When most of us hear the term “financial services,” we think of a bank teller, or maybe someone who knows about the stock market. Plenty of those folks work in this industry, of course, but there are countless other positions that make it run. In fact, the financial services industry probably has more similarities to the military than is obvious.

“Veterans have a sense of service to country before self. In this field we protect our clients and people in our communities with proper financial planning,” says Ciara Salina, senior associate, Field Recruiting Development & Prospecting, New York Life. “Some of the traits that we look for are discipline, commitment, drive, a willingness to be coached and motivation. Veterans typically possess these traits and qualities, which is why I look for them.”

And no, you don’t necessarily have to know a lot about money to be successful in this field, although a willingness to learn about it (and how to manage it) certainly helps.

Read on to learn more about veterans who have made the transition to the civilian financial services industry.

Chief Petty Officer Michael Mendelsohn

Partner, New York Life

What do you do? I’m a recruiter for New York Life. My job is to recruit, train, develop and retain the next generation of financial advisors for the company.

What surprised you about the civilian workforce? With the job I took at New York Life, it was 180 degrees different from the military. The military was very regimented – I have a lot more freedom in my civilian work schedule. I spent 20 years being told where to be and how to act; it was a very big difference in the civilian world.

What’s the coolest thing about your job? The impact I have on so many families, individuals and business owners’ lives on a daily basis.

What’s the biggest challenge? Trying to get people used to the idea of running their own business and not having a 9 to 5 salary mentality.

Advice for transitioning service members? Keep all your options open. Just because you’re an IT person doesn’t mean you can only work in the IT field. You never know what kind of opportunity may be out there if you just keep an open mind.

Age: 45
Military Service:
Chief Petty Officer (E-7), Navy (1991-2011)
Rating: Electrician
Bachelor’s degree, management and criminal justice, Excelsior College, 2011

First Lieutenant Michael Hartle

Business and Quality Analyst – Leadership Development Program, SEI

Age: 40
Military Service: First Lieutenant (O-2),
Army/Army Reserve (2002-Present)
MOS: Adjutant General (42B)
Education: MBA, Drexel University, 2015

What do you do? I work on creating and defining functional and technical requirements for software development on the SEI Wealth Platform, following current financial industry requirements and best practices. I work with strategic planning groups on creating future plans and software improvements, as well as improving development structures and corporate innovation.

How did you get this job? I was introduced to the position through a networking event at Drexel University while I was enrolled in my MBA program. I discussed it with a friend who interned with SEI and was ultimately offered a full-time position.

What didn’t work in your search? Utilizing job boards and applying blindly to everything I found.

Any funny incidents during your first days on the job? It initially felt strange to not stand up at attention and salute at the end of meetings. I also waited around the first week for everyone else to get up and get lunch before getting used to everyone doing it whenever they felt like it. 

What’s the coolest thing about your job? Food truck Thursdays and no cubicles.

Sergeant Marc Mehling

Manager, KTT Call Support/KBO Enrollment/Key2Purchase Call Support, KeyBank

What do you do? I’m in charge of onboarding and enrolling the clients who are part of our corporate call teams.

How long before separation did you begin your job search? About four or five months. I’d been working in my family’s business but I didn’t want to work with family anymore, so I was looking. I had enough in my savings to tide me over during my search, so the timing worked perfectly.

What didn’t work in your search? Before I separated there was someone who came in to speak to the unit about transitioning, but the person wasn’t very helpful. She said my résumé was fine, but when I had others look at it, they said it wasn’t very effective. I posted it on job sites and that didn’t really help me. I attended a career fair for KeyBank and spoke to a recruiter who knew I was a veteran and determined I was a perfect fit for this job. Actually, speaking to a person really helped.

What surprised you about the civilian workforce? The transition wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Everybody talks about corporate America and how brutal it is. When I came aboard it was just like being in the Army. I had to follow the chain of command – it wasn’t a big transition for me because it was what I was used to. I noticed more similarities than differences.

Age: 28
Military Service:
Sergeant (E-5), Ohio Army National Guard (2009-Present)
MOS: Heavy Machine Operator (12N)
Education: Bachelor’s degree, corporate finance, University of Akron, expected 2017

Staff Sergeant Ashley Schultz

Internal Wholesaler, Athene USA

Age: 33
Military Service: Staff Sergeant (E-6),
Army Reserve (2003-2006) (2009-Present)
MOS: Military Police (31B)
• Associate degree,
Des Moines Area Community College
• Series 6 and Series 63 Licenses
Health and Life Insurance Licenses

What do you do? I work with financial advisors to establish and build strong partnerships. I assist with the build of our broker-dealer channel primarily through proactive and direct contact to assigned financial advisors to consult on Athene annuity products, services and resources. I partner with my regional vice president in my assigned region to generate sales by prospecting and relationship building.

Why did you choose this career path? Luckily, I actually fell into this field and instantly fell in love with it. A girlfriend was leaving her marketing consultant position at a financial company and I interviewed for her job. My boss and I instantly clicked and it was the best decision I could have made for entering the civilian world. It was a job in the corporate world, but it was a small office of six located in a corporate building in downtown Des Moines. I felt comfortable and welcomed. It was in that position that I was able to obtain my Series 6 and 63, as well as my health and life license.

What didn’t work in your job search? I didn’t have a plan for when I moved back to Iowa. I stayed with my parents until I did have a full-time job. I was winging it and didn’t understand a job wasn’t just going to fall into my lap. I went into it thinking, “I’m a veteran, of course I’ll find a job” and not taking into consideration that I had a very specific skill set that wasn’t going to translate into the corporate world easily.

Staff Sergeant Andrew Robinson

Sales and Trading, Academy Securities Inc.

What do you do? Develop relationships with corporations so that when they have a deal in the capital markets they invite our firm to participate. 

How did you get your job? Through a referral from a friend.

How long before separation did you begin your job search? I was injured and had to go to rehab. I was in the hospital for about seven months, then did a lot of additional rehab with my job for about nine more months. I started work in 2012.

Advice for transitioning service members? Start the job search process as early as possible. Take your blinders off – you’re probably much more capable (or on par) with your civilian counterparts. You can do anything – start thinking about your skills. I’m doing finance – it’s nothing like anything I’d ever done before. I work hard and don’t take no for an answer. If you have those basic skills, don’t give up. There are certain jobs that have a steeper learning curve and you may not be able to jump into them right away, like a heart surgeon, but you can do most any civilian job.

Age: 33
Military Service:
Staff Sergeant (E-6),
Marine Corps (2001-2007)
MOS: Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Collection (0211)
Education: Bachelor’s, intelligence studies, American Public University, 2013