From boots to suits: Transitioning to the corporate world

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Transitioning out of the military can be a difficult and stressful time for service members. Many go back to their hometowns to be with their families, while others find work in the area of their last duty station.

Planning for life after the military is one of the key elements in a smooth transition. For retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Junior Hamilton, this means exchanging his uniform for business attire.

“I decided to join the corporate sector because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get a degree [and] to use my mind to make money that is comparable to what I made as a Marine,” he said.

Hamilton joined the Marine Corps in 1997 and retired as a staff sergeant in 2017. During his time in the Marine Corps, he completed his bachelor’s degree in human resources and business management online.

During his transition, Hamilton came across the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, a 12-week internship in which members work with local companies in the corporate sector four days out of the week, with the final day is set aside for one-on-one feedback and coaching.

Unique Program

“We are a unique intern-to-hire program, because we focus on the service members’ career objectives,” said Sara McNamera, the Corporate Fellowship Program’s director. “This program is highly valuable, because it is focused on the individual and their end goals.”

To enter the program, service members complete an interview with the program manager, then sit down with potential employers to interview for a position. This allows both the employer and employee find the perfect match for the internship, McNamera said. “My job is to find opportunities in the business community to match what the service member’s end goal is in the corporate sector,” she added. “They get real on-the-job training and experience of corporate culture.”

Hamilton interviewed and was accepted for a position at 7-Eleven as a field consultant. He was assigned to oversee operations at about eight stores to ensure that each business ran smoothly.

“I chose 7-Eleven because of the research that I did; the company is really like a family,” Hamilton said. “I also saw that I could bring something meaningful to the organization.”

Leadership Skills

The leadership skills he learned as a Marine are highly sought-after skills in the corporate sector, Hamilton said. “It doesn’t matter if you were an infantryman or an administrative specialist,” he said. “The corporate sector will hire you based on the leadership skills and traits you have acquired from our small-unit leadership experience.”

Over the 12-week internship, Hamilton gained on-the-job training, as well as valuable skills to transition into corporate culture.

“My end goal is to be a human resource manager,” Hamilton said. “I currently have a position as a human resource specialist, but I have a five-year goal within the company: advance to become an HR manager.”

Hamilton has some advice for active-duty service members during their time in the military. “Every experience that you have in the Marine Corps, every certification that you can get, every training that you are able to do, do it,” he said. “Having those experiences will help you immensely in the civilian world.”

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