If you are looking for your first job as you transition from the military and thinking “What is Project Management?” you may need a crash course on the subject.  You may be unaware, but you already are a project manager!  Action officer, training officer, operations planner, commander, platoon sergeant, are all military terms that equate to project manager in the civilian world.  Regardless of your service background, as a military leader you already perform many project management functions daily.  You are probably just unaware of how closely it relates to your military leadership and management work.

After the service, commercial project management is a great career field for you to pursue.  Project management pays well, provides for a definitive career ladder and has a very positive future.  According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the outlook for the Project Management profession has never been better.  Nearly 12 million project management related jobs will be added globally by 2020.  Further, the average salary in the US for project managers with 5 years of experience is nearly $100,000.  For IT project managers, it is even higher and you can expect a 16% bump with the coveted Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification.

Translating Military Experience to Civilian Training

The challenge is getting cross trained, enabling you to compete in the commercial market.   Understanding commercial concepts and terminology is the first step in the cross training.  A great way to start down this path is to relate your military experience to commercial project management.  Performing the study will assist you in certification, increase your confidence, enabling you to apply and interview for project management jobs.

As a translation example and at a high level, projects are missions.  We have all played a role in performing missions.  Getting to mission accomplishment takes a tremendous effort that includes planning, rehearsal, and execution.  Within project management there are five recognized process groups.  Most project management work is going to fall within these common and well understood process groups.  Each one has a military equivalent that you have already been performing.  As an introduction to the Project Management process groups, the following crosswalk is presented:


This is where you develop a project charter.  If you are not aware, the military equivalent is to receiving a warning order.  This is where we try to gain an understanding of the problem.


The most important output of this process group is to develop the project plan, often consisting of many subparts.  This best equates to your military experience in preparing operation orders (OPORD).


This process group is where projects are executed, directed and managed.  In the military, we often call this conducting the mission or exercise.

Monitoring and Controlling

This project management process group enables the monitoring and controlling of project work to include project change control.  The military is famous for performing internal review and performance evaluation.  We adjust our missions and operations using fragmentary orders (FRAGOS).


This is where projects are closed out.  There are many steps involved when you have contracts and perform post project evaluations.  When we ENDEX in the military, we perform similar functions as we participate or lead hot-washes, evaluations, operational reviews and capture lessons learned.

Bottom line, you are already performing project management in the military.  This makes project management a high-value, target rich environment for you to consider.  You may not fully understand the civilian terminology and methodologies, but you will be highly successful once you grasp these concepts and see how your military experience has prepared you for them.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.