As many of us service members know, the time spent at a given rank is the greatest determiner of achieving the next rank. Of course there are meritorious promotions that occur, but in most cases, especially within the higher ranks, one must meet the time requirement associated with their current rank before being promoted to the next rank.
Now that we’ve entered the civilian workforce that time in grade requirement is gone. Or is it?
My first job after leaving the Marine Corps was in logistics at a Fortune 500 company. One day my boss sat me down and said, “We’re ready to promote you, but you haven’t been here the required 18 months.” I nearly choked on my coffee. This incident created an immediate interest in the topic, and I began to delve deeper into how major corporations structure promotions and compensation:
- There is a civilian pay scale. Yup, you thought you got away from the E-4 or O-3 pay grades, but the big companies use a similar pay structure. Most veteran employees know and understand how it works. The good news is that this is once again an example of how military service is similar to civilian employment.
- There is generally a civilian promotion chart. Each role has a certain time in grade/time in service requirement that exists. Now don’t hold me to exact timelines as it can differ from company to company.
- There is a common rank system that the Fortune 500s: Technician, Coordinator, Manager, Director, Vice President, etc.
What this means for you: The good news is that you are used to working in this environment.
The bad news is that if you left the service hoping to get away from this structure, you will want to look for opportunities with organizations with less formalized promotion timelines. Smaller companies will likely be your best bet as they tend to have a less defined process when it comes to pay scale and the timing of promotions.
The more things change, the more they stay the same: As vastly different the military and corporate world may seem, in some key areas, they operate on similar principles. What similarities have you noticed between the military and corporate America?