Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Veteran Spotlight: Ben Shakman

Hire a Hero recently caught up with Ben Shakman, a retired Major in the Active Guard & Reserve program, who found a career through Orion with Nalco, a the world's leading water treatment and process improvement company, as a District Representative. Read on to learn about Shakman’s decision to enter sales, his career since, and his advice for his fellow veterans.

When it came time to decide what field to enter, Shakman knew that performance-based compensation was something he desired, so that ruled out public sector employment.  Because he did not know what industry would be right for or even what he particularly wanted to do, his job search was largely unstructured and directionless for the first few months. 

“The real turning point was linking up with Orion, and attending the October 2012 Hiring Conference in Chicago.  It was during the preparation for the conference that I realized business-to-business sales were going to be a good fit.  Orion helped me focus my approach and then put me in front of the right people with the right companies,” explains Shakman.

Shakman now sells specialty chemicals used in steam and cooling systems to a wide-ranging customer base, which includes light manufacturing, government, healthcare, and food & beverage plants.  He partners with customers and prospects to ensure asset preservation and efficient operation, while providing solutions which reduce their overall impact on the environment in terms of water and energy consumption.  In addition, he works with raw and wastewater treatment customers to achieve very specific quality goals.  

Shakman candidly tells us that his new career is not even remotely similar to what he did in the military.  He goes on to explain, though, the ways in which his time in the service has informed his new career: “My military experience prepared me in more indirect ways for my second career; things like work ethic, my approach to problem solving, being able to communicate with people at all levels in an organization, and collaborative abilities are the biggest help.”

“A veteran’s work ethic is invaluable in the civilian workforce.  I know what I need to do, apply time management strategies, and prioritize to get it done.  I see a lot of my counterparts wasting significant amounts of time and energy on low priority initiatives,” continues Shakman, “I wish that I could coach them to do the first things first, but that is not really my place as the new guy.”

Shakman’s customers appreciate this ethic, too. “My customers really appreciate the fact that I do what I tell them I will do and that I speak honestly to their issues.  I can't fix everything for them but can usually point them towards a solution.  Also, I gain tons of credibility for telling them when my product or solution isn't the best fit and recommending someone else's instead,” says Shakman.

Specifically, Shakman’s military background is a big benefit, especially with some of his clients, including a military installation.  Shakman understands "end-of-year money" and how fourth quarter spending works in the military and was able to leverage that specific knowledge to sell enough product to them at the end of the fiscal year that they are in great shape, even with the lack of a FY14 budget and the shutdown that occurred in October.

Shakman and his new career remind us that while veterans may not always have the knowledge, skills, and abilities that exactly match the job description, they have an unbelievable ability to grow and learn if afforded the opportunity and are properly mentored.  “Veterans understand mission accomplishment like nobody else in the world.  We exercise considerable creativity and initiative to attain our goals,” says Shakman.

Click here to read more about Shakman’s transition and career.

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