate America, I developed my own checklists for ensuring things got done. I tried not to let things surprise me, and to my surprise that set me apart.
When preparing to make my career changes in the past, I conducted extensive research. I have always found it most helpful to use other former military people as resources. When the Internet Service Academy Business Resource Directory was created (ISABRD), I found it to be very useful for reaching out to people that could help me in my career.
In fact, every professional change I made was because I had a mentor somewhere. Ask a lot of questions, show up on time, be prepared, say "please" and "thank you" and do what you say you're going to do. Believe it or not, that is enough to set you apart.
I network with fellow veterans extensively to build my own professional reputation, and I am an active member of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association. I use LinkedIn all the time. I even find folks on Facebook, though my daughters would rather I abandon that strategy. I have come to truly appreciate that when people find me through others that have served, they have a preconceived notion that I am honorable thanks to that service.
For hiring managers, my advice is that you can't find a more capable, qualified individual than you can find in a former military candidate. If you're willing to invest a little bit of time upfront helping them transition from an environment where everyone cares to an environment with varying degrees of true engagement, you will be hiring somebody that will be loyal to you forever. Hire veterans, because freedom is not free. The growth of your company will only occur if you invest in the right people.
Veterans should not underestimate the amount of management experience they have. The politics in any big company can be intimidating. Add to that, the absence of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, people can be less than honest in an attempt to get ahead. Conduct yourself in the zone of above reproach, and you will stand out for sure. The majority of people want an honest opinion, even when that opinion is "This is impossible." If you carefully craft your message, you'll become invaluable in your new career. Dedicate yourself to being a part of the solution while everyone else concentrates on pointing out problems.
The one big piece of advice that I would give you is go for it. Decide you are going to do it, and then don't look back. Don't fall into a comfort zone. Stay in shape. I guess that is more than one piece of advice, but I was a Marine. Expect me to over deliver, or don't ask!