The Competitive Advantage of National Service

GreaterGoodMilPicRedoneThis is the 2nd post in a series of articles based upon an outline I adapted from Reid Hoffman, the CEO of LinkedIn, who has recently been giving more career advice. The first installment in this series was an introduction. The basic outline I am adapting to helping military applicants is as follows:

  1. Developing Competitive Advance;
  2. Building Your Network;
  3. Taking Intelligent Risks.

This week’s post focuses one of three main areas of competitive advantage military leaders have over other applicants, which I have observed during the past ten years while running Military MBA.

The 3 areas of competitive advantage for military applicants, I will be covering are: national service, teamwork from the ground up and getting-it-done leadership.

National Service

You may think because you don’t have a lot of experience outside the military that you don’t have much to offer. That’s wrong. In fact, your existing asset base (a.k.a., talents, skills, knowledge and experiences) has great value to those who don’t have your assets, but need them.

Because I do not know every reader of this blog on a personal level, I want set aside the head-to-head advantages you have over other professionals. I realize they exist and would definitely encourage you to identify and use them in all ways possible.

However, I would like to view competitive advantages from a different context in a different environment. Namely, what advantages do you have as a group of military leaders relative to peer groups of other professionals?

The first competitive advantage you can draw upon as a strength is national service. You have sacrificed for something greater than you are…you have sacrificed your life for the greater good. As professionals mature in their careers, most managers (i.e., especially those who are involved in hiring and admission decisions) wish they had sacrificed themselves more on this level and they also value this sense of sacrifice as an attribute on their teams whether it’s part of their workforces or as an incoming class of students.

And, because of this, the national service aspect of your military background will get you in most doors. The mistake I see former military make is that they don’t see the broader application of this playing out. It’s true that a lot of general public and media stereotypes do proliferate regarding the military. However, I reality (and lesson) I more often see happen is that most civilians grasp and appreciate the military on the basic level of national service. This respect and appreciation endures irrespective of whether or not they have themselves served.

The second mistake I see military applicants make is that they don’t use national service as just a conversation starter and a door opener. The more successful applicants talk about national service and then effectively transition into why it matters and if service is valued by recruiters. This is another lesson, I want to encourage in military applicants who read this blog. Please use the topic of ‘national service’ to bridge the military-to-civilian (M2C) divide by involving other people in the broader conversation of ‘service’.

In closing, do yourself a favor as an applicant. Use national service to your advantage. Use it to open more doors, bridge the M2C divide and involve recruiters in this conversation by drawing upon the parallels of national and local community service.

Next week, I will discuss the competitive advantage teamwork from the ground up and focus on an unlikely sports franchise that lives out the adage there is no “I” in “Team”.  Have a great week and, if you see value in it, please tell all of your buddies about this blog.

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