Perspectives shared by Z Street Consulting CEO, Alexandra Minor.
Supporting military veterans transitioning to federal consulting is something close to my heart because I used to be one of them. I have learned a great deal through my own shift from Active Duty Army in 2009, and to this day I continue to receive excellent advice from mentors and colleagues who have been generous with both their time and perspectives.
What I have learned over the years is that changing careers can be a daunting task, especially for veterans who enter competitive industries such as federal consulting. Employers want to recruit and retain top talent, which makes it is even more imperative for veterans to successfully translate, align and communicate their valuable military and leadership skills into business acumen for emerging staffing needs. It can be difficult to know where to start in this lengthy process, but thankfully there are resources and best practices available to guide you. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of advice to support your next professional transformation:
1. Resume Refinement.
Resume bullets pulled directly from OERs and NCOERs can be confusing for non-veterans, particularly when the resume is inundated with acronyms and military jargon. Oftentimes the best approach for translating your military skills and accomplishments is to follow a structure that clearly states the activity you performed and then the quantifiable impact of your actions. If you are at a loss for how to translate your valuable leadership and technical skills, view job postings of target companies to identify civilian terms that align with your military accomplishments. Continue to refine your resume through peer reviews, to include non-veterans and those already in the federal consulting industry. You will likely have to perform several iterations of changes, but rest assured that this hard work will not only help you translate your accomplishments on paper but will enable you vocalize them during interviews.
2. Case Interview Prep.
A case interview in federal consulting is a job interview in which the candidate is asked to solve a business situation or challenge faced by a federal agency. Case interviews are used to assess the candidate’s analytical skills, problem-solving techniques, understanding of the industry, and ability to handle stress. Not all federal consulting firms use case interviews, so you will need to determine if your target companies follow such a practice. Even if you know you will not be faced with case interview questions, understanding common case method frameworks can broaden your understanding of management consulting and prepare you to address challenges faced by your future clients. One of the most heavily used preparation books is “Case In Point” by Mark P. Cosentino, which provides excellent frameworks and scenarios studied by the consulting clubs of top MBA programs.
3. Certifications and Training.
As you narrow down your job search and solidify your interests for a future a career, I encourage you to utilize the charitable education, training, and certification programs available to veterans. Make sure you understand your benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration, which may include tuition assistance, licensing and certification coverage, and training program support. Some highly sought after certifications in federal consulting include the Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM), Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM), and Lean Six Sigma certifications. These resume builders will help you stand out when you apply for specific experienced hire opportunities. Private sector companies are also starting to offer training programs to qualified veterans, such as SAP’s information technology training called the Veterans to Work Program.
4. Research, Research, Research.
The federal management consulting space is filled with small, medium, and large firms that provide government clients with a very wide variety of professional services. If you want your next job to be your professional home for a while, take the time upfront to narrow down your search based on distinguishing criteria, such as size, core capabilities, and sector (e.g. defense, intelligence, health, and civilian agencies). Pinpoint connections in your network to hear firsthand perspectives about your target companies, gain access to recruiters, and, if possible and appropriate, receive an employee referral.
5. Pay It Forward.
As you launch your new civilian career, remember to make yourself available for veterans in your network who are approaching a similar job change. Our uniquely supportive community will continue to thrive if we recognize our role as mentors as well.
To learn about career opportunities at Z Street Consulting, visit http://z-st.co/1E5jG85.