(Courtesy of Joe McFarland)

Every great manager or director has to start somewhere: Joe McFarland, executive vice president at Lowe's, began as a sales associate in the light bulb aisle of Home Depot. But before that, he spent six years in the Marine Corps as an aviation mechanic. When he left the military in August 1993, he knew that his technical skills were not relevant: "No one was looking for someone to fire a .50-cal out of a door. My technical skills weren't as important as my people skills."

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U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford

As of this year, military veterans with a service-connected disability of 100 percent will be able to fly Space-A on military aircraft, Military.com recently reported.

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Courtesy of Tom Schofield

Tom Schofield decided early in his senior year of high school that the military was for him — particularly the Marine Corps. "It was the hardest, the most respected, and it would be a challenge," he thought. He was right. But he never expected that four years on active duty would prepare him for a successful civilian career.

While Schofield trained as an administrative clerk, a little over half of his time in the Corps was supporting a senior general. He felt this skill set would allow him to advance faster in the civilian world, especially compared to the time restrictions in rank and grade in military promotions.

Experience or education?

Schofield began as a supervisor of over 60 couriers for a biotech company. "Among the skills the company was seeking were things I learned in the Marine Corps," he said. "Not specific things like filing Marine Corps paperwork, but skills like handling complex situations and reacting quickly to problems." He has used those transferable skills in every role since.

Many veterans worry about their education and experience levels matching up, but they don't always have to. Schofield started college classes while in the military, and finished his bachelor's degree 12 years later. He worked methodically through the program, taking one class at a time while working full time.

Schofield worked through college, but he strongly recommends that all veterans take advantage of their GI Bill benefits. It may also be worth looking at what your company offers: "LabCorp paid for a substantial part of my college through their tuition reimbursement program," he said.

Tom Schofield Courtesy of Tom Schofield

No regrets, lot of options

As an administrative clerk in the Marine Corps, Schofield learned a lot about policy and paperwork. Supporting several senior officers meant managing schedules, travel arrangements, and personnel. He has no regrets from his time in these positions.

Working at LabCorp has given Schofield a lot of opportunities throughout his civilian career. His first job was for a company that LabCorp eventually acquired; a few years later, Schofield was back working for them again. "I came back to LabCorp as General Manager, running a specialty company for about five years," he said. "Then I moved back home and called LabCorp about a position."

Thanks to networking and those who know him from before, Schofield was welcomed back to fill a unique role: "They took a chance on me, and a year later they reorganized into smaller divisions and asked me to run operations for the largest of those divisions." The new position challenges him to improve situations and grow within the changes in the healthcare industry.

Find a career that can grow

One of the most important pieces of advice Schofield has for veterans and transitioning service members is to find something where you can grow. He has seen many opportunities for professional growth during his employment with LabCorp.

What started as supervisor of couriers has turned into the strategy director of operations for one of the biggest health care companies in the Northeast. "I've reached associate vice president in this company twice," he said. "And healthcare is evolving tremendously right now." Schofield is happy in his role and looking forward to the growth and change coming in the next year.

Most people associate LabCorp with laboratory technology, but there is so much more that goes on there. "My responsibilities are to manage about 1,000 people who don't work in the lab," Schofield said. Those jobs cover phlebotomy, logistics and data collection and entry.

"The opportunity for upward mobility is there, and there are a lot of leadership roles," he said. "Companies look to the military for strong leadership characteristics," Schofield encourages veterans to highlight their leadership experience on their resume and in job interviews.

"The core values I learned in the Corps – hard work, solid work ethic, and challenging the status quo – are things I've used throughout my civilian career," Schofield said. He credits the leadership he had early on in the military with his success now. "LabCorp is looking for dynamic and inspiring leaders," he said, and it's seeking them out in veterans.

Matt Hecht/Flickr

Tom note: Here is the seventh entry in our 10 Long March posts for 2018, the 4th most-read item of the year, which originally ran on April 23,  2018. These posts are selected based on what’s called ‘total engaged minutes’ (the total number of time spent reading and commenting on an article) rather than page views, which the T&P; editors see as a better reflection of Long March reader interest and community. Thanks to all of you for reading, and for commenting–which is an important part of this column. 

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Courtesy of Russ Carfagno

After graduating from a technical high school, Russ Carfagno began his working career as a mechanic in the air conditioning industry. He took night classes to further his education. Eventually, he came to the realization that he wanted more: more training, more money and more responsibility. After decades of listening to his father’s sea stories about his life as a shore-based hospital corpsman, Carfagno knew three things: He wanted a rate in electronics, he wanted to do something different and he wanted to go to sea. A Navy recruiter asked him how he felt about being on submarines and after very little thought, Carfagno never looked back. He served six years as a sonar technician submarines.

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