This may be a daunting question for many people, and it certainly was one that U.S. Air Force Colonel Andrew Molnar considered as he explored the possibility of transitioning out of the military and into a civilian career. After returning from a one-year deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Molnar said he was ready to transition from a great career to an even better one.
"I have always been a planner, a plodder, as well as a learning leader. I have never stopped planning or learning. I wanted to continue my education journey immediately."
Molnar served 28 years in the U.S. Air Force and gained expertise in operations and logistics while conducting successful endeavors on seven continents. "Thanks to a great team of aviators and support personnel leadership, I was able to successfully complete assignments flying the C-141, the C-5 and the KC-135 aircraft. I also led the largest aerial port in the Department of Defense, the most dynamic en route air mobility facility at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and the busiest legacy C-130 maintenance operation in Iraqi Freedom," he said.
Despite his impressive service background, Molnar was unsure how his military skills could translate to the civilian world. That was when he received information about the Certificate in Applied Project Management from Villanova University.
"Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. I knew very little about project management, but had an educational services employee guide me to the career field."
The educational services employee asked Molnar what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. "It's a simple question, but not one I'd really pursued with any clarity," he said.
Molnar reviewed Villanova's project management guide and felt it covered everything he wanted out of a program. "I learned that Villanova's courses gave me the breadth and depth of education I wanted, well beyond any other program I had reviewed," he said. "Villanova built a program to give me what I needed but didn't know I needed!"
Another benefit he found of the Applied Project Management program was its inclusion of a course designed to help professionals pass the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. The PMP is an internationally-recognized certification for project managers that validates an individual's knowledge and skills of project management.
"Villanova's courses covered every aspect required to pass the PMP certification exam the first time. The data was current, the instructors renowned, the roll out logical and the supporting tests, scenarios and exercises really brought it all home for me. The exam can be scenario based, and the Villanova approach gave me the technical skills and scenario awareness to answer any question with confidence."
Molnar also praised the support and encouragement he received from the school as a military veteran.
"I received all manner of support. The Villanova team, along with my enrollment advisor, guided me through all the paperwork to maximize my earned benefits. The transition was easy due to their personal involvement and professionalism."
The 100% online Applied Project Management program helped Molnar gain the knowledge and skills to become an expert in the field, as well as build several lifelong, professional relationships along the way.
"The online tool was outstanding. It's the best online classroom environment I've ever seen and I felt like I was sitting in class with the instructor and fellow students. The tool and the instructors combined to create an environment where students could learn together, collaborate and share products and information. I made lifelong professional friends due to the positive interactions at Villanova."
For others who are considering going back to school, Molnar offered this advice: Be not afraid.
"Never stop learning, the world is constantly changing. We are always in a professional transition. No matter how much experience you have, the job market for responsible, professional jobs is tight, and gaining employment is sometimes by a razor-thin margin. Get and keep the advantages that a renowned program such as Villanova provides you to support your professional dreams."
We talked with Molnar about his reasons for selecting Villanova after serving in the military, and asked him how the project management program helped him grow personally and professionally.
The program offered a "Certificate" in Project Management. That excited me because I wanted to be GREAT at project management and also wanted a good resume bullet from a prestigious, Catholic university. I was proud to display the Certificate under my two Masters degrees on my resume. It was a confidence builder in my transition that, in the end, seemed to speak to employers.
My favorite class was the Capstone course. Project management has a lot of moving parts. It's exciting to break down project management and understand the parts to a level of expertise that makes you enthusiastic for professional conversations. More exciting, was putting those key building blocks back together in the Capstone course. I graduated with confidence that projects I am honored to lead WILL be successful for me, my team, the company and the customer.
I once read that the only place you couldn't get a slinky was in Antarctica. So on one of my Air Force trips there I made sure I brought a few with me.
During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Soviets did not cross borders but ever so rarely. I was blessed, however, with multiple trips to the heart of the Kremlin. On one mission, I was allowed to go downtown Moscow while wearing my Air Force flight suit with the U.S. flag flying proudly on my shoulder. The looks I received were not those of fear or hostility, but more like, "what just happened here?"