Veteran Reality Check #1: It’s All About Profit

building_money_scaffolding_1600_clr_9834By Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP

Are you a Military Veteran attempting to transition to a civilian career? You need to get one thing straight in your mind – For civilian employers, the hiring decision is all about profit. That’s the harsh reality, and the quicker you grasp that, the quicker you will find employment.

That may sound like a broad generalization, because a hiring decision is definitely a multi-criteria decision analysis with the goal of finding the exactly correct round peg to fit in the round hole the employer needs to fill. While there are many factors that influence the employer’s decision, the fundamental underlying motivation is how much profit potential does each candidate represent to the organization. Think about it – why would an employer pay you $75,000 per year, plus benefits, if the work you do for them is not going to generate more than $75,000 per year?

The truth is that they can’t afford to pay you a dime if the work you do does not directly or indirectly contribute to generating the money it takes to pay your salary and benefits, plus a profit for the company.

Employers don’t hire you because they like you, feel sorry for you, respect your military service, or any other lofty philanthropic ideals. They need work done to satisfy their organizational mission and that mission usually revolves around generating enough revenue and controlling costs to create profit. Money is the lifeblood of any organization, even non-profits. About the only exception I can accept to this idea is working for the government, which is typically not concerned about profit, unless the agency is supported by user fees. However, the government is certainly concerned about controlling cost, at least at the agency level, so much of the same thinking applies to you if seeking a government job.

So, what do you do with this knowledge and how does it help you get employed?


When you present yourself to an employer, remember that you represent a value package to them that should be worth more than you expect in salary and benefits. Make sure that your value package is significantly better than what any other candidate is offering. Now, you don’t know exactly who your competition is for each job, so you must make sure that you bring you’re A-game on every application, resume, networking opportunity, and interview that you engage in. You MUST quantify your value to the organization in a tangible way by having a professional resume that clearly articulates how much money you have made or saved previous employers…and yes, you did that in the military.

Don’t think for a minute that what you did in the military did not have a monetary impact. You may have been mission-focused, and not concerned or knowledgeable about where the money was coming from, but your actions had a direct impact on cash flow for your branch of service. Think about how your actions streamlined some process or prevented some mistake or cut down on the number of spare parts required – these are all examples of you controlling costs for the military, which equates in a civilian employer’s mind as saving money which increases profit. Quantify these events on your resume and in your job interviews in dollar amounts and it will go a long way to presenting the value employers need to hear. It may require some research, but using dollar amounts to represent your military work is far superior to documenting how many medals you received or what billets you held.

And, the fun doesn’t stop once you convince an employer to hire you. That’s when you actually have to prove that you are helping to generate profit for them; and if you don’t, you won’t have that job for very long.

True story: When I had my first job as a civilian Project Manager, my boss asked me one time how much revenue I had generated for the company since I took over the project. I wasn’t prepared to answer that because I didn’t work in sales or business development, so I asked what he meant. He explained that it was my job to sell extra services by doing such a great job on my project that the customer wanted to exercise contract options or hire the company for new work. If I couldn’t trace additional customer revenue back to my efforts, then I was not earning my paycheck. Not long after that, as my project was coming to an end, my boss let me know I should put out resumes to other companies because they didn’t have another project to put me on; and that’s how I lost my job. I learned the hard way that I better start generating profit for my employer or they can’t afford to pay me and will find someone that represents more value than I do.

It doesn’t matter what you have done in your past; employers only care about what they believe you can do for them in the future…with profit as the key metric.

Tim Dalhouse, MBA, PMP is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant who stumbled into a civilian career as a Project Manager and found it a perfect fit. He now makes it his mission to help other Veterans obtain the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credentials, and help DOD agencies & contractors increase their organizational project management maturity. He’s trained over 500 students around the country to master and apply the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) for consistent, real-world success. Email: Website: is

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