6 Reasons Intelligence Veterans Make Good Digital Marketers

I'm a veteran and I spent half my adult life in the military working in the intelligence field. Because of that, I know the skills needed to excel in that field. I also know those skills can be easily transferred to work in web marketing with just a little training and "unlearning" of some military habits.

Forget Hollywood
When I write "Intelligence Veteran" it may conjure up in some of your minds images of "cloak and dagger," "Bourne Conspiracy" or "Hunt for Red October" stuff. That's not the type of intelligence work I'm referring to; the stuff of legends and Hollywood. I'm referring to the day to day routine of taking information and working it out so it's useful to someone else. Let's start there and go over my list of six reasons why intelligence veterans make good web marketers.

1. They know how to do analysis
Do you do analytics on your web site logs? If not, why not?  When you look at your web stats as displayed in Google Analytics or WebTrends, do your eyes glaze over and your mind go numb? Don't feel bad if this happens, it happens to a lot of people.
But, what if you could hire someone to whom you could pose questions about your web statistics and have them give you back answers which makes sense to you? That's something an intelligence vet can help you with. They are trained to take pieces of information and put them together in an intelligible fashion. This alone is worth the salary of a good employee.

2. They can communicate
Intel vets are excellent communicators. Their jobs required them to be. They are also very good at tailoring their message to a specific audience. In business, this means they can quickly adapt a message and tailor it to everyone from a casual customer to a C-level executive.
Most of these vets will have quite a bit of experience speaking in front of audiences large and small. Many people shy away from public speaking, while the intel vet is someone who most likely already has proven ability in this area.

3. They can write
While the style of writing the military favors is not necessarily the best for business, it's certainly better than bad writing. Intel vets are well-trained and quite adept at writing. They can be brief and to-the-point (Twitter, anyone?) as well as longer and more detailed (bloggers?). They may need to "unlearn" some things from the military writing style manual, but by and large they are effective communicators via writing.


4. They are used to working in teams
In the military, no one works in a vacuum. Everyone learns to work with people from different cultures, ethnicities and personalities. There is no room for those who are not willing to work as part of a team. From day 1 in military training, not working as a team brings swift rebuke (and sometimes a lot of push ups).


For intel vets this is doubly so. They were often required to work in teams across many areas of expertise, sometimes with people from other military services or even from other nations' military services. This helps them learn to work effectively, diplomatically and with great tact and tenacity to accomplish the mission at hand. They are often forced to learn how other people do their jobs in order to work better within the team.

5. They can adapt quickly to change
One thing mentioned throughout the movie "Heartbreak Ridge" was the ability to "adapt and overcome" to accomplish the mission at hand no matter what the opposition. This ability is central to any successful military career.


As quickly as things change in the web world, it's good to have someone who can adapt to those changes quickly and efficiently. For example, Twitter and Facebook may be hot things now, but what will be next? It's great to have someone who can spot trends and learn new tools quickly. An intel vet is someone who has the potential to do this very well.


6. They can stick to a mission and work through to accomplish it
This is an excellent skill for short term projects. You won't find too many people who are better at sticking to a task and taking it through to success. You won't often hear an intel vet say "that's not my job."

Another thing people learn in the military is continuity and succession. People stay in one place for a for a few years and have to pass the mission on to someone else. This means they can teach and pass on the skills and knowledge they have to others who are coming along behind them. Far too often, this valuable skill is overlooked because we only see just to what's immediately in front and not what lies beyond.

Many of my former colleagues went on to become attorneys, teachers, entrepreneurs and (of course) web professionals. Whether they excel at what they do because they are just wired that way or because of the training they received in the military I don't know for sure. Perhaps it's a combination of both. It doesn't really matter - they do excel. My encouragement for anyone looking to hire a web professional is: if you see a reference to service in the Military Intelligence field in a resume, definitely give that person a close look and an interview. Chances are they will be exactly who you need to get the job done.

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