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What would be the best path to take for someone trying to use their MBA to find a career working for a Government Contractor? (I.E. Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, etc.)

I am asking because in the country I live in, San Diego, there are numerous government contractors here and looking at the careers offered, there is job security from what I can see. I have been told numerous times that I look like prior military and have the personality for it and am still debating about enlisting as a reservist upon completion of my degree. I would just like some insight as to how I can make the transition into professional development or contracts once I graduate.
#business-development #business-intelligence #business-operations

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Tom’s Answer


Government contractors look for prior military because they bring leadership skills, knowledge, ability to adapt, confidence, and can-do attitude to work. The second reason is military members normally have clearances which can be transferred to new employers and this helps keep the government contractor expenses lower for a new hire. I would agree military officers can bring a higher salary but normally this is based on the experience and years of service. Joining the reserves would help but remember as a military officer often does not select his career path and is a need of the military so getting the type of experience can be difficult at times.

Some employers look at new college graduates GPAs are important but an MBA means you have job experience as well so the GPA means little. Normally, employers will look at the whole person meaning GPA, did they work while going to school, what activities did they perform for the community and how well do they present themselves in the resume.

Lastly, money should not be the only motivator and the career must be what you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy going to work every day, it will impact your life in a negative way. Wish you the best of luck.

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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Alejandro!

My advice as a recent MBA grad breaking into a new industry:

1) Network, network, network. Start with career services and alumni at your school. Look back at alumni from your undergrad institution as well. If any alumni are employed at a firm and in a role you're interested in, reach out and ask if you can talk with them 30 minutes about their work. Take it as an opportunity to learn more about the job and make positive connections that may help you in the future. Have a really tight personal "pitch" that sums up your background, what's important to you, and why you're interested in the industry. (Disclaimer: This is not a time to come right out as ask for a referral or if they can help you get a job...that comes WAY later if you maintain the relationship and your connections seem like can become advocates for you). While you're perusing LinkedIn looking for connections, take note of what paths current employees have taken to their roles and any similarities/differences to your own background. This can be useful context as you have your networking conversations.

2) Take a hard look at your resume and identify the areas that you can improve now before you graduate. My impression is that MBA roles at NG and Lockheed are HIGHLY competitive. You can't do anything now about your GMAT score, but depending on how far you are from graduation, there may be time to boost your GPA. Does your resume showcase leadership in your previous employment and during your MBA? When you say you've been told you have "the personality for it" what does that mean? How can you make sure those "good fit" qualities show up on paper as well as in person?

3) Do a little soul searching--just to be sure. I get it...the main purpose of a job is to make money, be secure, live a decent life. It's even better if we can find a career that fits our personalities. But do you also feel you will have a passion for this? Do you work well with the sort of constraints that come along with government contracting? Can you see yourself doing this for the long haul? As an MBA, you're likely to have a good amount of opportunity, so what makes this industry the perfect fit for you? If you can bring a clear sense of "why this?" to your application and interviews, I think you're more likely to be successful and happy with your choice.

Best of luck!

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Holly’s Answer

Government contractors fill a wide variety of positions. There is good money to be made, and usually job opportunities are available. It's also a great way to get exposure to different government agencies and make connections within those agencies. I would not characterize the large firm environment as granting "job security" however, as I have friends within large consulting firms who have described it as cutthroat to get work. Also, if the firm decides to reduce positions because of a slow market or when a contract ends, you may find yourself out of work temporarily.

I would focus more on the type of work you want to do than picking a work environment at this point. If you have the skills to work at a consulting firm, you can also use those skills in a government agency or in another type of business. Most professionals bounce around between these work environments throughout their career, and you may find one work environment suits you better than another.

Military backgrounds are helpful in the contracting world, particularly for officers. You also receive great training to grow your skill sets. I think that's a fantastic way to prep for a career as a government contractor or any other endeavor, but it certainly is not the only way into a government contracting job and I would not do it if transitioning to government contracting is the only motivation. Bottom line, the best way into this industry (and any job) is still connections. You will also notice large firms are trying to fill specific roles - look at the job descriptions you are interested in and see what skill sets and backgrounds they specify so you have an idea of what you are trying to match. Best of luck!