Why Military backgrounds are so poorly valued in Europe?

I am 27 years old doing an MBA in a top Business School (HEC/LBS/IESE) and trying to break in Investment Banking or Asset Management

My background is the following; Graduated in Economics in Spain (GPA 3.7), then following a family tradition I joined the Spanish Army. I was in the army for nearly 4 years (9 months of Training and 3 years in my division). I got a spot in the Special Operations Group (the elite division in the Spanish army), and over my 3 years I have been assigned to missions in Somalia, Mali and Senegal, gaining different decorations.  

However, now that I am in a top business school, no one in Europe (Spain or UK) values my background at all, and I struggled a lot to get a summer internship. I have the feeling that in the US, soldiers and marines are much more valued and they are given many more opportunities at large banks. I met many American soldiers in the base of Rota, and 3 of them secured internships at BoA and Citigroup despite they studied at a less prestigious School. 

I am aware than the skillset gained in the army is not transferrable to finance, but I wonder what European employers have against soldiers. In the end, Isn't an internship supposed to learn these skills?

Comments (24)

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 7:41am

Leon Dragonov

This is what you get when you live in a Pacifist Socialist continent. US society simply values its veterans more highly. Vote appropriately in your elections next time.

Yes, the US values them so much that many of them are homeless.

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 5:28am

I think is because the militar culture in Europe is different than in the US. Many people in Europe envision soldiers as young people who failed school and have no better option, while Americans have a much bigger respect and admiration for marines and soldiers.

I am aware that in the US, there are many roles reserved for army veterans (although not all of them in FO). But in Europe this would be much more complicated. 80% of banking jobs in Europe are based in London, so you will not impress a British or German recruiter with a background in a foreign army. Banks may decide to reserve a % of jobs for veterans, but in Europe there are more than 30 different armies.

TBH, I have never met a former soldier working in IB in London. I am already surprised that you made it to one of these schools. However, when you land an interview, you must have sick stories to tell for fit questions, and your profile will be easy to remember for employers.

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 5:29am

I would argue that military experience is more rare in European countries than in the US. People don't know too much about it, there is less awareness.
But your experience with leadership and strategic decision making must be really good.

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 5:32am

Sorry to hear your struggling to get a role after serving that long. I think Europeans in general, (I'm Irish, non-military), don't appreciate our military service members as much as we should. As crazy/different as some things in the US are to me, they do a lot more for their veterans.

To resolve your issue; I would search on LinkedIn for former military personnel working at companies you're interested in joining. Message them and ask for advice on getting started in their industry after serving in the military. I'm sure a lot of people with your background would be willing to help you out.

In Ireland for example, I know EY Consulting has a lot of former Army personnel and they do make an effort to recruit them once their service ends.

Good luck in your search!

 
  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Feb 23, 2021 - 5:46am

probably because the only leadership shown in European military engagements is that of the Americans giving them orders. 

as others have said - search linkedin for other ex military officers. many have gone on to start cool security companies that are probably better options than banking. 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - ECM
Feb 23, 2021 - 6:03am

Very sad to hear that, especially since I really enjoy the Spanish military (I am Portuguese with over 200 years of military tradition in my family).

I'd suggest campaigning internally (joining the Veterans in Finance group at the bank you are in) and try to make your voice heard. I don't even have a military background but I'll be doing the same soon.

Good luck

 
Most Helpful
  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Feb 23, 2021 - 6:04am

I don't think you realise how strange the American idolisation of the military seems to the rest of the world.

To outsiders, you appear to worship even the most basic Army recruits as demigods. That's part of your culture and it seeps into areas like business school and company recruitment. Not quite the case elsewhere and that's why OP is struggling to leverage his military background.

I personally think we don't have enough societal respect for our military in my country, but it's taken to a level a thousandfold in the US.

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 7:41am

Associate 2 in Consulting

I don't think you realise how strange the American idolisation of the military seems to the rest of the world.

To outsiders, you appear to worship even the most basic Army recruits as demigods. That's part of your culture and it seeps into areas like business school and company recruitment. Not quite the case elsewhere and that's why OP is struggling to leverage his military background.

I personally think we don't have enough societal respect for our military in my country, but it's taken to a level a thousandfold in the US.

I would disagree, we thank them b/c we only take volunteers. It's not that we really care that much but it's like considered a traditional thing to thank a veteran... VETERAN. We care not to much about random recruits but bc the USA is always in new conflicts or wars it seems like alot. A ton of soldiers are those not so smart kids in HS but hey they are giving up a normal civilian life so is the right thing to thank them. Save with fire fighters and what it used to be like with cops ig, thank civil servants. As for the main post i would probably use it to your advantage and not list accomplishments but use the experiences you have gained to answer interview questions. GOOD LUCK :)

 
  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Feb 23, 2021 - 6:30am

Because between a candidate who has previous experience in Accounting, Finance, Consulting or Tech and a candidate who has experience shooting people in foreign countries, the first ones will be a better fit. All your skills are useless in finance, you will never find an MD asking you how to shoot a mortar or set up a radio. 

No one forced you to make that stupid decision of joining the army in one of the most pacific continents in the world. Belonging to the Special Operations Group is impressive, but after a 5 minutes conversation that's all. 

To be honest, I have never understood why Americans reject very valid candidates just to give the job to obviously unprepared veterans, just to look good towards the public opinion. 

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 6:59am

because who cares about your military background? it's as relevant as a yoga teacher but at least there you'd learn to not be a bootlicking robot

please check your entitlement at the door.

edit: nice salty "veterans" realising their experience polishing boots and shooting guns at trees counts for f all in the real world. enjoy!

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 7:41am

Did you forget what industry we're talking about? Boot licking robots that can run a process are basically the best performers I can imagine in an industry completely devoid of creativity and complex thought.

 
Feb 23, 2021 - 7:41am

Please don't listen to any mean comments that were posted above.

First of all, you should understand that the low marketability of your military experience is not your fault.

Some people have already mentioned a few points but I believe the main reason you get different employment opportunities than your peers is the combination of two factors:

  • The US has been the de-facto leader of the free world for more than 80 years. Having that position entailed having a strong army that can fight proxy wars all around the world. In order to have such a strong army, the US government lowered the cost of someone enrolling in it by making one's life post-military easier. Universities and employers are financially encouraged to admit and recruit veterans. There has also been a years-long marketing campaign that shifted people's mindset. I am sure you can see the difference between you and your US colleagues. How many times have someone in Spain told you, "thank you for your service"?
  • There are other countries in Europe and in the world that are militarized. Examples are Finland, Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Turkey. These countries don't have similar government programs just because they have had a more socialist mindset as societies. They believe in a large government that will provide salaries and insurance for life to veterans so there is no need to provide any more incentives.

I just wanted to also provide my two cents. Hope all the best with your recruiting effort.

 
  • Business School in IB-M&A
Feb 23, 2021 - 7:41am

Some of the comments here are just disgusting. You all criticize a veteran because the skillset he gained has low marketability, while probably many of you studied things like gender Studies, psychology or liberal arts.

Endless thanks to all those who sacrifice their civilian lives and volunteer to protect their countries and the keep the western world free.

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