Executive Feature, Insights

How Veterans Can Find a Civilian Job, According to a Former Marine & Million-Dollar Sales Rep

Mike Hansen knows it’s not easy to transition from the military to the private sector. In fact, he knows better than most — Hansen has done it twice. After leaving the military in 2007, Hansen landed a job working for the CEO of an insurance company. But when the market crashed he found himself in the job hunt again and ended up returning to the Marines within a year.

After his second military stint, Hansen finished his education studying International Security and Conflict Resolution before going onto graduate school for Statecraft and National Security Affairs. But by the time he graduated, the market still hadn’t totally recovered.

“Companies weren’t sponsoring government clearances at the time, so I couldn’t really work in my area of expertise. I was bartending full-time, going to grad school full-time and sleeping on a buddy’s couch full-time trying to make it happen,” Hansen shares.

Obstacles aside, Hansen couldn’t be kept down for long. After finding a sales opportunity at Power Home Remodeling, he went from couch surfing to closing $1 million in deals within 12 months. He soon realized how much being in the military prepared him for corporate success — and he began to brainstorm how Power could bring more veterans into the company. Today, as National Director of Military Affairs at Power Home Remodeling, Hansen has made it his mission — and his full-time job — to help others like him.

Glassdoor’s Emily Moore caught up with Hansen to learn more about his career journey, advice for job-seeking veterans and vision for the future of the company — here’s what he had to say.

Glassdoor: It sounds like your initial post-military job search was pretty discouraging.

Mike Hansen: Absolutely, especially with the responsibility I had in the military — it was a pretty complicated and technical job. I found it extremely frustrating because the first time I transitioned I didn’t have that degree that everyone had, even though I’d been operating as a department section leader for a long period of time. The second time I transitioned, I had the degree and I was in grad school, but I was being passed over for these younger candidates with no real-world experience. It was very frustrating with all the time and all the success and awards I had earned in the military.

Glassdoor: How did the opportunity with Power Home Remodeling come about?

Mike Hansen: It actually kind of fell in my lap. One of the Marines I served with a few years before I joined Power started working in our Philadelphia branch, so he referred me to the local one outside of DC. I figured I’d go in for the interview and see where it went. I had no intention of working in this industry — I never thought I would be with a company like this given what I wanted to do. I was completely clueless, but ended up finding success rather quickly within the organization.

Glassdoor: After going through your job search, what lessons did you take away, and what would your advice be to other veterans who might be looking to transition?

Mike Hansen: I think the number one thing to recognize is that the resume doesn’t get you the interview. Usually, your relationships and networking with people are what gets you the interview, and then your resume can push you across the line. Having certifications and academic degrees are important, but I think every job I’ve ever had in my entire life was because somebody connected me to the right person. I think so many people — especially veterans who are transitioning — focus so much on the resume, the job title, what they’ve done before, what they’re looking to do, and they don’t put enough time into developing relationships and networking with the right people to get that interview opportunity.

Glassdoor: Are there any groups that you think are doing a great job of helping veterans network and connect with the right people?

Mike Hansen: Most colleges will have a student veteran office, and that’s a conduit to other organizations that know businesses and opportunities in the area — that would be my number one. Number two would be to find some of the different transition workshops that are put on by organizations such as the Travis Manion Foundation. Another big one would be Hire Heroes USA. There are also a couple of military internship programs that the Chamber of Commerce puts on that you can sign up for and go through as you’re transitioning. That’s something that Power Home Remodeling has actually partnered with them on — we are on our second cohort of interns from the Chamber.

Glassdoor: Let’s go back to when you first started at Power Home Remodeling. What was that like?

Mike Hansen: After the shock factor of not being in the military anymore subsides, it’s all about how quickly you can apply the skills that you developed in the military. That application phase is the biggest differentiator of success — if veterans can really focus on understanding, “I bring all these attributes, now it’s just about applying them to a different environment,” they can find proficiency more quickly.

Glassdoor: What were some of the transferable skills that you were able to apply in order to succeed?

Mike Hansen: Number one, adaptability. We’re always moving, and the mission’s always changing. Being able to operate on your feet is always good in a corporate environment. The other one is being really task- and mission-oriented. Once a military person has a target that they can define, it’s much easier to create the steps in between because they’ll just go figure it out.

Glassdoor: Do you credit the skills you learned in the military with helping you become a million-dollar sales rep?

Mike Hansen: I definitely think some of my success came from navigating people and relationships in the military. One thing I found at Power was that anybody is willing to help if you just say you need it. I was able to create a group of mentors and high-performing peers very quickly that forced me to grow faster.

Glassdoor: What made you start thinking about recruiting more veterans to Power Home Remodeling?

Mike Hansen: I met a couple other vets across the business that were doing pretty well, and we found that most of us were doing not just well, but disproportionately well. I wrote a couple of white papers out to the chain of command saying, “Hey, we should have a more defined military initiative.” Then in 2015, our organization won Fortune Magazine’s number one place to work for Millennials and for camaraderie — that was a real jump-off point. At that point, I got to meet with our co-CEO, Asher Raphael, and found that he wanted to do a military program and just didn’t know how. We felt that on the heels of that award, it was a really good time to launch this initiative. We set up a military affairs council, and we put together some ideas and thoughts of what we could do and what our objectives would be, and we just started iterating from there. Very quickly after that, we realized that someone would have to manage this full-time, and that’s when Asher asked me to move up to the headquarters and build the program there.

Glassdoor: How has the program changed and grown since then?

Mike Hansen: We started out thinking we were just going to offer a bonus and do some military-focused hiring. The more we dove in, we saw how our program aligned with the business objectives, and we started iterating and kept evolving our processes. One of the things that’s so unique is we’re able to tie the metrics of our initiative to the actual business growth, which then creates a positive feedback loop. Now, we want to double-down on some of our investments. A big goal for me is leadership development, because it’s one thing to build this program and to successfully identify, attract and onboard new talent, but when we have more veterans in Director, VP or Senior Vice President roles, military talent and leadership becomes part of the genetic makeup of the organization. That creates that positive feedback loop that just runs itself.

We actually have this joke in the business, even our co-CEO got me a T-shirt at our company party in Mexico last year that said, “Get Hansen Fired.” The idea is that my job is complete when I’m no longer needed. We’re trying to continue to build this cycle of leadership development so that more of that group will continue to take the business into the future without needing a dedicated department.

Want to work at a company where veterans are actively sought out and celebrated? Learn more about Power Home Remodeling here.

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