How to use Military Skills in the Workplace
For students who have served in the military, the transition into the civilian workforce can come with its own set of unique challenges. At times the highly structured, team-oriented nature of military life may seem to conflict with a work environment that is, by comparison, casual and unregimented. However, military service not only provides with a highly specialized set of skills, it also instills in you certain values that would be highly coveted in any industry. The trick is learning how to describe and harness that vital military experience in a new environment. Here are four steps you can take to repurpose your military skills for use in the workplace.
Start With Your Resume
When you start applying for jobs, take the time to make a list of all of the skills you developed in the military. Include broad descriptors like leadership, planning and teamwork, but also try to describe your specific duties as succinctly as possible. At first glance, these might not seem to have much correlation with life outside the military. However, as an editorial at Real Warriors explains, it’s important to “think beyond the specific function you carried out and identify the core value, skill or expertise you brought to the table.”1
Let’s say your military duties included escorting supply convoys. A prospective employer might be interested in your abilities to focus on a single task in a high-pressure situation with little supervision. Also, when you start crafting a resume, remember to always keep the person who will be reading it in mind. Avoid military jargon and focus instead on those technical and interpersonal skills that are specific to the job at hand.
The Interview Process
When most employers review a resume that shows military experience, they can feel confident that this applicant is qualified for the challenges and pressures of a civilian workplace.
Servicemen and women have already excelled in an environment that demands punctuality, a strong work ethic, and an ability to clearly communicate, and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t bring those skills with them to work. Still, interviewing for a new position always requires preparation. Take the time to develop responses to many of the most common interview questions. And if you’re asked a quirky question that you didn’t expect, remember that the interviewer probably isn’t looking for a concrete answer. Rather, they’re trying to see how you approach the question and think on your feet. 2
The interview process always has two goals. It’s not only a way to determine if an applicant is qualified for a specific position, but it’s also an opportunity to see how they might fit in with the company’s workplace culture. For you this is a chance to highlight both your military and academic achievements. It’s also a chance to show your openness to being in a work environment that is more flexible and less formal than that of the military.
Embrace the Differences
Veterans are used to a culture with a rigid structure and a formal chain of command. This can differ vastly in a civilian workplace, where flexible work-schedules and a relaxed approach to hierarchy are quickly becoming standard operating procedure.3 Once you’ve landed the job, it will undoubtedly take some time to get used to these less stringent rules and regulations, but you can ease the stress by starting from a place of understanding.
Whether you're taking an entry-level position or assuming a management role, it’s important to remember that not everyone will have the same military background. Be patient with your civilian coworkers and show a willingness to adjust.
Use Your Resources
No matter what branch of the military you served in, educate yourself about the resources available to help you apply for and thrive at a new job. When you start to build your resume, use this Military to Civilian Occupation Translator to help turn your military skills into success in the workplace. And don’t forget about the VA’s vast array of educational and vocational counseling services which are designed to help you find a career that best suits your skills and interests. Your military service is a vital part of our nation’s security, and the civilian workforce will be honored to have you among its ranks.
Looking for help improving your study habits? Check out CTU’s 5 Study Tips for Military Students.