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How the Marines Prepared Me to Be a Better Employee

JEFF KARR
Risk Advisor
Corporal, US Marines, 2002-2006

marinesHave you ever heard the term “JJ DID TIE BUCKLE?”  If you’ve ever been in the Marines, I’m sure you have.  For the uninitiated, It’s an acronym for the 13 leadership traits that are instilled in every Marine:

  • Judgement
  • Justice
  • Decisiveness
  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Tact
  • Integrity
  • Endurance
  • Bearing
  • Unselfishness
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty
  • Enthusiasm

It’s those traits that prepared me to be a hard-working, dependable team member (or at least I’d like to think so), regardless of the organization I’m part of.

Now, I’m going to be completely honest here and say that I wasn’t the most hard-working or dependable person when I joined the Marines.  I was your typical high school slacker that thought I knew it all.  Boy, was I wrong!  Thankfully, the Marines are an organization that instills you with the traits and principles to be not only professional, but be a confident leader in every situation – especially when others lives are on the line.

It was a big change to leave the Marines after 4 years and go back to civilian life.  There are some things that are, without a doubt, much better.  For example, I don’t have to be a light sleeper, or walk 15 miles with a 50 pound pack on.  I get up every morning, drive to work, and go about the tasks of the day – solving your wicked problems.  I get to go home every night (or almost every night) and sleep in my own bed – no more setting up tents or sleeping under the stars (although some of the most beautiful nights I’ve ever seen were under the stars in the middle of the desert).  The best part about the whole thing?  No one’s shooting at me, and there aren’t any bombs in the roadway I need to worry about.

I got out of the Marines in 2006, and had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I had 4 years of logistics experience, but no college degree.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find work.  Concerned about paying the bills, I gave my resume to my best friend, a diesel mechanic (there’s nothing wrong with turning wrenches for a living) who in turn, gave it to his boss.  Much to my surprise, I was told that I was overqualified to be a mechanic and he would pass it on to some other companies.  Several days later, I received a call from a large trucking company asking me to come in for an interview.  I remember asking about my education history – I didn’t have a college degree.  The interviewer said something to me that has stuck with me ever since – “you may not have a college degree, but you have life experience – and we’ll take that over a piece of paper any day of the week.”

After thinking long and hard about it, he was right.  My logistics training in the Marines was extremely valuable.  Running airports and seaports across the world, with civilian counterparts – under extremely tight schedules -  gave me the skills to efficiently dispatch trucks and communicate with customers.  Being trained on the latest technology made me a “tech savvy” employee.  Working 18 and 19 hours a day taught me that work doesn’t end at 5 – it ends when the job is done.

It’s a daunting task to spend 4 years in the military and then try and transition back into civilian life.  But have no fear.  There are jobs out there for veterans, and employers are looking to hire you.  There are also veteran’s organizations throughout the country that are willing to help you with your transition.  Remember your training – not only your trade – but also “JJ DID TIE BUCKLE” and you’ll be just as successful in the professional world as you were in the military world.

Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing