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Military Principles to Help You Succeed in Your Civilian Career

Candidates in Officer Candidate School salute during the 75th aAnniversary of OCS ceremony at Marine Corps.

There's no reason to ignore what you learned in the military when you transition to the civilian world.

We all reference the easy-to-explain skills we've learned in job interviews, such as discipline and dependability, but you can look more specifically at aspects such as the Marine Corps Principles and Traits.

This is what Marine Corps veteran Nick Baucom did when he left the Corps to start a business. He started a moving business called Two Marines Moving and built it up around these principles and traits.

Anyone can do this -- not just Marines, and not even just veterans. Military principles can apply to all aspects of the civilian workforce.

For example, take the principle, "Be technically and tactically proficient." Consider what sector you want to enter, whether it's for a job or to start a business, and ensure you know the skills. If you want to work as an economist with the federal government, you better start on some statistics and econometrics classes. Want to be an electrician? Get working on those certifications!

You can apply the principle, "Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished," whether you're a business owner, a manager or at the lowest levels of a company. If you're at the supervisor level or higher, your job is to ensure that, when you give a task to someone, they know exactly what you mean. Otherwise, you're bound to be let down and think less of your employee -- while it might actually be (at least partially) your fault. As the employee, you have to think of this from the other side and make sure you ask questions. You might need to take notes and rephrase the task so it is clear on both sides.

If you're looking to follow Baucom's lead and apply the Corps Principles and Traits to your job or business venture, here's a quick refresher:

Be technically and tactically proficient.

Maintain a high level of competence in your military occupational specialty. Your proficiency will earn the respect of your Marines.

Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.

You should know your Marines and how they react to different situations. This knowledge can save lives. Knowledge of your Marines' personalities will enable you, as the leader, to decide how best to employ each Marine.

Set the example.

Set the standards for your Marines by personal example. The Marines in your unit all watch your appearance, attitude, physical fitness and personal example. If your personal standards are high, then you can rightfully demand the same of your Marines.

Keep your Marines informed.

Informed Marines perform better and, if knowledgeable of the situation, can carry on without your personal supervision. Providing information can inspire initiative.

Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished.

Before you can expect your Marines to perform, they need to know what is expected from them. Communicate your instructions in a clear, concise manner, and allow your Marines a chance to ask questions. Check progress periodically to confirm the assigned task is properly accomplished.

Make sound and timely decisions.

Rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. There's no room for reluctance to make a decision, revise it. Marines respect the leader who corrects mistakes immediately.

Train your Marines as a team.

Train your Marines with a purpose and emphasize the essential elements of teamwork and realism. Teach your unit to train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that all Marines know their positions and responsibilities within the team framework.

Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates.

Show your Marines you are interested in their welfare by giving them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and the team.

Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.

Actively seek out challenging assignments for your professional development. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take the responsibility for your actions. You are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do. Stick by your convictions and be willing to accept justified and constructive criticism.

Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities.

Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit's capabilities. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit, but be sure your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission.

For more on how Baucom developed his business and leveraged his military background, read his book On The Move: A Marine's Guide to Entrepreneurial Success.

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