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How One Veteran Translated His Military Experience To Corporate America
There’s something unique about Anton Lewis’ LinkedIn profile. Not only does he have an extensive range of experiences at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, but he also is very successful using corporate terms to describe his military experience. He mentions the size of teams he has led and the monetary value of contracts he was responsible for. When HirePurpose dug deeper, we learned that his Army experience was with the Air Defense Artillery Corps. He led a Stinger platoon and was an executive officer for a Patriot battery. He successfully leveraged that experience to become a regional sales director at GSK. We sat down with Anton to learn how he made that happen.
1. Did you change your leadership style when working with civilians?
My last assignment was as an operations officer at a military entrance processing station. I worked with Joint Services, which collaborated to bring people into the military, and I also worked with a group of civilians who managed the testing. It was a valuable experience working with a diverse group of people. I had to understand expectations that were set, and how to work well and manage within that construct, while still accomplishing the mission that needs to happen. The civilian job description was to show up at 9 am and leave at 4:30 pm. That was the first time I realized people don’t stick around just because there is still work to do.
That was tough, and I had conversations with my commander about how to handle it. When you transition into the civilian world, you realize people have different expectations. You have to know how to lead people through that. You have to make a shift in how you lead people, understanding their expectations and to communicate your expectations to avoid misunderstandings. It’s important as a veteran to be aware of when you’re using too much military tone and mannerisms.
2. What are some keywords you used when translating your military service into your civilian resume?
I started with values. Corporations are trying to be value-based. Any value we had in the military probably translates to a corporation’s values — honor, duty, courage. In the service, we learned the value of strategic planning and strategic execution. This aligns with corporate America. Translate military experience into the goals of the corporation. Getting on the same page with the civilian organization can be beneficial.
Then I emphasized my time and skills of being a young leader. You need to understand the value and worth of your veteran experience. I didn’t think I was doing anything extraordinary. If you’re a veteran, you have the skill sets — you need to figure out a way to describe them. Try to explain your job to someone with no military background and experience. Make it digestible to someone outside the military. As a current hiring manager now, I can say most employers generally want someone they can count on, who is responsible, can work in a team, work in high-pressure situations, is well-trained, organized, disciplined and who can flat out get the job done. I’m pretty sure almost every veteran in good standing could say and relate experiences where they have done all those things. Show employers you come to the table with these skills and traits already.
3. Tell us about your job search experience after leaving the Army.
I knew I was going to get out of the military to move home and start a family with my wife, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was in charge of leading men to blow stuff up out of the air! I didn’t know how that would translate to corporate America. I was contacted by several recruiters by mail. I started calling them and working with recruiting agencies. They were able to tell me about jobs where people like me had successfully transitioned before — sales, engineering, etc. It opened my eyes to all the options that people before me had chosen.
Working with the recruiters helped me send out a lot of resumes, but going through networks helped me make more direct connections to leads. I was doing LinkedIn in person before it existed! Now you need to build that page and connect with people and their connections.
I spoke to friends and realized the value of building up my own network. Link up with someone who’s already made that transition and use them as a mentor to help build your circle. Don’t be afraid to ask people who do they know. I landed in pharmaceutical work through a friend of mine who joined the Army and transitioned a few years before I did. My wife’s brother was able to help connect me with a job willing to wait on me and offer me a contingent job after my ETS.
One challenge in the military is that you know your ETS date, so you don’t want the job now; you want it six months from now. You have to understand there is timing and a lot of patience required for this. You may find good opportunities but not be able to take them at that time.
4. You have earned two master’s degrees, one while serving in the Army and another years afterwards. How did you make that happen?
I went through ROTC in high school and college. The scholarship was great, because it was an avenue to education I would not have otherwise had. That’s where I developed some of the leadership skills I still use today. Then, in Captain’s Career Course, a rep from Webster University said they value the experience we bring to the table managing people. They started a program where they accepted our life experience as elective hours. I was one of the first cohort to go through a human resource management program, and it was basically cut in half because they didn’t make us take the electives.
It took about a year to do the core curriculum. Those who took educational assistance would incur additional years of service. Years later, I went back to get an MBA from George Washington University, and used the post-9/11 GI Bill. The great thing about corporate America is many employers offer tuition assistance as well.
5. How does GlaxoSmithKline support veterans?
We want to create an environment where we attract, obtain, and develop veterans and we want to ensure we have a culture that values veterans here at GSK. We ask, “How can we develop our current veteran employees so they can become even better at what they do?” because we want to keep them here. I am the lead for the Veterans, Family and Friends Employee Resource Group (ERG) for GSK in the US. The mission of our ERG is to foster a work environment that is supportive around the globe to attract, recruit, and retain top veteran talent to GSK, provide a support and career development network, and help solve the challenges of the GSK veteran community.
In addition, we support veteran hiring at career fairs and military academies and have recently announced that GSK will be providing Veterans the option to take a paid day off on future Veterans Days in order to participate in local community events.
To learn more about careers for veterans at GSK or from other veterans at GSK go to http://us.gsk.com/en-us/careers/veterans-at-gsk/
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