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How a Career in the Navy Prepared Me for the Corporate World

Your next professional opportunity could come from anywhere, are you ready for it?

Originally published by OZY on January 18, 2018.

As simple as it may seem, I believe you’re either born with the call to serve or you’re not. The pride in service runs deep in my family, as nearly every generation has served in the military, with representation in every branch. I knew the only future for me upon graduating from Hamilton College was to become an officer in the Navy.

Between my father’s stories of his time spent in the Marine Corps, military movies and various sports coaches’ “motivation,” I thought I knew exactly what to expect when I began military training. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although physical training was a large part of joining the Navy, the environment was quite cerebral, with a main focus on leadership development. The skills I learned in those three months helped me excel as an intelligence officer, leading teams of incredible analysts in some of the most complex situations.

I absolutely cherished my experience in the Navy and thought I’d stay in for 30 years. But in 2013, I met my wife Becky, now an Army Major, and we proceeded to live apart for two years, trying to make our dual-military family work. During that time, advice from a wise Navy Chief resonated with me: “the Navy won’t keep you warm at night.” Despite trying our hardest to sync our careers, I knew I wanted to spend more time with my wife.

I left the Navy in 2015 and moved to West Point where Becky would be teaching English. As she finished her Master’s degree, I spent full “work days” trying to find a job, which became increasingly discouraging. After a few months I was finally offered a lifeguard position at the Military Academy; I guess they figured that if I had been in the Navy, I could probably swim. To be honest, being out of work was tough and my ego took a hit—feeling useless is a terrible, terrible thing. Becky, being one of my biggest champions, insisted I aim higher and set my sights on New York City.

That is how I ended up at JPMorgan Chase. As a Vice President on the Global Intelligence Team under Global Security & Investigations, I evaluate worldwide threats and advise our employees about safety.

Transitioning to the civilian workforce was easy, however the hardest part was filling out my wardrobe. Even though I wear a suit every day now, I suppose I never really shook the routine and comfort of a uniform. Jokes aside, just like the Navy, JPMorgan Chase is a company where you have the opportunity to help others and work toward the greater good to make the world a better place. Sure, a new career is scary at first. In the military, your service record speaks for you, but in the corporate world, you have to start from scratch. Still, I’m lucky to have found my niche and to do something I love.

In the Navy, I learned about service above self, which is a key piece of my military experience that I carried over to this new chapter. If someone needs help, I always make myself available to provide support. It is an honor to grow a career at JPMorgan Chase and I invite my fellow veterans to continue in their own tradition of service.

Caitlin McGilley is Vice President of Global Intelligence in Global Security & Investigations at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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