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Marine Corps veteran with photography degree!

May 31, 2016

Q. Nick,

I am a 30 year old soon to graduate end of summer majoring in photography. I spent 4 years in the Marines and in those 4 years spent a lot of time overseas (Asian Pacific & Iraq.) I saw that you charge for your services and would be willing to pay for a individualized plan if I go that route so I will keep this pretty general. Only having a Bachelors in fine art photography is obviously not enough to land the job I want. As a combat veteran with lots of hands on experience with social illness and conflicts; is this combination enough to make up for the lack of a masters degree and to be considered “experience” in the humanitarian sector or even get my resume looked at by the right people? I have some experience working with non profits (Operation Smile) and various homeless shelters in the area.


A. Stephen,

Thanks for understanding that, while I’m happy to answer questions that have general relevance on the site, I do charge for personalized career counseling. So – let’s get to your questions:

First off – the degree. It could be worse. Frankly, I have a degree in psychology, and a masters in post-war reconstruction and recovery. No one has ever asked me about either of them at interview. Not once. I wouldn’t worry about it. You probably need to be ready to answer questions about transferable skills, but really, don’t sweat it.

Secondly. The Marine Corps. This cuts both ways, and I’m sure you’ve read my post on this. I’m sure you picked up valuable experience and skills in your time in the military – the ball-game is presenting it in a way that communicates that to an audience who doesn’t understand what the Marines do and is potentially a little skeptical. You’ll want to make sure that you couch your experience and skills in the same language that job postings use, and be careful to explain how it is transferable. You may also want to get out ahead of the ‘values’ conversation that is probably lurking under the surface…

Lastly, your nonprofit experience certainly won’t hurt.

I think the key here is going to be personal networking. You’re going to want to make sure your resume and cover letter make sense to civilians, but you’re going to want to build professional and personal relationships with people in the aid world to help you navigate the hiring process. I would consider doing some targeted networking, perhaps offering to volunteer to help out with some INGOs to get a feel for the cultural and language issues.

Good luck!


If this site is as useful to you as a book you might have paid for please consider buying my Kindle eBook, which contains much of the content from this site, thoughtfully formatted for off-line reading on a Kindle, iPad, laptop, or other e-reader. It’s $7.99, and honestly, what can you get for that these days? Get it here.

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