The Portable Employee

Judy,’s popular guest writer and resident expert on the talents of veterans and corporate America, offers military job seekers insight on the evolving nature of civilian career paths in today’s job market.  While veterans are used to advancing vertically, today’s workforce is advancing outwardly.  Surprisingly, veterans  may be even better equipped to adapt to this shift in philosophy …

Judy Navarrete, SPHR, an accomplished HR manager, contacted me at Military Resumes to express her interest in sharing her vast human resources and operations management experience and insight into the business world with military job seekers.  Her observations are food for thought as you reflect on your own military experience (and how it applies to corporate America) when preparing your military resume or for an interview.  She draws on her conversations with a poised and well-respected Marine Corps Staff Sergeant to craft informative lessons of her own.  To see all of Judy’s acclaimed articles, keyword search for “Judy”.

The Portable Employee

“Everyone is replaceable” is a common business saying.  Despite the truth to that statement, it does not always make economical or common sense to dispose of or swap out talent.  Each individual is just that – an individual, endowed with his or her own personality, attributes, and talents.  When an organization loses an individual, it loses their unique experience and imprint on the business, not to mention the investment in time and money required to source, hire, and train them. 

As a person begins their career, they strive to increase their marketability, responsibility, and experience to affect their imprint and increase their financial return.  Leading business books will tell you how to be an invaluable employee and earn clout.  These books will tell you to plug into the industry, know the trends, gain knowledge and ability, and commit to being the best at what you do.  They will advise you to take on additional tasks and accept challenging, high-profile assignments.  Acting upon this advice will surely land you a great position and career.

However, what happens then?  In today’s day and age, middle managers are often eliminated as companies aggressively streamline and restructure to become more efficient and cut costs.  Perhaps we shouldn’t look to a particular company to define our success, but rather look inward.  The straight and narrow career path of yesteryear has evolved.  One must take ownership of his or her development by honing and diversifying skills…  by sharpening the knife so to speak.  Staying current with technology and industry trends ensures mobility and flexibility, enabling outward movement toward career-building opportunities.  Advancement is not always vertical; it is also outward.  Building bench-strength and diversifying your experience makes you an indispensable, portable employee.

A portable employee is one who can rebound quickly from a layoff or, better, one who sees the writing on the wall and uses their network to secure their next opportunity.  The old saying, “don’t keep your eggs in one basket,” can and should be applied to one’s livelihood.  So who are these portable people and how does one become portable?

 Portable employees absorb information and experience.  They take on projects, especially high- risk and high-profile ones.  They love their work and immerse themselves in it.  They do not forward to the weekend and R&R.  Rather, they use their down-time wisely, on productive things that add value to their experience and benefit others.  To be portable, one needs to be willing to take risks, make mistakes, and take ownership and accountability.  Portable employees are equipped to start their own business.  They are forward thinkers.  Portable employees make it their business to be a business. 

The military creates extreme portable employees.  Each service-member is his or her own machine; his or her own tool.  They are trained to care for their machine mentally and physically.  Should they be cut off from communications with the overall organization, they are equipped to survive and accomplish their mission.  Military leaders are cross-trained and counted on to perform multiple roles simultaneously.  Every Marine logistician, for example, is also a warrior.  Every Submariner has a multitude of collateral duties due submarine space constraints.  Every Sailor is a damage control specialist.  Every Air Force Pilot manages an administrative program.  The list goes on and on for all branches of service.  Whether in a foreign land or close to home, military members have what it takes to be their own business.

In today’s world of mergers, restructuring, layoffs, closures, and outsourcing, it is to one’s benefit to be a portable employee.  Once one realizes the importance of portability, the uphill struggles the business world will likely present will become a little less arduous.  To a portable employee, life would not be challenging or exciting if it were any other way.


Judy Navarrete, SPHR, is an accomplished HR Strategist and Career Mentor.  Her articles and insight into the business world are helpful in understanding how military training and experience prepares talent for business professions.  Her articles are inspired by her deep respect for a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan.  Fortunately, his skill and experience as a Marine for over 14 years has well prepared him to be portable abroad.  Judy’s articles and blogs can also be seen on  She can be reached at