Hometown Hero: Veteran helps others transition to corporate America

More information:

Boots to Loafers: Finding Your Own True North, www.bootstoloafers.com/

Live the Range Creed, www.livetherangercreed.com/

He’s been a rifleman in combat. And also a machine gunner. And a team leader, the military equivalent of being a middle manager in corporate America.

But does doing such jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan make Grant McGarry, 31, ready for the corporate world?

The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’, said retired Lt. Col. John Phillips, who wasn’t sure until after his own service was up and he landed a job at The Coca-Cola Company.

Phillips, 58, who also has a degree in finance, is now a mid-level executive at Coke and co-founded the company’s Military Veterans Business Resource Group, which is aimed at recruiting and helping vets use their skills in the business world.

A veteran of the first Gulf War, Phillips has written a book on the subject, “Boots to Loafers: Finding Your Own True North,” that’s full of dos and don’t for military people transitioning to today’s civilian workforce.

“A lot of veterans need work, and the numbers are growing,” Phillips said. “We are in the middle of one of the biggest draw-downs since Vietnam. A lot of veterans don’t know where to start in their search.”

When McGarry left the military, he landed a job at Coke, with Phillips’ help, but realized after two years he wasn’t suited to cubicles, so, infused with the company’s entrepreneurial spirit, started Live the Range Creed, a security and firearms training company.

Phillips’ book, which sells for about $20 at major online booksellers, outlines a three-stage process — transition, transformation and integration — and provides advice for each stage.

Topics include how to adjust to the cultural differences between the military and civilian jobs, tips for interviewing, and resume writing. Also, troops in transition ought to seek out individuals who’ve been around the corporate block.

“Always remember you know more than you think you do,” he said. “Also, if you’ve been the service a long time and been successful, you’ll likely have to work at first for someone half your age and who has no idea what you’ve done, and doesn’t care.”

It’s critical for vets to study the “corporate culture” of companies they want to work for, look for veteran-friendly firms like Coke, and then focus on articulating their skills as managers and team members.

Coke’s Veteran Business Resource Group, he said, encourages vets to “broaden their self-image,” and take advantage of the benefits of the post 9/11 GI Bill.

“Military people have all sorts of skills they may not realize,” he said. “Infantrymen, for example, have a lot of competencies they bring to the plate, such as people management, leadership, critical decision making, being able to work with others.”

Phillips said vets looking for jobs should learn to know their skills, and be able to translate what they did in the military to civilians.

“The people listening may not have a clue,” he said. “And they might look at a resume for about three seconds. So you’ve got to spell out what you can do for them.”