Veteran Employee Story – Jamie Wanless


The Discipline of Planning  |  Ameriprise Financial  |

Published in the January/February 2013 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

Jamie Wanless, vice president of sales, Ameriprise Advisor Center, recruits team members who have a strong desire to develop personal relationships with colleagues and clients. He also serves as a senior guide for the Ameriprise Veteran Network (VETNET) at company headquarters in Minneapolis. Wanless served in the Army as a light infantry battalion scout, leaving the service as a sergeant.

Wanless believes that it is hard for civilian recruiters to understand the value of veterans. “I believe that the most challenging part of transitioning out of the military is translating the competencies veterans have acquired into civilian language,” he said. “Veterans have to trust that those skills are vital to success in the civilian world.”

One of the skills he learned in the military that has paid off in the civilian world is planning. “Things often don’t go as planned in the military or in civilian life,” Wanless said. “The discipline of planning that’s instilled in veterans translates well into civilian life. The better you plan for personal and professional goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. More importantly, the military does an extraordinary job teaching veterans how to effectively adjust and overcome adversity when things don’t go as planned.”

Good leadership skills are also important. “I gained a meaningful amount of leadership experience in the U.S. Army,” he said. “My experiences as a leader – the successes and failures – continue to be informative. But the skills I was able to acquire as a follower by observing my chain of command has been among the most important to me as a civilian. I had some truly extraordinary leaders whom I do my best to model still today.”

Wanless also notes that servicemembers receive a lot of training while they are in uniform. “Veterans have undergone an amazing amount of training – all of it intended to help us understand our jobs and behave exceptionally well in challenging circumstances,” he said. “While tactics differ in the civilian world, the core tenets of how to develop as people remain the same.”

His experience in the military also taught him that it is important to listen. “Perhaps the most useful skill, essential to any scout but relevant to us all, is to see and hear more than you are seen and heard,” he said.

Putting himself last is also of value. “Prioritization occurs the same way now as I learned in the military,” Wanless said. “First, the mission, second, the team, and finally, me.”

But perhaps the most crucial thing he took from his military experience is that it helped him find a set of values. “I can’t say that, upon entering the military, I had a strong sense for my values and that I lived by them,” Wanless said. “I can say with integrity, however, that my experience in the military served to galvanize my identity and my values, which continue to serve as a compass for my life.”

He encourages those who are still in the military to never stop learning. “Commit to your development,” Wanless said. “Embrace opportunities to learn as much as you can through the experiences the military provides you. One of these is to further your education.”

Wanless advises men and women who are still in uniform never to sell themselves short. “Believe that you have something of great value to offer the civilian job market,” Wanless said. “In everything you do, hold yourself to the same high standards that the military held you to. Be proactive. There are tremendous resources available to assist in your transition. Take the initiative to find and use them.”

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers