Considering an MBA After Military? Why Veterans Make Incredible Business Leaders

lawyer typing on laptop

Business is a race for survival. Some companies find safety in the middle of the pack. Others make a mad dash for the front, heads down against the elements. Many unfortunate ones fade into the background, outpaced and outperformed at every turn. And it’s not just a race against each other, either. Every business must face the fickle, unstoppable force that is today’s economy.

One thing defines where a business places in this unrelenting race: leadership. Whoever’s holding the reins needs to understand the intricacies of business administration, but that’s only part of the formula. They must also must be decisive, adaptable, resilient, and inspirational — qualities often embodied perfectly by members of the US Armed Forces.

If you’re a veteran or will soon be separating from your branch of the military, plunging headlong into the business world probably seems intimidating. But a veteran who pursues a Master of Business Administration degree, or MBA, after military separation is more than equipped to not just handle the pressures of running a business, but to lead their teams to excellence in every industry.

Not sure if you’re cut out for business leadership or for becoming an entrepreneur? Here are six ways you as a veteran may be more ready for it than you think.

6 Tips for Student Veterans

1. Veterans Are Disciplined

Your time in the military was all about the details. In basic, you were expected to be on time, not a second late. Your bed was to be neat, your uniform spotless, and your mind at full attention. Later in your career, you had to be at your post no matter the weather or your mood. Work ethic and attention to detail were a part of your daily life.

According to a survey conducted by the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), the vast majority of corporate recruiters value those attributes more than technical skills. They don’t just want people who can do their jobs. They want people who will always do their jobs dependably — people who hold themselves to high standards.

As a veteran, those attributes have been ingrained in you. Pursuing an MBA after military service can certainly help you become a smart business leader, but your dedication to doing the job right every time can help you get your foot in the door. And if you’re planning on rising through the ranks of a huge corporation, having a strong work ethic can set you apart from your peers.

2. The Military Teaches Specific Technical Skills

Though technical skills aren’t at the top of the NACE’s survey, 67% of corporate recruiters report that it’s something they want to see on a resume. So if your MBA after military plans involve working in a specific and highly-technical industry, your MOS could help you secure the job.

Some MOSs are more obviously related to business administration than others. For instance, financial management technicians and human resources specialists can probably find jobs in just about any industry. However, other MOSs can help veterans start successful careers after the military, as well.

A unit supply specialist might want to investigate administrative jobs in the supply chain management sector. If you were an IT specialist, your knowledge about computer network operations could help you become an IT manager in the private sector. Food service, maintenance, and medical specialists of all kinds can also use their military experience to find jobs in relevant industries.

soldiers in data center

Even if you have trouble relating your MOS to business administration, it’s still a relevant experience. You worked on a team, helped complete large-scale projects, and proved your ability to learn new skills quickly. If you pair that experience with getting an MBA after military separation, you can be armed with the technical skills and managerial knowledge needed to succeed in today’s corporate environment.

3. Service Members Are Trained To Be Flexible

People with no military experience often see service members as rigid and inflexible. They think of the classic bulldog drill sergeant character who wants everything done their way. But that stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth.

While you probably had a very specific role during your time in the service, you were also trained to adapt. You had to be ready to deploy to different parts of the world, take on new jobs as needed, and accomplish tasks when you were undersupplied. In short, you had to be quick on your feet. That quality could serve you well as a business executive or in any post-military career you choose.

You’re ready to lead your team in new directions when plans don’t work out. If certain departments need more help than others, you’re comfortable jumping between them as needed. Pursuing an MBA after military separation can give you specific business knowledge, but your military experience can help you become the dynamic leader any team would love to call their own.

4. Veterans Know How to Work as a Team

Members of the Armed Services know (or quickly learn, at least) that nothing is a one-person show. Everything from payroll distribution to payload maintenance is a team effort. When one person slacks off or fails to communicate, things go south quickly for the individual and the unit as a whole.

Teamwork is just as vital to business as it is to military operations. In fact, Forbes magazine lists not having the right team as one of the top reasons small businesses in America fail. In their analysis of corporate surveys, they found that CEOs of failed companies wished they’d had a partner to balance them out. Some said they didn’t have the right blend of people to get their businesses off the ground.

In your military career, that kind of total failure was often not an option. And if it was, it would come with catastrophic consequences. Your ability to overcome challenges through teamwork and communication could not only help you cement your place in one of the world’s biggest businesses, but empower you to open your own business and actually keep it together.

5. They Also Know How to Step Up as Leaders

Successful leadership is all about knowing when and how to direct your team. Having served under countless leaders in the military, veterans have the advantage of seeing how effective or ineffective different leadership styles are in the real world. Many will even have experience using different leadership styles themselves.

Though military and business leadership styles are slightly different, they follow the same basic principles. Some of the most common leadership styles in both contexts include:

  1. Autocratic leadership. With this style, the leader gives directions and expects their subordinates to follow them.
  2. Democratic leadership. Democratic leaders let subordinates help them make decisions.
  3. Delegative leadership. This is a type of leadership that relies on allowing your team to do their jobs without micromanagement. You direct and help them if necessary but trust them to get positive results.
  4. Transformational leadership. Transformational leaders are mentors. They help subordinates find new advancement opportunities and encourage them to become leaders themselves.
  5. Strategic leadership. High-ranking executives are often responsible for making company policy. They set the course for the future and think about the big picture.

Online job board Flexjobs found that 56% of workers who quit their jobs in 2021 did so because of poor management. So business leaders who can change their leadership style to suit any situation are key to guarding profits, workplace productivity, and overall company satisfaction.  A veteran who pursues an MBA after military separation is a great candidate for that role.

They’ve served with autocratic drill sergeants, transformational academy instructors, and strategic high-ranking officers. And with an education in the finer points of business administration, they’re ready to put those tactics to use in the boardroom.

6. Veterans Are Resilient Under Pressure

On the surface, business administration seems pretty uneventful. You go to meetings, send emails, review paperwork, and carry out the daily duties associated with your specific role. But in between those calm days, there’s plenty of tension to deal with, the kind of tension veterans who get an MBA after military separation are built to withstand like no one else.

Outside of your company, supply chain problems and economic downturn can put your business at risk for failure. Internally, different teams might argue over how to solve those problems or approach negotiations with contractors. Your company’s goals get lost in the chaos as everyone panics and scrambles.

But in those scenarios, veteran business leaders can excel for two reasons.

First, business leaders who were officers know how to make logical decisions in the face of adversity. They can weigh the pros and cons, consider all outcomes, and do so quickly. While their coworkers might be paralyzed at the thought of making the wrong decision, executives with military experience stay focused on moving forward.

The second reason is best summed up by a phrase passed between Navy SEAL officers: “Calm is contagious.” So along with making smart decisions when things look grim, veteran business leaders can remain outwardly calm. They’re rocks for their teams to hold on to and examples of discipline to follow. When you inspire your team to stay level-headed, your company can survive even the most difficult situations.

Start Your Path to Becoming a Veteran Entrepreneur

Every business needs strong leadership. They need executives that can make quick yet informed decisions, overcome insurmountable odds, and, most importantly, lead by example. Who better to fill that role than our country’s veterans, people who understand teamwork and leadership better than perhaps anyone else?

If you’re thinking about pursuing an MBA after military separation, research your business career options and find out how to make your military education benefits and experience work for you. Whether you want to start your own business or help an existing company become an industry-leading enterprise, earning a Master of Business Administration can help you bring your military training to any industry you choose.