Inside the Stagecoach
July 2, 2015

A veteran’s advice on transition from military to corporate life

Brian Poole retired from the Army after 21 years and offers tips for veterans making the transition to civilian life — as well as suggestions for managers hiring veterans.

Brian Poole graduated high school on a Friday more than 21 years ago, and was on a bus to basic training for the U.S. Army in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that Sunday. He spent his military career specializing in the avoidance and detection of large-scale chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weaponry threats — and then subsequent decontamination of personnel, if necessary. He saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, also served in Germany and South Korea, and was stationed at five bases in the U.S.

“It was a challenging journey, which included two bronze stars from my time in combat zones,” he says.

In the Army, he says he learned that the definition of good leadership, and a strong team, is the same anywhere. “Traits like honor, integrity, and loyalty are universal.”

Brian Poole when serving overseas.
Brian served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While he was deployed, Brian completed several degrees with Army tuition assistance, and then later through the Post 9/11 GI bill, including an associate of arts in general studies; bachelor’s of science in theology and religion studies; a master of arts in psychology with a concentration in conflict resolution; and a graduate certificate in human resources management.

After he retired from the Army in 2013, he examined his experience and how he could apply it outside of the military. He realized his background in operations management, logistics, and human resources was applicable to the corporate world, and he started applying online for jobs. That’s when he saw a posting at Wells Fargo that he thought was a fit, applied, and was hired.

For the past one-and-a-half years, Brian has worked in HR at Wells Fargo in Phoenix — overseeing personal, administrative, military, and Family Medical Leave Act leaves for team members. “The common thread is the potential for stress in a team member’s life. What I like most is that I get an opportunity to relieve some of the stress. I feel like I’m making a difference,” he says.

Based on his own experiences, he offers five tips for other veterans trying to transition to the corporate world after service:

  1. Have an open mind when you initially make your transition to civilian life. You might not get the job you want, but it will help build on your background and experiences.
  2. Tell your career story by relating your experience to the open position to help prospective employers see the connections between your strengths and their needs.
  3. Don’t have tunnel vision about what you did, or what your rank was, in the military.
  4. Focus on your professional development and set goals.
  5. Take on new, uncomfortable tasks so you can become better at what you do — both during your service and once in a corporate job.

He adds, “For managers, I would stress that — when hiring from the military — use a ‘total person’ approach. Don’t just look at what someone’s job was in the military. Carefully consider candidates’ skills and ability to adapt to change. Keep an open mind, and look for connections.”

Wells Fargo helps veterans translate their military skills into job skills through a tool called Hiring Our Heroes resume translator, which is available via the Careers for Military Veterans page of