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4 Career Lessons for Military Veterans

As we appreciate and honor members of our global armed services community this month,  Conduent Chief Operating Officer for Commercial Solutions Adam Appleby shares some of the challenges he faced after his service in the U.S. Army and some career advice for veterans.

Adam’s story
Adam left the military in 2000 during a booming economy. Excited about the many opportunities in the civilian world, he wasn’t prepared for the hurdles he’d have to overcome. In his own words…”it wasn’t long before I wondered exactly what I’d gotten myself into.”

For the first three years, he had to learn how to let go of the way things had been and were done in the military. It was tough for him to navigate the civilian version of meritocracy in which networking played an important role. In fact, one of his civilian bosses wrote in his evaluation that he wished Adam would “let go of the way things were and finally unlock his potential.” As Adam absorbed that feedback and began to adapt, he started to use what he’d learned in the military as his strengths — and figured out a way to both apply and teach those learnings to others in the civilian world. Through this process, he got a place where his military training was no longer holding him back but was instead propelling his career forward.

He summed these experiences up in four key lessons that all veterans can use as they transition from military life to success in the civilian workforce.

4 Lessons for Veterans to Succeed in the Civilian Workforce

  1. Be willing to ask for help
    Early on, Adam was sending out resumés left and right with little results. When a recruiter told him that his resumé read like someone who only wanted to be in the military, he was shocked. At that moment, he realized that he didn’t even know how to write a civilian-friendly resumé. So, he reached out to someone he’d never even met for help. That career coach helped him translate the military jargon on his resumé into terms that civilian hiring managers would understand. For instance, rather than “platoon leader,” he wrote “operations manager.” Instead of “Deployed to Panama,” he wrote “Led an international team.” Those small adjustments ended up saving Adam a lot of time and moving his career forward.
  2. Rely on and trust your resiliency
    Resiliency is something everyone learns in the military. Adam said, “Whether you call it ‘adapt,’ ‘overcome,’ or something else, you learned it — and it’s a huge strength that will continue to serve you well.” Adam discussed how military veterans are unique in the civilian world in that they’re adept at focusing on the mission rather than the clock. Their willingness and ability to get the job done helps them stand out and better serve their organizations.
  3. Seek mentorship
    At one point, Adam felt that he was doing great at his career but still felt frustrated that he wasn’t getting the same types of opportunities that others were getting. He didn't know how to navigate this new system — to get himself into a position to receive opportunities. It wasn’t until he joined a military veteran group like the Conduent Military Veterans Network that he realized other veterans at nearly every level of the organization were experiencing the same types of struggles. Through that group, he met someone who eventually introduced him to Cliff Skelton, his mentor and, today, the CEO of Conduent. Adam shared, “I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without Cliff’s willingness to invest in me. He coached me to thinking differently and understand the value of networking and teambuilding.”
  4. Give back
    Remember Adam’s resumé — the one that might as well have been written in Greek? Adam sure does — and he uses that memory and experience to help others. As he’s moved up the chain of command, he makes it a point to help hiring managers who need someone to translate military-focused resumés. He shared that, “All of us have achieved things and learned our own lessons along the way, and we haven’t done so alone. It’s right for us to seek out peers and colleagues who could also use a lift.” Adam’s advice for his military colleagues is to invite new veterans in, network with them, answer their questions and introduce them to more people who can help. In this way, veterans can build a supportive and welcoming culture for all future veterans that join the civilian working world.

About the Author

As Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Solutions, Adam oversees the end-to-end service delivery operations for all of our commercial clients. He leverages a lean six sigma approach and a shared services model to drive efficiency efforts and process improvements. Adam is pivotal to aligning our people, processes, and technology to new ways of working and delivering on our client commitments while facilitating operational excellence across our commercial businesses. Adam earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Systems Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and he completed Leadership Development Programs at GE, Bank of America, Ally Financial and Fiserv.

Profile Photo of Adam Appleby