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Veteran Transition Story: Mike Swails

Parker Hannifin asked veterans about their experiences transitioning to the civilian job world -- below are some thoughts on transition from Marine Corps veteran Mike Swails. Do you have any thoughts on your own experiences you want to share for your fellow veterans' benefit? Feel free to sound off here.

Before getting to the meat of this comment, let me qualify myself. I come from a blue collar, military family. I was born into the Army because my father was in combat in Vietnam on the day of my birth. He was still in the Army when he signed to authorize me to join the Marines when I was seventeen. Furthermore, every man in my family as far as I can trace has been in the military, though my father is the only one who served long enough to retire.

That being said, one might think that there is a grand cultural difference between the military life that I grew up knowing and a job in private business. That would be correct, by the way. There is a very large difference in the culture of the companies I’ve worked for since separating from the Marines in 1991, and my beloved Marine Corps.

Now, here comes the advice. Take it for what value you perceive it to be if you are seeking employment after your honorable service to this great country.

Don’t expect hand-outs simply by virtue of the fact that you are prior military. I certainly believe that you should be given an interview simply by virtue of your military experience, but that is beyond your control. Expecting anything more, in my humble opinion, would be dishonorable to you and to others who have served. Furthermore, the hand out might get you in the door, but it won’t help you keep a job. Regardless of why you are initially hired, you still have to produce. The fact that you were prior military, by my account, means that you potentially come with certain skills and behaviors that are beneficial to a private company. I am fortunate to work for a company that does an outstanding job hiring top talent, and I routinely see these same skills, which I’ll get to in a minute, exhibited by both prior military and non-military employees with whom I work on a daily basis.

My point here is that you’ve been given an invaluable education in teamwork, dedication and unselfish leadership, which are skills learned only through the typical hard lessons of military life; or as those non-military civilians I work with, simply through excellent leadership and their own emotional intelligence to pick up on queues of a successful team. Your challenge is to recognize these military traits, those beneficial as a civilian and those not, and play to the strengths and refine the weaknesses.

Let’s face it, today the average American is very thankful for the service of our vets. This is truer today than any other time in my life. But as honorable servicemen and women, let’s not take advantage of that fact. Be proud of your military experience and continue your honorable service to this country by being a good and exceedingly productive member of society.

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