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Today’s blog post is by Jericho Urmenita, an Orion Talent Recruiter, USMC Veteran and USNA graduate. Jericho discusses if business consulting is a good fit for transitioning military officers. Check out Jericho’s other blog post on PMP Certification.

Business Consulting? Corporate Strategy? Board Member? These roles are not uncommonly asked about by newly transitioning officers. There are a few paths available to those with the right specialized backgrounds but we must first ask some very real questions about where your background might truly lend itself to a consulting role.

Typically, when a candidate brings up consulting the first thing I ask them is: “Within a business, where do you see yourself and what would you advise them on?” It’s a very viable question that I believe everyone should ask themselves when considering any role and gets to the root question: what value can I add here? At the end of the day, companies pay for the value you bring to the table. The majority of the time the answer might include any number of combinations of the following:

  • Maximize profit
  • Strategic acquisitions and/or relationships
  • Advise management on leadership
  • Maximize growth

My follow-up question is: “Excellent, what experience do you have that would help them, say, maximize profit like you said?” This is usually where the train comes off the tracks. For anyone I’ve talked with over the phone, I didn't mean to trigger you. Please understand that these questions are not to stump you. They are intended to help you frame the questions you should ask yourself and answer with real solutions. It is in truth difficult to become a business consultant for a newly transitioned officer, and I present my reasoning as to why that is and possible paths to achieve it for those that want it.

Think about business consultants you have either read books from or seen in the media. They tend to have one thing in common: they run a BUSINESS. Business leaders look for advice from people who have done what they are trying to do; that is to grow a machine that provides value through a product or service and in return, receives money. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you want to fight your infantry battalion better, you find someone who has fought an infantry battalion to advise you in that regard. Just as “defeat the enemy by fire, maneuver, and close combat” would mean little to Jeff Bezos (no matter how good of a leader he is), I would guess EBITDA means very little to most of my fellow military officers out there. I know it means very little to me, and that’s the trouble, because EBITDA is one of the primary metrics to evaluate the health of a growing business. That’s right my friend, B Co. unfortunately does not count as a business.

“But I’m a leader and I can help them with leadership!” Certainly, but there’s more to it than that. I just know I'm ruffling some feathers here, but hear me out. There are a few paths for you still but it does require more than general leadership skill. Remember, companies are paying money for this consulting you wish to provide and they don’t pay for generalizations. The following are some possible paths:

Are you a technical specialist?

We have seen nuclear officers coming from energy consulting firms or communications officers coming from big data as IT consultants. This is the most common type of consulting, where very specialized individuals are asked to come in and optimize some process or system. It will typically also require a degree in that field coupled with your military experience. Think of Booz Allen Hamilton or a similar organization to help you go this route.

Are you a 99 percenter in a highly competitive MOS?

Consulting firms that hire top level talent from SOF and others do exist. Businesses don’t pay for 8s; but they do pay for 9s and 10s in leadership. Candidates that have gone this route typically did some significant networking.

Are you an O-4+ with a service academy buddy that owns a business?

We've seen folks join the inner circle that way as board members since they have the trust and confidence of their peers who have reached high levels of success in the business world.

How about that fresh off the press MBA that I got right after service?

I actually very recently saw a success story who went down this path. However, using your MBA in this way does require exceptional intentionality and effort. I’ll explain. After leaving service in 2017 as a Crypto Officer, he attended Harvard (pause there for a second and appreciate the effort to get accepted there alone) and proceeded to complete his MBA AND Masters in Cyber Security simultaneously. The MBA program allowed him to network with many decision makers in that area of business. He got a chance to intern at Apple because of the Cyber Security program. He networked. His peers from service who also went down the cyber path introduced him to even more relationships and he networked further. He will now assume a role as Director of Product Development for a cyber security company and advise a venture capital firm on new software company acquisitions. 

One word for these results: INTENTIONALITY. In degree source and choice as well as in networking. These are not jobs you apply to. They are jobs you are introduced to through intentional relationships that you have built particularly in the right circles. You wouldn’t necessarily network into these roles at just any job fair. Rockstar results are indeed possible with that MBA you’ve got, but only if you put in the time, effort and intentionality to warrant getting around other rock stars who can introduce you to these types of opportunities.

However, what if you were just a GTG officer not in any of those categories like me? Consulting doors are hard to open. So, where does that leave you? 

If you have the itch to lead and advise leadership, Orion has many roles where you can do just that directly within a company. Operations Analyst? Executive Leadership Program? Operations Manager? These are paths we can help you with where you can get in there and execute missions with your team. This is the bread and butter of using general leadership skills to your advantage.

And if you have that drive for business specifically, perhaps you can start your own! Orion has partnerships in this realm, and if you are serious about business, a franchise opportunity may be something to consider. Some opportunities may be started for the same price as a well-appointed Mustang GT and I know plenty of officers that have spent the money on those. A little shift in where you money is going and you can strategize to your heart's content, since it's your own business! Check out Orion’s franchise partnerships here and here.

As always, when considering any path, understand your target and put into motion the specific efforts it will take to make it happen. The days of “well-rounded” are over. You are a ball if you do that, and you’ll be bounced around accordingly. Get specific, get sharp and get on the cutting edge, wherever that is for you. 

If you are a military officer ready to find your next career with Orion, contact Jericho or find out more about our free career placement services for officers.