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Moving from the Military to a Civilian Career Doesn’t Mean ‘Starting Over’ — I’m Proof | Fairygodboss
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Moving from the Military to a Civilian Career Doesn’t Mean ‘Starting Over’ — I’m Proof
Photo courtesy of Sloane Menkes
Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
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Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers. 

Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.

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Transitioning from the military to a successful civilian career can sometimes be challenging. From hiring managers who may not recognize transferable experience of military achievements to the culture of corporate interviewing processes, veterans seeking employment may find themselves having to adapt to different approaches in order to navigate through job opportunities in the civilian marketplace. 

Fortunately for her, Sloane Menkes found a team at PwC that recognized the benefits of her military background — but she acknowledges that the private sector continues to evolve with recognizing the transferable skills and experience veterans have to offer.

“An industry may underestimate you (as a veteran); don’t let them!” Menkes said. “Don’t let them think you lack business experience, or ‘just fly planes’ or ‘just manage millions in supply chain’... do not let anyone convince you that you are starting over.”

Menkes found a way to transfer her federal background in and passion for cybersecurity to a rewarding civilian career at PwC. Recently, she shared with Fairygodboss her observations about transitioning to a civilian career, including advice to other job-seeking veterans.

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Who: Sloane Menkes    

What: Mid-Atlantic Cyber and Privacy Leader, PwC

Where: Washington, DC

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Can you give us a quick overview of your military and civilian career experience?

After graduating from USAFA, I was commissioned as an Information Systems Configuration Manager for the Office of Special Investigations (“OSI”), which investigated federal crimes, including computer crimes. After I completed my commission, I began a transition to my civilian career.  My interest was to pursue a cybersecurity career, as it felt like a natural extension of some of my military experience and a way to continue learning about this growing, specialized skill. 

I joined PwC’s cybersecurity practice over 21 years ago, after a brief project performing cybersecurity work for a federal agency as a contractor. Joining PwC gave me great opportunities across the full lifecycle of information and cyber security, and how we implement solutions that helps our clients secure their business.  The combination of training, mentoring, certification and skills I continue to learn through work with my colleagues has kept me engaged. I enjoy my career at PwC. 

How has PwC helped to ease the transition into a civilian career, and how have you felt supported working there?

Yes, I am featured in a PwC video on coaching as part of PwC’s #LeadersServeHere campaign, which highlights how the firm played an active role in easing my transition from my military career to a civilian career. PwC has a culture of coaching and mentoring - both formally and informally - that supported me, and, in turn, that I now use as a tool to support others. 

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?

Actually, I would say my agility throughout my career is what I’m most proud of, and working for a firm that supports career development. From continuously enhancing or gaining new skills in cybersecurity early in my career, to focusing on public sector clients, to moving into new areas of cyber forensics and crisis management, and then leading a geographic market for our cybersecurity practice, it has been successful due to my experiences with and support from the firm. 

Do you believe your military background has provided you with unique perspectives or talents that aid your career in professional services? 

Yes, my military experience helped me understand that leadership happens at all levels, even before joining PwC. So, when joining the firm and throughout my 21+ years at PwC, I’ve welcomed the opportunity to continue to develop my leadership skills. I think some people may think leadership starts when you get promoted into management, or make partner. No, leadership happens at all levels and is a continuous learning process.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do at PwC?

 The opportunity to help my client abounds! I focus on cybersecurity, one of the most pressing issues for business today and in the future. In fact, PwC’s purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. I think building digital trust into the transformations our clients are going through is helping them and society, yet only 53% of businesses practice proactive risk management “fully from the start” of their digital transformations.

PwC recently launched a new wellness initiative, Be well, work well.  How has this program helped you and your team?

The concept of a team can be defined in various ways at PwC: it could be your client project team, the team living in the Mid-Atlantic region, or even a solutions-oriented team that is across multiple geographies.  The firm is enabled technologically to stay connected virtually, regardless how “team” is defined.  Here are two examples of how I’ve been personally involved with leveraging the firm’s technology to promote “Be well, work well.”  One team I am on finds ways to help each other laugh daily, while another team commits to take one day a week after work to explore the natural world with a walk or hike during normal commute time. 

Can you share your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other women veterans, who are looking for jobs right now (in general or within the industry of professional services)?

When moving from the military to industry or private sector jobs, starting over is not necessary. Expect some time to adjust to determining and searching what you believe to be applicable job opportunities.  When making the transition of looking for a job, adjust your relevant experience to the opportunity in which you are interested.  Find creative ways to apply what you may have been comfortable doing in the military. But also recognize areas where you may need to upskill or learn more about specific industries. All of these areas are important aspects to consider when transitioning into finding jobs and building civilian careers in industry and the private sector. 

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