Last Updated on September 26, 2021
Job Guide for Veterans
Transitioning from the Military to the Sports Industry
The sports industry can offer incredible career opportunities for individuals who have gained skills and experience through military service. Athletic organizations and the military have a lot in common in terms of expectations for its participants. In order to be successful, you need to be a good leader, be honest, collaborate well, be calm under pressure, and be organized.
The skills that veterans have are in demand in any industry, but this is especially true in sports. John Cody from SportsDegreesOnline.org recently spoke with Cookie Rojas, who has worked in professional sports for a number of years, and was in the Marines for 8 years. Cookie explains that the question he asks when he is “hiring a candidate in any type of position that I’ve been in with sports is, were they a student athlete or were they in the military? The reason why is because both of those roles require significant discipline.” Cookie went on to say that “I believe you get a tremendous amount of discipline and time management and you expect a lot of yourself as a veteran and member of the US Armed Services.” These are the types of skills and habits that translate seamlessly to the sports industry, where candidates who are used to discipline, performance under pressure, and trust in systems are highly sought after.
When considering the skills shared by highly successful members of the military and athletics, there is a great deal of overlap. These shared characteristics can prove to be very beneficial for veterans when applying to jobs in the sports industry. According to Randy Gartz, Vice President of Permanent Placement services for Robert Half International in Menlo Park, California, spoke about this in an interview with Military.com, “Some of the key hiring qualifications requested by employers in today’s market include leadership, perseverance, dedication to continuous improvement and strategic thinking, all of which you learn early and often in athletics.” Gartz also added that “People who have excelled in sports are consistently put in situations that require quick thinking and the ability to comprehend concepts instantaneously, which aids them in accelerating their career,”
Out of the Camo and into the Classroom
There’s no doubt that making the leap from the regimented life as a service member to the less structured one of a student can be difficult. Especially for veterans who have endured a physical injury or mental health consequences from their time in service. The good news is that there are more resources now than ever before to help veterans with the transition back into civilian life. When seeking out programs, the obvious factors to consider first are things like location, cost, and availability. You can take full advantage of SportsDegreesOnline.org’s bachelor’s and masters program listings separated by field of study, but another great tool for vets is the GI Bill Comparison Tool. You can estimate your benefits based on military status, length of service, and filter based on location and academic interests. Also, the VA has published a guide to help veterans choose the school that is best for them. Any gaps between benefits and tuition expenses can be covered by scholarships from the university, local organizations, or programs like the Top Up Program that is specifically built to help ensure as many vets as possible get their tuition taken care of.
Even with all these resources, there’s a chance you may still incur some debt in order to earn a degree. This can be manageable, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid taking out more debt than what you expect for your salary in the first year of working after graduation.
Aside from financial considerations, it can really be a tough adjustment to adapt an academic mindset. Peterson’s, one of the largest education companies in the world, has free resources aimed at helping veterans develop the academic skills they will need to succeed while pursuing their degree. It is all web-based and touches on topics spanning from how to enroll in a university to best practices that will help you succeed academically. The U.S. Department of Education also has the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound (NAVUB) that “is dedicated to fully developing the personal potential of all U.S. military veterans, just as NAVUB is dedicated to fully developing professional staff members.”
Taking Advantage of the Benefits You’ve Earned
Most vets are familiar with the GI Bill (with additional benefits under the post 9/11 Bill). Under this bill, benefits will match 100% tuition up to the cost of the most expensive public state school’s in-state undergraduate tuition. However, if you are interested in attending a private university that is more expensive than the most expensive public option in your state, you can look at the Top Up program to see if you are able to get assistance in bridging that gap.
Of course, there are additional benefits that veterans may qualify for. If you have served 2 years of Active Duty, then you may qualify for the Montgomery GI-Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD). Or, if you are a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, or Air National Guard, there are resources to see exactly which education benefits you qualify for under the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve program.
Leveraging Existing Resources
There are a lot of resources out there to help veterans become gainfully employed. These are funded and sponsored by the federal government as well as the private sector. Military.com did a great job putting together links of 28 resources that you can check out. Here are a few that we find especially helpful:
- Recruit Military – a tool for job seekers and hiring managers to recruit ex-military candidates.
- Veterati – A platform that offers mentorship services with professionals who volunteer their time, and is specifically designed for veterans.
- Wounded Warrior Project (Warriors to Work Program) – Offers services specific to an individual’s needs, supported by donations, making it a free service for veterans.
- Hire our Heroes – Offers veterans assistance in writing resumes, preparing for interviews, and finding a mentor, as well as providing resources to companies to successfully hire, train, and support veterans that they bring onboard.
- Veterans Employment Center – Information and Resources from the VA
- Veterans’ Employment and Training Service – Regularly updated and run by the Department of Labor, providing employment services and resources for service members, veterans, and spouses.
Take Lessons Learned from your service and apply them professionally.
The military instills values on service members like integrity, honesty, and accountability. These are traits that employers are trying to find in a candidate, and likely trying to instill in their own teams. Serving your country also sharpens skills that people may not expect…like the ability to notice things that most others would not and log the relevant information in quickly. When transferring back to civilian life, many vets have pet peeve of their civilian peers not adhering to the same standards of timeliness. This does not need to be negative, but can one hundred percent be turned into a positive. You have the ability to come into an organization and lead by example or by other leadership techniques that you have no doubt gained in your time during your service.
On this topic, Cookie Rojas reflected that “One of the things I learned from the Marine Corps is to always keep pushing forward. Through all the tough and muck, just keep putting your head down and go forward. I always have the thing I tell anyone I work with or my employees or people I supervise, you can do just about anything. Nothing is impossible. If we can put a man on the moon, then we can figure this out. That’s one of the lessons I got from the Marine Corps.” That determination and perseverance no doubt set Cookie apart from his colleagues and allowed him to rise in the ranks of the various organizations he has been a part of.
GI Jobs Magazine – Medium – Interesting insight and articles helping veterans transition to civilian life